One of the major questions this offseason is whether the Rangers can re-sign Cliff Lee. That's something we've discussed a lot on this blog and will continue to do so.
Clearly, Lee was a difference-maker for this Rangers team in 2010. They don't make it to the World Series without him -- heck, they don't get out of the first round without him -- and it's difficult to imagine the Rangers' rotation in 2011 without him.
But the reality is he's the most sought-after free agent on the pitching market and the Yankees are interested. That means they can offer top dollar. And while the Rangers will do what they can, they aren't going to get into a protracted bidding war with New York. So that brings us to Plan B. Obviously, general manager Jon Daniels and his crew can make trades.
And we will discuss Zack Greinke at a later date (soon, I promise). It seems the Royals are willing to listen to offers and if I'm the Rangers, I'm interested. But for today's purposes, let's look at a few of the free-agent options when it comes to starting pitching and whether any of these are of interest to you and the Rangers. Here goes:
Carl Pavano: He turns 35 in January but has proven the past two seasons that he can eat innings (199 2/3 innings in 2009 and 221 innings in 2010). Pavano had a 3.75 ERA in 2010 and was 17-11 for the Twins. In 32 starts, he had seven complete games (always news a bullpen likes to hear). He can be homer-prone, which could be of concern during those jet-stream nights at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But the right-hander has some value. The other issue: He's a Type A free agent who would cost first-round compensation. Is he worth that?
Jorge De La Rosa: I'm a bit intrigued by him because he's young and left-handed. De La Rosa will turn 30 just after Opening Day and has good stuff. But there are concerns. He made just 20 starts in 2010 (121 2/3 innings) after missing two months with a finger issue and has pitched more than 130 innings only once in his career (2009). De La Rosa also has a high walk rate. But he's wowed scouts with his changeup, and his slider has become a reliable pitch. He started getting a lot more ground-ball outs in 2010, as well, which would be a good thing in Arlington. He certainly has potential, and I'd be curious to see what pitching coach Mike Maddux could do with him. But he's a Type A who would cost compensation.
Jon Garland: The question when it comes to the 31-year-old is whether his 2010 season was a product of throwing at pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. Garland had a 3.47 ERA, but the numbers were 3.00 at home and 4.01 on the road. Garland hasn't posted his usual solid numbers since leaving the White Sox after the 2008 season. But he makes his starts, pitching at least 200 innings in six of his past seven seasons (and the exception was 196 2/3 innings in 2008 with the Angels). But he does have experience in the American League and would likely not cost a team any compensation (it seems unlikely that the Padres would offer him arbitration).
Brandon Webb: This seems like the kind of player Daniels loves to take a chance on. Right-shoulder surgery kept Webb from pitching most of the past two seasons, so it's unclear how he might look when he returns. But the Rangers have had success in taking chances on these types of guys with a contract based on incentives and maybe a club option for 2012. Webb won the Cy Young in 2008 with Arizona, folks. He's worth taking a chance on.
Jake Westbrook: Here's another pitcher who could be worth taking a chance on at a bargain salary based on injury history. He had elbow surgery in 2008 and didn't pitch in 2009. Westbrook struggled to start the season in Cleveland, but he was much improved for the Cardinals after the trade deadline. He's a ground-ball pitcher, and he did throw 202 innings in 2010 (he was 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 12 starts for the Cardinals after going 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA in 21 starts for Cleveland).