Every team in baseball is still looking for pitching, so in that regard the Rangers and Orioles don’t stand out. But these two organizations are similarly situated in some regards; notably, each came into the offseason with rosters that appear to be capable but not certain of contention along with clear needs for significant improvement in their starting rotations.
For Texas, the Winter Meetings offer an opportunity and a challenge to chart a course that won’t involve Shohei Ohtani. While the pursuit of the two-way Japanese star is over, the team is still considering some novel approaches to its rotation usage. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, that might involve a six or even four-man rotation setup, depending in no small part upon the team’s eventual moves. Of course, Mike Minor and Doug Fister were already brought aboard, but that doesn’t mean the club is done adding.
Notably, the Rangers aren’t just looking at budget arms. According to Grant, the club has not only checked in on quality veterans like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, but has “maintained some contact” with former star Yu Darvish and hasn’t yet ruled out a surprise reunion. While he was dealt away at the trade deadline after the sides failed to line up on an extension, Darvish’s roots in Texas obviously trace back to his initial entry to the majors. Grant cautions that the team isn’t planning to lead the charge after Darvish or another top hurler, but it’s notable nonetheless that there seems to be serious consideration.
It’s less pressing in some regards, but the Rangers will also be looking to improve their relief corps. Late-inning pieces, in particular, would clearly be on the wish list. One player to keep an eye on, per MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter), is righty Brandon Kintzler. Of course, he has also been linked to quite a few other organizations. The sinkerballer has obviously boosted his stock quite a bit with a hefty groundball rate and steady work in high-leverage situations over the past two seasons. Japanese reliever Kazuhisa Makita could also represent a potential target for Texas, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes.
The situation is somewhat different for the Orioles, whose need for rotation pieces is even greater than that of the Rangers. With multiple pieces needed and relatively little available payroll space, Baltimore isn’t going to dabble at the top of the market, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com writes. That’s essentially the same conclusion reached by Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, who says the Orioles “really like” Cobb but don’t expect to be able to afford him.
Wary of the risks of a long-term pitching contract, the O’s plan instead to look further down the pecking order of rotation pieces. As Connolly explains, though, several of those pitchers have already gone off the market with early deals. Veteran righty Andrew Cashner is perhaps the most logical remaining mid-tier target for the team, he notes, while a variety of less costly pitchers also figure to be strongly considered. Both reports suggest southpaw Jason Vargas as a plausible name to bolster the back end of the rotation, so he’s certainly a player to watch.