The Rangers are moving veteran left-hander Matt Moore from the starting rotation to the bullpen, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fellow left-hander Yohander Mendez will start for Texas in Moore’s place on Friday.
It’s a disappointing outcome for both team and player, though Moore received perhaps a longer leash than his early results would’ve otherwise dictated. Through 56 innings with the Rangers, Moore has been hammered for a 7.88 ERA, averaging 6.6 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9 and 1.29 HR/9. To be sure, there’s been some degree of poor fortune at play, as Moore’s .394 BABIP and 59.9 percent strand rate look fluky. But his K/BB numbers are still the worst of his career, and fielding-independent metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all still peg him north of 5.00.
The brutal start to the season for Moore is the continuation of a rather precipitous decline for the once-vaunted prospect. Prior to the 2012 season, each of Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus considered Moore among the top two overall prospects in all of baseball, and he lived up to the hype early on, making the All-Star team and earning some Cy Young votes in an excellent age-24 season back in 2013.
Moore, though, required Tommy John surgery in 2014 and has never recaptured his front-of-the-rotation form since returning. He did toss 198 1/3 frames of 4.08 ERA ball between Tampa Bay and San Francisco in 2016 — a solid season that looked to set him back on track at the very least as a serviceable mid-rotation piece — but he’s followed that up with 230 1/3 innings of a 6.10 ERA and 4.83 FIP.
[Related: Texas Rangers depth chart]
Shortly after making his MLB debut, Moore agreed to a five-year, $14MM deal with the Rays that included club options for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. While that deal long looked to be one of the best bargains in baseball, it now suddenly looks unlikely that Texas will even exercise its $10MM club option over Moore for the ’19 season. The Rangers didn’t give up much to acquire Moore and some international bonus allotments from the Giants, sending minor leaguers Israel Cruz and Sam Wolff back to the Giants in exchange. The addition was one of several low-cost pickups for the rotation this winter, but the majority of those moves have failed to pay dividends.
As for Mendez, he’s a former top 100 prospect whose star has dimmed a bit in recent years. Though he posted respectable numbers in Double-A last season, he’s off to a miserable start in Triple-A Round Rock, where he’s struggled to a 5.26 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.75 HR/9 and a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate. That said, Mendez only turned 23 back in January and has pitched better over his past five appearances (4.00 ERA, 25-to-9 K/BB ratio in 27 innings), and frankly, Moore’s persistent struggles simply make it difficult to keep trotting him out there as a starter.