The Rangers have signed righty Chris Tillman to a minors deal, per a club announcement. He’d recently elected free agency from the Orioles (following a DFA) after struggling throughout the entire season while playing on a one-year, $3MM contract. The Baltimore organization will remain responsible for the balance of the $3MM they promised Tillman over the winter, less any league-minimum earnings he obtains in Texas.
Tillman’s fall from the Orioles’ most consistent starters to his current status as a minor league roll of the dice was startlingly precipitous. As recently as 2016, he turned in a solid 3.77 ERA with respectable peripherals over the course of 30 starts and 172 innings of work. He, in fact, started the American League Wild Card game for the O’s that season.
Taking a further look back, from 2012-16, Tillman gave Baltimores 844 2/3 innings of 3.81 ERA ball, averaging 7.0 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings pitched. While he was never an ace, he was good for 30-plus starts per season and generally turned in quality run-prevention numbers during his peak years.
Shoulder issues torpedoed Tillman’s season in 2017, though, when he was one of the least-effective pitchers in all of Major League Baseball (7.84 ERA, 24 homers allowed in 93 innings). He returned to the only organization with which he has ever appeared in the Majors this offseason on a make-good deal, but to this point he’s been unable to do so. Tillman has made seven starts and been hammered for a 10.46 ERA in 26 2/3 innings with more walks allowed (17) than strikeouts recorded (13).
Now, Tillman will hope for an opportunity at a rebound in a new setting, though Globe Life Park in Arlington (if he ever reaches the Majors in Texas) is hardly an ideal setting for a homer-prone pitcher to return to form. The Rangers, though, have already traded Cole Hamels to the Cubs and has little in the way of stability among the current group of starters.
Veterans Bartolo Colon and Yovani Gallardo have eaten innings but pitched poorly on the whole, with the latter in particular struggling to keep runs off the board. Offseason signee Mike Minor has underwhelmed in his return to a starting role after dominating as a reliever in Kansas City last year, while southpaw Martin Perez has been the least effective of the bunch. Rookies Ariel Jurado and Yohander Mendez are candidates to make some starts down the stretch, but clearly depth is an issue.