The Rangers announced this morning that they’ve re-signed right-hander Matt Bush and left-hander Zac Curtis to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training. Also joining the Rangers organization on minor league deals that include Major League Spring Training invites are right-hander (and MLBTR contributor) Tim Dillard and infielder Chase d’Arnaud. Bush and Curtis were non-tendered by the Rangers on Nov. 30.
Bush, 33, is already known to be out for at least the first half of the 2019 season after undergoing September surgery to repair a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. It should be noted that Bush did not have Tommy John surgery, though the exact nature of the procedure he underwent was never announced. The most notable alternative to Tommy John surgery is “primary repair” surgery, made most famous by former Cardinals and Royals right-hander Seth Maness.
Regardless of the specifics, the Rangers again indicated in today’s release that Bush could be ready to pitch in July 2019. He was a useful reliever for the Texas organization from 2016-17 but struggled to a 4.70 ERA with career-worst K/9 (7.4) and BB/9 (5.5) marks in 23 innings of work this past season.
Curtis, 26, was an August waiver claim by the Rangers out of the Phillies organization but didn’t fare well in his minimal time in Texas. In just 6 2/3 innings, the lefty was tagged for seven earned runs on six hits and a staggering nine walks. Curtis did punch out eight hitters in that time, but control has been a considerable problem for him throughout his Major League tenure. In 38 career innings, he’s issued 34 free passes, hit another six batters and thrown four wild pitches (two in that tiny sample with the Rangers). That said, it’s a small sample of big league innings, and Curtis has thrown quite well in the upper minors, where he’s averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings with much better control in both Double-A and Triple-A.
For the 35-year-old Dillard, today’s announcement marks the end of an era. A former 34th-round draft pick back in 2002, Dillard has spent his entire career in the Brewers system and reached the Majors on four separate occasions. Though he enjoyed solid numbers in 2011-12 (65 2/3 innings, 7.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 4.25 ERA, 3.51 FIP), he hasn’t been back to the Majors since. That hasn’t stopped Dillard from developing a cult following through his social media antics, his guest writing here on MLBTR and his impressive bilingual lip-syncing abilities.
A veteran of 12 seasons at the Triple-A level, Dillard will join the Rangers in hopes of returning to the Majors after an absence of more than a half decade. His numbers took a turn for the worse after the Brewers’ Triple-A club moved from Nashville to Colorado Springs, but he’ll be back in Nashville once again if he opens the season in Triple-A, following some offseason realignment of Triple-A franchises.
As for d’Arnaud, he’ll turn 32 in January and vie for a utility role in spring — not dissimilar from the one he had with the Giants in 2018. Last season in San Francisco, d’Arnaud hit .215/.253/.366 with three homers in an even 100 trips to the plate. He’s spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors and is a career .222/.273/.316 hitter in 599 plate appearances. The former fourth-round pick has played every position on the diamond except catcher and will give the organization some infield depth — an area of perhaps increased importance as the Rangers near a deal to allow recent waiver claim Carlos Asuaje to play in Korea.