Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning will undergo arthroscopic hip surgery next week, the team announced. Dunning will finish his 2022 season with a 4.46 ERA, 53.3% grounder rate, 20.4% strikeout rate, and 9.2% walk rate over 153 1/3 innings and 29 starts in the Texas rotation.
Acquired from the White Sox as the centerpiece of the Lance Lynn trade in December 2020, Dunning’s first two seasons in Texas have been pretty statistically identical, though he tossed only 117 2/3 frames in 2021. Over both seasons, Dunning has a 4.48 ERA/4.14 SIERA, with below-average strikeout, walk, and hard-hit ball rates. Dunning’s ability to keep the ball on the ground has helped him avoid major damage, and a .324 BABIP over the last two seasons indicates that the righty has perhaps been a little unlucky in maximizing his return on that strong groundball rate.
Assuming he returned from this hip surgery in good form, Dunning projects as a rotation piece for the Rangers both in 2023 and over the long term, as he’ll be 28 on Opening Day and is controlled through the 2026 season. However, the rotation as a whole was not a strength for the Rangers this season, and they are sure to focus on upgrading the pitching staff during what might be another very busy offseason. The Rangers already parted ways with longtime president of baseball operations Jon Daniels, and the onus will be on general manager Chris Young (a former MLB pitcher himself) to get the club back to contention.
Jon Gray looks like the only member of the 2022 rotation who is thusly guaranteed a job in next year’s starting five, though Texas is hopeful of re-signing Martin Perez. Dunning’s track record and ability to at least eat innings may give him a leg up on other younger or more unproven rotation candidates, but nothing can really be ruled out considering how intent Rangers ownership is on fielding a winner. Dunning has already been part of two notable trades during his relatively short career, and he could be an interesting trade chip once more if the Rangers are looking to overhaul their rotation picture.