The Rangers have taken another upside shot in the rotation, signing Tyler Mahle to a two-year contract. It’s reportedly a $22MM guarantee for the ISE Baseball client, who can earn up to $5MM more in bonuses depending on his 2025 innings tally. He will have a salary of $5.5MM in 2024 and $16.5MM in 2025, and the deal comes with a limited no-trade clause. He’ll miss the start of the ’24 season as he completes his rehab from last season’s Tommy John surgery. Texas has two additional openings on the 40-man roster.
Mahle spent a season and a half with the Twins. Minnesota acquired the right-hander from the Reds at the 2022 trade deadline. It turned out to be one of the more lopsided deadline deals of the past couple summers. Cincinnati acquired Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and prospect Steve Hajjar, whom they subsequently flipped to the Guardians as part of a deal for Will Benson.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, injuries ruined their end of the deal. Mahle landed on the injured list within a few weeks of his acquisition as a result of shoulder inflammation. He returned, pitched once, then went back on the IL for the remainder of the season. Mahle looked back to form early in 2023, working to a 3.16 ERA over five starts. He suffered an elbow injury during his outing on April 27 and underwent the Tommy John procedure a couple weeks later.
That ended his season and ultimately, his tenure with the Twins. Given the approximate 14-month recovery timeline often associated with TJS rehab, he could return sometime around the All-Star Break. That would put Mahle on a similar trajectory as Jacob deGrom, who underwent the same surgery around four weeks later.
While Mahle wouldn’t bring the same level of upside as deGrom, he’d be a high-ceiling addition in his own right. The 29-year-old developed into a quality mid-rotation starter late in his time in Cincinnati. Between 2020 and the ’22 deadline, he worked to a 3.93 ERA in 332 innings spanning 62 appearances. Mahle punched out an above-average 27.4% of batters faced over that stretch against a manageable 8.9% walk rate. Despite pitching in a difficult home park, he allowed only 1.1 home runs per nine innings.
Mahle’s velocity has been down a bit over the past two seasons, which isn’t surprising given the arm issues. In 2021, he averaged 94 MPH on his four-seam with a plus cutter/slider that sat around 87 MPH. Mahle has a splitter to deploy against left-handed hitters and has posted neutral platoon numbers over his career.
If he can recapture his pre-surgery form, Mahle would fit into the middle or back end of a quality Texas rotation. The Rangers haven’t been shy about taking on injury risk to pursue high-upside starters. deGrom was the prime example, of course, but each of Mahle, Jon Gray, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney were talented fliers in the middle tiers of the starting pitching market.
Max Scherzer anchors the season-opening staff. Eovaldi, Gray, Heaney and Dane Dunning project to fill out the remainder of the Opening Day five. Texas should have more clarity on the respective health statuses of deGrom and Mahle as next summer’s trade deadline approaches.
Mahle’s contract narrowly tops MLBTR’s two-year, $20MM prediction. It’s just north of the $20MM guarantee secured by Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez, a similar caliber of pitcher who signed for two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May. Mahle, who turned 29 in September, is on track to get back to free agency in advance of his age-31 season in 2026.
The $11MM average annual value brings the Rangers’ competitive balance tax number to roughly $232MM, as calculated by Roster Resource. That’s just below next season’s $237MM base threshold. Texas carried an approximate $252MM luxury tax number last season. While their championship run surely brought in a fair amount of playoff revenue, the organization is also facing some uncertainty about its local television rights contract. GM Chris Young indicated at the Winter Meetings that the team would be a little quieter in free agency than they’d been in the past few offseasons.
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