The Rangers announced that they have signed right-hander Adrian Sampson to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league Spring Training camp. The righty is a client of Apex Baseball.
It’s something of a homecoming for Sampson, now 32, as he was with the Rangers for three years. Claimed off waivers from the Mariners in November of 2016, he was with the org through the 2019 campaign. By that point, he had thrown 153 major league innings, allowing 5.71 earned runs per nine. He only struck out 17.3% of batters faced but limited walks to a 6% clip.
He went overseas prior to the 2020 season, signing with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization. He posted a 5.40 ERA in his one season in Korea before coming back to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs. He bounced on and off the Cubs’ roster throughout 2021 and 2022, posting solid results but with the numbers under the hood being a bit less impressive. He logged 139 2/3 innings over those two years with a 3.03 ERA, 17.6% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate. His .275 batting average on balls in play and 80% strand rate were both on the lucky side, which is why his 4.28 FIP and 4.44 SIERA were much higher than his ERA.
The Cubs retained him via arbitration for 2023, agreeing to a $1.9MM salary. He battled for a rotation job in camp but was ultimately optioned to the minors. While on optional assignment, he required debridement surgery on his right knee and wasn’t able to pitch much. He was outrighted off the roster in late July and flipped to the Rays a few days later. The Rays released him after about a week, indicating he was only really in the deal for financial reasons. The Cubs saved a bit of money while the Rays got some extra international bonus pool space and minor leaguer Manuel Rodríguez.
Due to his knee issue and getting released in August, he only tossed 28 minor league innings on the year with a 9.07 ERA. With the Rangers, he’ll be looking to bounce back for a club with some notable pitching depth concerns, particularly earlier in the year. Each of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle are going to start the season on the injured list due to their respective surgeries. That will leave the rotation as Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford to start the year, with some of those pitchers having notable injury histories of their own.
The bullpen was already the weakest part of the roster last year and then they lost Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith and Chris Stratton to free agency. They subsequently signed David Robertson and Kirby Yates but Yates is the youngest of the two even though he turns 37 next month.
All told, there could be a need for the defending champions to lean on their non-roster depth this year. Sampson has worked both as a starter and reliever, giving the club depth in both areas. He will jump into a group of experienced guys on minor league deals that includes José Ureña, Shane Greene, Diego Castillo, Austin Pruitt, Chasen Shreve, Danny Duffy and many others. If Sampson is added to the roster at any point, he still has a couple of options remaining.