The Rangers have begun their offseason in earnest with an addition to their starting pitching rotation on Wednesday. It has been reported by all major outlets that Texas and 32-year-old right-hander Kyle Gibson have agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract. DMN writer Evan Grant added the important detail that since the 40-man roster is currently full and will need to be adjusted to make room for Gibson, the move is pending a physical and will not be formally announced by the club at this time.
The terms of the deal are more or less the exact same as the contracts that the Rangers have given to Mike Minor (three years/$28 million) in 2017 and Lance Lynn (three years/$30 million) in 2018. Those moves didn’t floor anyone or drastically shift any expectations for Texas going forward, but they have proven to be outstanding deals as the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with those two is probably the best thing about the current major league roster. Does Gibson have the credentials to make you think he could be the next above-average starter to be playing on a bargain-type deal for the Rangers? I’d say so.
Gibson is coming to Texas after seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins. In 2019, he started 29 games for the AL Central-winning club that won 101 games. His 160 innings pitched last season would easily place him third on the Rangers pitching staff after Minor and Lynn both eclipsing 200 and the now South Korea-bound Adrian Sampson coming in third all the way back at 120 innings. If Gibson can repeat his performance of 2019 for Minnesota while in Texas in 2020 right behind Minor and Lynn, it would really help solve one of Texas’ biggest problems in 2019: ANY sort of consistency from their starting pitchers after Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. When I say ANY, I really mean ANY.
What does this move mean?
It doesn’t seem likely that this move will make the Rangers change their approach to at least pursuing a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher in the weeks ahead whether that be in free agency or via trade. It might make the gut check of not landing one a little bit easier to process, with a safety net of now at least three quality starting pitchers in your rotation instead of just two, but it won’t eliminate the need to try to swing for the fences ahead of the move to Globe Life Field. The number thrown around for the amount of money the Rangers seem to be willing to add to their payroll this winter seems to be between $30 and $40 million. Who knows if those are totally accurate. They also don’t factor in the possibility of the team decreasing their payroll first with trades of someone like Shin-Soo Choo or even the aforementioned Minor or Lynn. Perhaps if the right people were willing to take their money, Rangers ownership would be willing to do just about any contract. We’ll get our answer to that over the next month or so.
I think the one thing this move does cement is that the Rangers front office knows that most, if not all, of the young starting pitching they sent out to get major league experience in 2019 is not ready for a permanent spot in a starting rotation. At least if the team is serious about winning more games in 2020.
Guys like Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn and Brock Burke were all up in Arlington probably a little earlier than they needed to be, and their performances on the mound showed it. I would guess that the Rangers brass hopes to still add a starter that is regarded even higher than Minor or Lynn so that they can slide down to the 2-3 spots in the rotation, an innings-eating Gibson can be number four and then someone young like Kolby Allard, whose August and September showing as a starter was probably the best overall of the young starters, can finish out the rotation at number five.
Maybe if the chance to add that mystery starting pitcher via free agency or trade comes up AND a third baseman like Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson agrees to sign for somewhere in the $25-35 million AAV range, a Minor and/or Lynn trade comes up and Texas rolls with more young pitching to round out the rotation. It’s late November and we’re just spit-balling possibilities here, but they certainly seem to be endless and all interesting.
While the Rangers may not have made anyone pick them to win the 2020 World Series with their signing of Kyle Gibson on Wednesday, it was definitely a move that will help them win games in 2020.
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