ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers certainly expected to win a lot of games this season after bolstering their rotation with some proven veterans and hiring three-time championship manager Bruce Bochy last winter, a year after they committed a half-billion dollars for an All-Star middle infield.
Now there are thoughts of maybe winning it all.
“The way the guys have played has obviously made a change," general manager Chris Young said.
“We came into the season focused on being a competitive club and playing meaningful games in September with a chance to play in October,” he said. “This team has done a great job of putting us in that situation here at the deadline. It was our responsibility to add to this team to make it even better.”
After Texas charged to the AL West lead, Young got a head start by acquiring hard-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman a month ago. In the days leading up to the trade deadline, he added two more starters — three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and lefty Jordan Montgomery, who came from St. Louis with reliever Chris Stratton.
“It just sends a message to the guys in the clubhouse that they believe in us,” said Andrew Heaney, one of the first-year Rangers, who hours after Tuesday's deadline struck out 11 over six innings in a 2-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.
“These guys know that this front office, ownership is fully committed,” Bochy said. “It does a lot for a club when you get to the deadline and get the type of players that we got.”
The Rangers haven't had a winning season since their last AL West title in 2016 and won only 68 games last year after signing shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien. But they are now going all-in while big spenders like the New York Mets and San Diego Padres are fourth in their respective divisions when they anticipated being World Series contenders.
New York won 101 games in the regular season last year and came into 2023 with a record payroll that just a month ago was projected at around $365 million. But the Mets are stepping back and had a stunning selloff of six players before the deadline. That included Scherzer and fellow three-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, also to the AL West when he rejoined reigning World Series champion Houston after only 16 starts for New York.
Texas will be responsible for only $22.5 million of the $58 million owed to Scherzer through next season, with the Mets paying the other $35.5 million. That is the remainder of a $130 million, three-year contract the pitcher agreed to before the 2022 season.
Scherzer makes his Rangers debut on Thursday in a series finale against the Chicago White Sox. Montgomery will start Friday night against Miami.
“Similar to what I've said on the offense, this rotation now has depth and some versatility as well, and we think it’ll serve us well,” said Young, a former big league pitcher.
The Rangers also have another former Mets pitcher with multiple Cy Young Awards, though two-time NL winner Jacob deGrom is out until at least late next season because of right elbow surgery. Texas won all six games started by deGrom, all before the end of April, after he signed a $185 million, five-year deal in free agency last winter.
Before deciding to waive his no-trade clause and also exercise his player option for 2024, Scherzer reached out to deGrom to get a feel for the Rangers organization.
“The guys are playing hard and playing well together and that this was a good situation for him, and if I were to come over, it’d be a great situation for myself as well,” Scherzer said of that conversation. “I believed what he said.”
Nathan Eovaldi became an All-Star again this season after joining Texas on a $34 million, two-year deal that includes an option for 2025, though he is on the 15-day injured list and last pitched since July 18 — his only start since the All-Star break — because of a right forearm strain. Heaney signed a $25 million, two-year deal last winter.
The pitchers added the last week are reuniting with pitching coach Mike Maddux, who was first with the Rangers from 2009-15, including their only World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. Scherzer was a back-to-back Cy Young winner in 2016 and 2017 during Maddux's two seasons with the Washington Nationals, then Montgomery and Stratton were with the coach last year in St. Louis.
“I’m excited to work with Mad Dog again," said Montgomery, who was 6-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts this season for the last-place Cardinals. “Just he knows pitching, he knows how to sequence and do everything, and just get outs. And I think he makes everybody better.”
Just like the Rangers are trying to be.
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