Texas Rangers Considering Jason Hammel to Deepen Rotation
Jason Hammel is gaining interest from the Texas Rangers. Texas desperately needs starting rotation help, and Hammel appears to be a worthy fit.
The Texas Rangers remain in an awkward position this offseason. They’ve worked off a tight budget thus far and have had difficulty landing desired free agents. Texas can survive a spotty offseason; however, the team’s current position does not scream World Series contender. Back-to-back division titles, coinciding with back-to-back early playoff exits, the Rangers have their expectations set on a deep 2017 run. But there are weaknesses that need to be addressed in order to accomplish that goal.
Starting pitching depth is the utmost concern entering 2017. If the season started today the Texas rotation would line up as follows: Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner and A.J. Griffin. Obviously, Hamels and Darvish are of no concern, but the remaining three are. Ideally, Texas would add a number three or four starter to deepen the staff. Perez and Cashner have the makeup of number four or five starters, while Griffin is definitely not a sustainable option for the fifth rotation spot.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports the Texas Rangers are showing interest in free agent Jason Hammel. Hammel held down the fifth rotation spot for the Chicago Cubs throughout the entire 2016 season. Although often forgotten among the star-studded Cubs’ rotation, Hammel sneakily contributed to an outstanding Cubs’ season. The 34-year-old right-hander won 15 games last year, ranking in the top 25 in MLB. Believe it or not, Hammel’s 15 wins ranked fourth among Cubs starting pitchers, but that does not discredit Hammel in any way when taking the entire league into account.
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Hammel’s overall numbers are very promising for a backend starting pitcher. He’s seen a decrease in ERA in each of his past three seasons; 3.87 was the mark in 2016. He posted a WHIP of 1.206 last season and struck out 144 batters. Hammel also had 16 quality starts and tossed 166 innings in 2016–34 more innings than Andrew Cashner and 47 more innings pitched than A.J. Griffin.
The primary hesitation for a Hammel signing is his poor track record in the American League.
A big knock on Jason Hammel is his 2014 season with the Oakland Athletics. That season, Hammel went 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA, and tossed only 67 innings after being acquired from the Cubs in the deal that also saw Jeff Samardzija and Addison Russell on the move. He struggled mightily in a notorious pitcher’s ballpark, and in the American Leauge. Of course, Hammel would once again be dealing with AL West opponents if going to Texas. He would be facing the very powerful offenses of the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros, along with many other powerful AL teams. There are no shortcuts in the American League, a pitcher can’t manuever his way through the bottom of the lineup in order to face the opposing pitcher. Hammel will be forced to that reality if returning to the AL.
Hammel should be judged for his recent performance rather than what he did three years ago. He pitched well at Wrigley Field and handled the pressure of pitching for the Chicago Cubs very well. The Rangers need rotation help and Hammel provides a reliable option. Hammel compares to former Rangers pitcher, Colby Lewis. Both bring a veteran presence to the mound and understand their roles on their respected teams. Lewis pitched with a warrior mentality. He was a work horse, despite the mileage on his arm. Hammel could be a similar weapon to the Rangers. He would grind to a quality start and pitch for his team rather than himself. The only difference between Lewis and Hammel is their three year age difference. Texas could still bring Colby Lewis back, but Jason Hammel appears a better, more refreshing option.
The Texas Rangers should take a shot on Jason Hammel. He will come cheap and he fits a need. Texas is also in the mix for free agent Tyson Ross. Ross would be a more significant signing; however, he is also a significant long shot. The Rangers are working hard to pull off some late offseason moves. Hammel and Ross are priorities, and don’t forget about Mike Napoli. Signing all three would be a miracle, but settling for two is reasonable and probable.