One of the biggest trade deadline surprises was the Rangers' inability to land a premier starting pitcher. Jon Daniels reportedly called on most everyone -- from Chris Archer to Chris Sale to an inspired check-in on Vincent Velasquez -- without finding a match. As such, the Rangers are headed down the home stretch with a rotation that includes ... um, Lucas Harrell -- yes, that Lucas Harrell.
Of course, that's an oversimplification of the Rangers' situation. Help -- potential help, anyway -- is coming: both Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are expected to return to the rotation in the coming weeks following two-month stays on the disabled list. In the interim, the Rangers will attempt to maintain their 6 1/2-game lead in the American League West -- a goal that hinges in large part on this weekend's three-game series in Houston.
It's more than a bit concerning, then, that the series began with a Martin Perez clunker. Perez -- picked by some clowns to have a breakout year -- hasn't had as good of a season as his 107 ERA+ suggests, as his 1.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio is third-worst among the 190 pitchers with 50-plus innings. Friday night's effort, in which he allowed five runs over seven innings, won't help inspire confidence. Therein is the rub about these Rangers: it's fair to wonder if their rotation will prevent that seeming predestined deep postseason run.
After that? Who knows how Lewis will return from the DL? Ditto for Holland, whose pre-injury performances weren't impressive. The Rangers can't rely on Perez at this point, but the same applies to A.J. Griffin -- after all, his home-run prone ways would suggest he would be a poor matchup against the high-powered offenses Texas could run up against in the postseason.
So what's Daniels to do? Presumably he'll keep hoping and praying that Hamels and Darvish remain healthy. Otherwise, Daniels' exact plan of action could rest on Lewis and Holland look in their returns. Remember, while trading for Archer, Sale, or Velasquez is likely out of the question, it's possible the Rangers could look to the post-deadline trade market for a No. 3 or 4 starter type -- perhaps someone along the lines of Jeremy Hellickson, provided he clears waivers.
Perhaps that's too speculative for this post-deadline portion of the schedule, but it goes to illustrate the uncertainty the Rangers are dealing with. Employing Hamels and Darvish undoubtedly gives them a leg up on other teams, but it's hard to bank on those two alone making up for the lack of a third reliable arm. A return to form from Lewis or Holland would help ease these concerns.
For now, though, the Rangers have to be thinking about rotation contingency plans.