deGrom provokes a litany of questions but Rangers willing to bet on him

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Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images

In choosing to sign with the Texas Rangers, in opting for a new chapter and change of scenery with a new city and team, Jacob deGrom is ready to embrace a new and different challenge. Now, he’ll call the more hitter-friendly and a Texas-sized Globe Life Field home. Even though the Rangers have endured a streak of six consecutive losing seasons, he sees the vision of what the Rangers want to do.

He sees the Rangers as an organization best equipped to bring him the land of opportunity. That, perhaps as much as anything, is exactly why he felt inclined to sign his life away to become Jacob Texas Ranger. He leaned into a microphone, rested his arms on the table and spoke openly and publicly why he felt compelled to show commitment to the Rangers.

It’s a big state, everything in Texas is big, even deGrom’s five-year, $185 million deal is enormous. To strengthen the starting rotation, the Rangers needed a true ace. This year’s market had stellar arm like deGrom capable of filling that role. The front office wasn’t shy about spending money on a glaring need, someone who can bolster the starting rotation and sell tickets. If he can stay healthy, they’ll get their money’s worth, and then some. If he can avoid trips to the injured list, I’ll bet on him to put up insane numbers. He’s a great pitcher when he’s healthy. But that’s when he’s healthy. The keyword here is health. For him, availability is the best ability.

The days of the two-time Cy Young being widely seen as the best pitcher in baseball don’t appear to be over. Injuries aside, deGrom receives universal praise for his generational dominance and everyone marvels at his extraordinary talent. The 34-year-old right-hander pitched reasonably well for the Mets despite his recent injuries last season. By landing this winter’s No. 1 free-agent pitcher, the Rangers could see a strong return on their investment in deGrom. They’ve found their guy, committing to a pitcher who can change the trajectory of their club. The fact that he’s overcome a spate of injuries and still continues to elevate the art of pitching to its highest form is impressive, to say the least. That earned him a payday in Texas, the place he calls home now.

The Rangers are hopeful he can fortify the rotation, throw hard with high velocity, set the tone for the pitching staff and put together a string of long, effective innings. It would be easy to think that it’s about contending now for the Rangers, especially when looking at the money they have spent last winter. The signing can be a subjective discussion since deGrom is an injury-prone player but when you add a veteran presence to your impressive collection of pitching prospects, it is a majestic home run.

The Rangers have attempted a more different approach as they shape a winning culture under general manager Chris Young. He has played a large part in the process this offseason and committed to building a club that can capture a World Series title. Majority owner Ray Davis has provided him the budget to splurge on another big-name free agent. The intention is for the Rangers to invest as much money as a big-money add like this can provide a way to kick-start the transformation and a turnaround season.

The signing of deGrom is the latest in a series of long-term deals given to Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. It’s fantastic to see, after all the greatness Bruce Bochy accomplished as Giants manager, the Rangers hire the 67-year-old as their manager, bringing the three-time World Series champion out of retirement to take the helm. And now the Rangers, on paper, look significantly improved from 2022 with the deGrom acquisition. Snatching a pitcher like deGrom off the market makes the team exponentially better than it was a year ago. But there are big questions about how the veteran will fare with the Rangers. The addition of deGrom adds intrigue to the rotation that wasn’t nearly as interesting until the former Met came on board.

Although he was particularly bedeviled by injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade, deGrom still compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021. That’s enough of a sample size to show the Rangers what life might look like with deGrom, who is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings in his career. But after a brief period of mastery, he missed the final three months of the 2021 season. He was then shut down late in spring training this year because of stress reaction in his right scapula and didn’t make his first big-league start until Aug. 2.

If he can stay fit and healthy, he can get closer to his ceiling. The natures of those concerns are obviously unknown. His contract comes with a significant risk. The deal, of course, is a huge gamble for the Rangers. No kidding. It’s about putting out a watchable and winning product. It’s about coaxing fans to walk through the stadium turnstiles to watch a pitcher extraordinaire like deGrom pitch a masterpiece.

The franchise had stagnated in the years after reaching the World Series in back to back years, only to come up empty each time. After years of stunning mediocrity by the previous regime, the Rangers have emerged as one of the game’s World Series contenders following a busy offseason. deGrom should be the final piece to make the Rangers competitive throughout the summer. And after the quick flameout of 2022’s season, deGrom is looking to prove himself and hoping to have a bounce-back year in terms of ability. By the time next season begins, it will be all so promising. He’s in better shape. He’s fully robust. He’s building confidence.

It’s conceivable he could do everything the Rangers could hope for, though he’d have to stay really healthy to do so. In bringing in deGrom to join the Rangers, Young is banking on him, with sights set even higher. deGrom was one of the top arms available, and the Rangers aggressively pursued him, they wanted him, they made it happen.

And if all goes as planned, he could deliver. An arm like deGrom makes a lot of sense. His stoic and poised nature will make him more endearing to Texas fans. And, perhaps, his dominant arm will make him more intimidating, scary and nearly impossible to hit. The direction is clear. The Rangers want to be big-time and that commitment made an impression on deGrom.

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Jonathan Mathis as known as The Sports Judge is the founder of SoCalChronicle. He is a professional Sports writer, contributor, Youtuber, podcaster @ ASAP Network, and co-host of Gonzo & The Judge Sports Talk. Follow the [email protected] https://twitter.com/Sportsjudge85

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