Rangers fans received good news during the club’s FanFest this weekend, as future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer provided an update on his health following back surgery earlier this winter. As noted by Jeff Wilson of Rangers Today, Scherzer noted that he has yet to suffer any setbacks in his recovery in the six weeks since he went under the knife, and added that he expects to begin working out in about three weeks. While that timeline puts him on pace to begin workouts shortly after Spring Training begins next month, there’s still a lengthy rehab ahead for Scherzer, who GM Chris Young indicated when announcing the surgery last month would be sidelined into June or even July of the coming campaign.
An eight-time All Star and three-time Cy Young award winner, Scherzer’s return to the rotation over the summer is sure to provide a major boost to the club’s pitching corps. The veteran righty pitched to a 3.20 ERA and 3.41 FIP in 45 innings of work for the Rangers down the stretch before being sidelined in September due to the back issues that would ultimately require surgery. Scherzer managed to work his way back onto the mound for three short starts during the club’s championship run before ultimately being shut down for the season following three scoreless innings during Game 3 of the World Series against the Diamondbacks.
With Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and offseason signing Tyler Mahle all expected to open the 2024 season on the shelf, the Rangers have plenty of questions marks in the Opening Day rotation. The starting five in Texas currently projects to be Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, and Cody Bradford as things, without much healthy depth behind that quintet to protect against additional injury woes. The club’s clear rotation needs have paved the way for the club to be tied to a reunion with lefty Jordan Montgomery throughout the winter, though Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently cast doubt on the likelihood of the sides coming together on a deal when all is said and done. During a recent appearance on a the Foul Territory podcast, Grant noted that while he believes that both sides have interest in a reunion, he thinks that the club would rather rely on minor league pitching talents to step up and contribute at the big league level early in the season while Scherzer, deGrom, and Mahle rehab than offer Montgomery a hefty deal in the 5-6 year range.
While the Rangers have a trio of pitching prospects in Owen White, Jack Leiter, and Kumar Rocker who were recently very well regarded, both Leiter and White had difficult 2023 campaigns while Rocker made just six professional starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of last year and may not even reach the upper levels of the minors in 2024, much less the big leagues. Given those question marks, it’s hardly a surprise that the club has at least remained engaged with Montgomery. Speculatively speaking, the club could perhaps look to lower-tier alternatives remaining on the starting pitching market such as Mike Clevinger and Hyun Jin Ryu to bolster their depth in the event Montgomery signs elsewhere.
Moving from the rotation to the offense, Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press recently reported that the Rangers remain at odds with star outfielder Adolis Garcia regarding his 2024 salary with arbitration hearings just around the corner. The only Ranger who didn’t reach an agreement with the club prior to the deadline earlier this month, Garcia requested a salary of $6.9MM while the Rangers countered with $5MM. That $1.9MM gap is the widest among all players who failed to reach an agreement before the deadline. While many teams have adopted a “file and trial” approach to salary arbitration, meaning that they do not continue negotiations after figures are exchanged, Young noted that the club has remained in contact with Garcia’s camp and that the club is “very encouraged” by the dialogue between the two sides.
For Garcia’s part, the 30-year-old slugger said he wasn’t sure if there was a chance of avoiding an arbitration hearing and added that he’s “just a little bit disappointed” about how the process has gone. Garcia enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2023, slashing .245/.328/.508 in 632 trips to the plate as he notched his second career All Star appearance. The slugger also earned a Gold Glove award for his work in right field and posted a .323/.382/.786 slash line in the postseason en route to MVP honors for both the ALCS and World Series.