The Texas Rangers and free agent starting pitcher Tommy Hanson agreed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Monday. The deal is worth $2 million and incentives are included. The official announcement is pending a physical, which is expected to come Tuesday. He will have a chance in camp to most likely compete for the Ranger’s fifth starting spot.
The Rangers have been looking for starting pitching depth with Derek Holland sidelined due to a knee surgery performed in January that will keep him out until mid-season. Hanson will compete with right-handers Nick Tepesch and Colby Lewis and left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman.
Hanson, 27, was once a promising young star during his tenure with the Atlanta Braves. From 2009-2012, Hanson went 45-32 with a 3.61 ERA and 592 strikeouts in 108 starts with Atlanta before he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels last season. However, Hanson has not been the same star many thought he was with the Braves since 2012 due to inconsistency and injury troubles.
Hanson was only 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 starts and two relief appearances for the Angels last season while being sidelined from June 21 to July 23 with a strained right forearm. In fact, his arm troubles date all the way back to 2011 with numerous shoulder and arm injuries.
However, the Rangers aren’t taking a huge risk in signing Hanson to a minor league contract, and if he can pitch like he did during the beginning of his career, this move could turn out to be a huge reward for Texas.
The Rangers might not be done spending money on starting pitching. Multiple sources report that right-
hander Suk-Min Yoon is still a top-target for Texas. Yoon, who threw a bullpen session for the Rangers this week, is a member of the Korean Baseball Organization and is on the radar of many Major League Baseball teams. His best season with the Kia Tigers came in 2011, when he went 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 172 innings.
Yoon, 27, will be attempting to overcome a shoulder injury that diminished most of his 2013 season in which he went 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA. He will continue to throw bullpen sessions this week as about a half-dozen teams remain interested in his services.
Yoon is represented by Scott Boras, so he will most likely be looking for a three or four-year deal. The Rangers are in the market for a starter, but the long-term commitment Yoon is looking for may make them think twice about offering a contract.
Not only are the Rangers dealing with the absence of Holland, they are working on slowly easing Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis back into the rotation for 2014.
Lewis hasn’t pitched since 2012 due to elbow and hip surgeries. He was 32-29 with a 3.93 ERA in 80 starts for the Rangers in 2010-12. He was also 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in eight postseason starts. The Rangers seem to think he is progressing well and should be ready for spring training.
“He’s feeling good,” Pitching Coach Mike Maddux said. “I’ve seen video of him throwing, and he looks free and easy. He’s able to get off his back side, that’s something he hasn’t been able to do (because of the hip) in a while. Now he can push off the mound. Before, he was falling down hill.”
Lefty Matt Harrison only made two starts last season before undergoing two surgeries to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. His best season came in 2012, when he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA in 213 1/3 innings.
“Right now I feel 100 percent,” Harrison said. “I’m looking forward to getting out on the field with the guys.”
Still, it’s always helpful to have good depth at the starting pitching position. With the signing of Hanson, the Rangers have placed themselves in a low-risk, high-reward situation since it is only a minor league contract. As for the righty Suk-Min Yoon, at the right price, he could make a Rangers rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis that much better at the back end. Stay tuned.