Rangers' Rotation Recovery: Jerome Williams as a Depth Option?

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Rangers' Rotation Recovery: Jerome Williams as a Depth Option?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Williams is an experienced major league pitcher who can make starts for Texas for cheap.

According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (h/t Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball), the Texas Rangers are reportedly making progress in contract talks with right-handed starter Jerome Williams.

Cotillo reported that Williams could sign with the Rangers in the next couple of days. Cotillo's source said that talks between the two parties intensified after projected No. 2 starter Derek Holland's recent knee injury. The source also told Cotillo that the deal would likely be for one year.

Williams was non-tendered by the Los Angeles Angels this offseason.

Well, signing him isn't the ideal solution to replacing Holland in the rotation. That would be Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese ace who would not only shore up Texas' rotation now but also strengthen it beyond this season.

It was already expected that the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees would be the biggest dogs in a potentially massive bidding war for Tanaka. The Yankees need a quality starting pitcher, while the Dodgers seem to have full control of the United States Treasury.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to Rodriguez' 162-game ban, the Yanks have found a new bank.

The Rangers' task of outbidding even just the Yankees got tougher with the recent news of Alex Rodriguez's 162-game suspension. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Yankees will clear up nearly $25 million in 2014 payroll because of the length of Rodriguez's time out. So the Rangers likely won't get their ideal fit to replace Holland.

It sure is hard to imagine that Yu Darvish's influence—although it likely holds some weight—is strong enough to equal the Yankees' newly found mountain of cash.

If Texas signs Williams instead, he would likely be the favorite for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Admittedly, he is an average pitcher at best. But let's take a look at what he could bring to the rotation.

Keep in mind that this potential signing is all about value. The question to ask is whether or not he can be effective for the price. Morris of Lone Star Ball believes that Williams would get between $1 and $2 million for that one-year deal.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Williams has the stuff to be very effective on occasion but not consistently.

First, Williams keeps the ball down, which is especially critical when pitching in Arlington. His last season with the Angels appeared to be an outlier, as he allowed 23 homers in 25 starts in 2013. But over his career as a starter, he has allowed just 79 homers in 2,952 plate appearances. That's a home run rate of just 2.6 percent, which is pretty good.

I don't think he can keep up that pace in Arlington. But remember, he wouldn't have to shut down the opposing lineup but rather keep his own in the game.

The Honolulu native has an effective inside-out, sinker-cutter combination. He complements those two pitches with a respectable slider and changeup. His sinker sits around 92 mph, while his cutter usually reaches 87-89 mph.

So he has nice velocity and the stuff to hit the corners on both sides of the plate. Controlling both sides allows him to jam both righty and lefty batters, as well as make both sides chase. As a starter, he has a career .262 opponents' batting average, which is probably passable.

Against righties over his career, he has pretty decent numbers. Righties have only hit .259 on him. Also, Williams has a serviceable strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.66 to the right side of the plate.

When you take a look at all of his numbers from the left side of the plate, he's about the same pitcher. He'll be better and worse in some categories, but lefties have only hit .265 against him.

He also brings a veteran mentality to the rotation. Granted, his overall record is just 42-47 with a 4.35 ERA, but he has much more experience as a starter than Nick Tepesch or Alexi Ogando and slightly more than even Colby Lewis.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
The Rangers aren't sure what they'll get from Lewis upon his return from major surgery.

Again, he isn't a guy who is going to shut down the other team every time out. He does have the ability to be effective in any given start because of his sinker-cutter combo. Nothing he throws is straight, and that makes him just harder to hit.

For the record, I am not pronouncing Williams as the be-all and end-all solution to replacing Holland. He is not nearly a good enough pitcher to do that alone. The only two guys who could replace Holland by themselves are Tanaka and David Price.

If the Rangers don't sign Tanaka, this three-month recovery process will be a committee effort behind the pillars of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and hopefully Matt Harrison, whose smooth transition back to the rotation is needed now more than ever.

But, if Williams can be had for between $1 and $2 million, why not? His signing just might keep Ogando in the bullpen where he belongs.

Don't make this any more than it is. At the end of the day, Williams is a depth option; at best, he will get around 20 starts. With the Rangers' reloaded offense, that shouldn't be the concern it would normally be when you consider his level as a pitcher.

 

What do you think of Williams? Sound off in the comments section below.

Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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