According to a January 16 report by Adam Boedeker of NBCDFW.com, the Texas Rangers could be targeting left-handed starter Bruce Chen in an effort to try to replace the injured Derek Holland's production.
Last week, I discussed the Rangers' interest in Paul Maholm, another free agent southpaw starter. Between these two candidates, it seems clear that the team is searching for lefty pitching depth.
Let's take a closer look at Chen, and what he might be able to offer the Rangers' rotation.
Chen likely had the best season of his 15-year career in 2013 as a starter for the Kansas City Royals. At 36, he posted a 9-4 record with a 3.27 ERA in 121 innings. He only allowed 107 hits in those 121 frames. Chen made 15 starts for the Royals last year, but also saw some action in the bullpen.
In general, Chen, like Maholm, is a finesse lefty who relies on movement and crafty pitch selection. He even has less velocity than Maholm, usually hitting 87-88 mph on his fastball, but he has a wicked changeup that can really roll off the table and move laterally.
Chen is mainly a fastball-changeup combo pitcher. He'll occasionally mix in a curve in the high 70s and a slider in the low 80s. His velocity is below average, but his fastball can sneak up on hitters after they've sat on a few offspeed pitches in succession.
He spots his pitches very well and doesn't walk a lot of batters. Chen has never surrendered more than 63 free passes in any of his seven seasons in which he's thrown at least 120 innings.
The two major pluses with Chen are his familiarity with the American League, and the fact that he's aged very well.
Chen has been all over the place during his career, but he's been with an American League club for the last 10 years, including a stint with the Rangers in 2007. So he's not a guy who will have to work a bit harder to adjust to pitching in the AL.
In that 10-year AL tour, Chen has made 159 starts and has a total AL record of 60-58 with a 4.46 ERA.
It's fair to assume that Chen would be better suited to pitch in the American League, compared to Maholm or any other National League starter the Rangers might be interested in.
Chen has also aged very well, as previously mentioned. His best season was almost certainly last year. He made 23 starts or more three years in a row between 2010-12—from age 33 to 35. He pitched 191.2 innings with the Royals in 2012, a mark he hadn't reached since 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Chen will eat up innings, and will do so as a starter and a reliever if needed. That's just what Texas needs right now with Holland out until mid season—a guy or a committee of guys who aren't concerned with roles, but can take a consistent turn and keep the offense in the game.
One potential red flag with signing Chen is that he is yet another Scott Boras client. The Rangers have a very good history and relationship with Boras. Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and newly-acquired Shin-Soo Choo are all notable Boras clients.
Chen obviously won't command the money those players are getting, but one has to be concerned with Boras' ability to squeeze every penny out of a buying team. I'd be worried that Chen might cost a little too much because of Boras' masterful knack for selling the best in his clients.
Just like Maholm and any starting pitching depth-related possibility, it all comes down to value. Is the Rangers' need worth the price of the player? Texas could really benefit from signing either Chen or Maholm, or maybe even Jerome Williams.
It's all about price and what each guy brings to the table.
How much interest do you have in Chen?
*All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
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