Texas signs Arthur Rhodes.

Starting pitchers Cliff Lee, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jon Garland, Brandon Webb, Zack Greinke, Jorge De La Rosa, Josh Johnson, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Jeff Francis, Andrew Miller, Matt Garza, Joe Blanton, and Ricky Nolasco.
 
Relievers Kerry Wood, Rafael Soriano, Mark Prior, Bobby Jenks, Yoshinori Tateyama, Heath Bell, and Jonathan Papelbon.

Catchers Victor Martinez, John Buck, A.J. Pierzynski, Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo, Bengie Molina, Russell Martin, Matt Treanor, Yorvit Torrealba, Welington Castillo, and Robinson Chirinos.

Infielders Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre.

Outfielders Carl Crawford and Carlos Beltran.

Designated hitters Adam Dunn, Vladimir Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Hideki Matsui, Jim Thome, Troy Glaus, Marcus Thames, and Manny Ramirez.

That’s four dozen players who have been mentioned in the TROT COFFEY offerings in the four dozen days since the season ended, having been tied to the Rangers to one degree or another by local or national writers weighing in on free agent possibilities and trade rumors.

Know who’s missing?  Arthur Lee Rhodes.

How long before Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera for Josh Hamilton did we hear that Texas was in on Hamilton?

A few hours.

Even though we later found out that talks with the Reds spanned more than a month, and as many as 15 player combinations.

Bad for stove temperatures.

Good for doing business.

Rhodes, who turned 41 two days after Texas earned its first World Series berth, will enter his 20th big league season in the spring, and has been one of the game’s most effective left-handed relievers since Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2007 season.  In 2008 (Seattle and Florida), 2009 (Cincinnati), and 2010 (Cincinnati), the Waco native scattered 37 earned runs (2.32 ERA) on 103 hits (.204/.280/.292 slash) and 47 unintentional walks in 143.2 innings, fanning 138.  In those three years he’s surrendered an average of only 10 extra-base hits per season.  Only 17 of the 100 baserunners he inherited scored.  Only six players stole successfully. 

At the conclusion of his record-setting 33 consecutive scoreless appearances last year (30 innings, 13 hits, 10 walks, 28 strikeouts), Rhodes had an ERA of 0.28.

He was actually better against right-handed hitters (.182/.289/.245) in 2010 than against lefties (.214/.230/.393).  That’s generally not the case with Rhodes, but at the same time he’s not just a left-on-left specialist.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports that the one-year deal with a vesting option for 2012 (usually set up to lock in as long as he handles a healthy workload in the first year) will pay Rhodes “about $8 million” if he pitches that second year.  He’s a Type A free agent, but since the Reds didn’t offer him arbitration, he doesn’t cost Texas a draft pick. 

A bullpen with Rhodes and Darren Oliver from the left side (neither needing to be worked as hard as Oliver was last year – Rhodes hasn’t exceeded 55 innings since 2002, while Oliver hasn’t had a season with that light a workload in the same span), complementing Neftali Feliz, Frankie Francisco, Alexi Ogando, and Darren O’Day from the right side, has a chance to be really good.  Among others competing for spots will be Mark Lowe, Tateyama, Clay Rapada, Pedro Strop, and Mason Tobin, and possibly Tanner Scheppers, and the list goes on from there.

Even if Feliz or Ogando isn’t transitioned to the rotation, as we saw in October, you can never have enough bullpen depth.  Every inning that the reliable Rhodes gets lessens the responsibility and the load on someone else. 

What the Rhodes signing could mean for Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman (assume that Derek Holland wins a rotation spot), each of whom has minor league options, is impossible to say for now.  This staff isn’t yet complete.

And it’s damn near impossible to draw a bead on how Texas is going to go about completing the staff. 

While it might be less entertaining not to be able to sift through days and weeks of rumors pegging the Rangers as finalists to acquire this pitcher or that one, giving us all kinds of time to dream on how things might shape up, I’ll take the surprise instead, and the competitive advantage that might come along with it.

 

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