Rangers general manager Chris Young informed reporters, including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, that right-hander Max Scherzer has a teres major strain. Surgery is not needed but he is out of the rest of the regular season and “unlikely” to pitch in the playoffs either. The Rangers officially placed Scherzer on the 15-day injured list shortly after the news was announced, with righty Jonathan Hernandez recalled in a corresponding move.
It is obviously a terrible development for the Rangers, who are in the midst of a tight playoff race with just over two weeks to go. The Rangers are a game back of the Astros in the West division and are currently clinging to the second Wild Card spot, but with both the Blue Jays and Mariners just half a game back. Scherzer left his start against the Jays last night and was slated for an MRI today, which apparently revealed the strain.
This is the latest setback in the club’s attempts to improve its starting rotation, which was a significant weak point last year. In the offseason, the club re-signed Martín Pérez, traded for Jake Odorizzi and signed free agents Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney, with that group joining incumbents Jon Gray and Dane Dunning. But Odorizzi never pitched for the club, requiring a shoulder procedure that wiped out his whole season. deGrom made six starts before landing on the injured list and ultimately requiring Tommy John surgery. Both Heaney and Pérez struggled earlier in the year and have been pitching out of the bullpen of late.
Despite those rotation challenges, the club has spent much of this season in first place in their division and went into the deadline as buyers, with the rotation an obvious area to address. They acquired Jordan Montgomery from the Cardinals and Scherzer from the Mets.
Scherzer wasn’t quite having as dominant a season as in the past, posting a 4.01 ERA with the Mets prior to the trade, but the Rangers were still naturally intrigued by his incredible track record that goes all the way back to 2008. They sent prospect Luisangel Acuña to the Mets in order to bring Scherzer aboard, though the latter club also sent $35MM to Texas in order to cover part of Scherzer’s salary for the rest of this year and next year as well.
The veteran had better results after the deal, with a 3.20 ERA over his eight starts since coming to the Rangers. Unfortunately, the club will now have to proceed through what’s left of the regular season without him. Even if they manage to hang on and get into the postseason, they will have to cobble a playoff rotation together while potential playoff starters like Scherzer and deGrom sit on the injured list. It seems the door is still slightly open for a return from Scherzer, though that would likely be contingent on the club making a late postseason run.
Subtracting Scherzer from the rotation leaves the Rangers with Montgomery, Eovaldi, Gray and Dunning. They will need a fifth starter as soon as this weekend, which could perhaps result in either Heaney or Pérez returning to the rotation. Heaney has an ERA of 4.10 on the year, though his 24% strikeout rate is a big drop from last year’s 35.5% clip and his walk rate has gone from 6.1% to 9.4%. Pérez had an ERA of 2.89 last year but it’s ballooned to 4.74 this year, as his strikeout rate has gone from 20.6% to 14.8%.
If Heaney gets the gig, or even if he now pitches more innings out of the bullpen, it could impact his contract status. He signed a two-year deal with the Rangers this winter, though he’s allowed to opt-out of that deal this winter. His 2024 player option is valued at $13MM, though it jumps to $20MM if he reaches 150 innings pitched this year and does not have an injury that would prevent him from being on the active roster within 60 days of Opening Day 2024. He’s currently at 136 innings for the season, just 14 shy of that target.
But in the short-term, the Rangers will surely be focused on putting the best possible staff together for their remaining contests as they hope to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2016.