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Rangers sign SP Tyler Mahle to two-year, $22 million deal

The former Twins righty is still recovering from Tommy John surgery but could join the defending champs’ rotation in the second half.

Tyler Mahle of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the game between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, April 15, 2023 in New York, New York. Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Amid all the early Hot Stove fireworks, it had been a relatively quiet offseason for the reigning World Series champs. But the Texas Rangers finally tipped their toe into the free-agent waters on Thursday, signing former Reds and Twins righty Tyler Mahle to a two-year, $22 million deal. Mahle is set to miss at least the first half of the 2024 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in May, and Jeff Passan reports that the 29-year-old can tack an extra $5 million onto that contract if he stays healthy enough in 2025.

On the one hand, this is pretty good value for Texas. Mahle has established himself as an above-average starter when healthy: In 122 career starts, he’s amassed a 4.30 ERA (105 ERA+), including a 3.90 mark with a 10.2 K/9 since 2020. Teams these days tend to afford their pitchers about 14 months to recover, a timeline that would put Mahle on track to return right after the All-Star break. If that holds true, the Rangers are getting a year and a half of a legitimate mid-rotation starter — a guy you wouldn’t mind giving the ball to for a start in the postseason — at well below market cost.

Of course, “when healthy” is the all-important caveat there. There’s a reason that Mahle is coming at a discount: He’s thrown 130 or more innings in a season just once, back in 2021, and he’s been derailed by injuries in each of the past two years. (He ended the 2022 campaign on the IL with shoulder fatigue.) We simply don’t have a ton of evidence that Mahle can hold up over a full season of work.

There’s also the matter of the current state of Texas’ rotation. Adding Mahle at this number may be good value, but it also adds yet another injury concern to a starting staff already chock full of them. Max Scherzer battled shoulder trouble and turns 40 next summer. Nathan Eovaldi did his best Willis Reed impression shaking off a September forearm strain, but he’s entering his age-34 season and has a laundry list of injuries in his past. Jacob deGrom is recovering from Tommy John surgery of his own, and even the rosiest estimates don’t have him coming back until August. Jake Odorizzi missed all of 2023 rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

That’s a lot of question marks, and the guys behind them — Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney, Martin Perez — don’t inspire a ton of confidence. Granted, few teams are better equipped to slug their way into contention than the Rangers, especially with a full season of Evan Carter and top prospect Wyatt Langford waiting in the wings. But GM Chris Young needs to add at least one, if not more, arms to the mix before the winter’s out. Resign Jordan Montgomery, and this Mahle deal suddenly makes a lot more sense. Come up empty-handed, and it could be a tough title defense.