The Rangers announced that right-handed pitcher Joe Barlow has been activated from the 15-day injured list. To make room for Barlow on the active roster, righty Garrett Richards was designated for assignment. Additionally, outfielder Kole Calhoun has been sent on a rehab assignment.
Richards, 34, has largely been a starting pitcher for years, working exclusively out of the rotation from 2014 to 2019. He transitioned into more relief work over the past couple of seasons, showing some promise in that department last year. With the Red Sox last year, he had a 5.22 ERA as a starter but a 3.42 mark as a reliever.
Based on that showing, the Rangers grabbed Richards this offseason, hoping that a permanent bullpen role would unlock a new gear for him. He and the club agreed to a one-year deal with a $5.5M guarantee, which came in the form of a $4.5M salary and $1M buyout on a $9M club option for 2023.
Unfortunately, the bullpen breakout hasn’t emerged as hoped. Richards has thrown 42 2/3 innings over 32 appearances this season with a 5.27 ERA and a subpar 19.5% strikeout rate. Based on those poor results, the Rangers have decided to cut bait and remove Richards from the roster. With the trade deadline now passed, their only options will be to put Richards on waivers, either the outright variety or the release kind.
There’s little distinction between the two in this case, as Richards has more than five years service time, meaning he could reject an outright assignment and elect free agency without forfeiting any salary.
There’s still about $1.18M left to be paid out of that salary, along with the $1M buyout on the 2023 option. It seems likely that he will go unclaimed on waivers and become a free agent, with the Rangers on the hook for paying out the remainder of that money. Once he is a free agent, however, interested teams could find some reasons for optimism in his work this year.
His 7% walk rate is a couple of ticks below the 9.1% league average for relievers this season. His 57.3% strand rate is unusually low and should be due for some positive regression. His 52.6% ground ball rate is also quite strong, much better than the league average rate of 43.3%. Perhaps a move to a better defensive team would be a better fit for his low-strikeout approach, as the Rangers rank 21st in the league with -1 Defensive Runs Saved, 18th with a -0.4 Ultimate Zone Rating and 23rd in Outs Above Average with a -12.
As for Barlow, he showed enough promise this year to get some work as the closer in Texas, racking up 13 saves. He landed on the injured list in the middle of July due to a blister, only now returning after over a month. Through 30 1/3 innings on the year, he has a 3.26 ERA with a quality 6.6% walk rate, though subpar strikeout and ground ball rates of 19% and 35.6%, respectively.