Monday, December 21, 2009

Darren Oliver's Impact

Talk about coming full circle: 17 years after Darren Oliver began his career with the Texas Rangers, it looks as though Oliver will be returning to the Rangers.

The Texas Rangers are nearing completion of a one-year deal to add LHP Darren Oliver to the bullpen, two sources said Sunday night.

Oliver, 39, has been used as a reliever for the last four years and has found significant success in that role. Over the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, he is 12-2 with a 2.79 ERA. He has held left-handed hitters to a .247 batting average with a .286 on-base percentage during that time.

Oliver still lives in the area and his agents met with the Rangers during the winter meeting. At the time, Oliver was seeking at least the same salary as he made with the Angels in 2009 ($3.65 million). The Rangers were believed to be in the $3 million range, but were waiting on a deal for Mike Lowell to be completed.
While $3 million in this marketplace might be a tad bit steep for Oliver given how many options are out there, I love this move from the Rangers' perspective. The Rangers add a quality left handed reliever to their improving bullpen and as we saw last season with the Rangers, if the Rangers' pitching staff can achieve mediocrity, then the Rangers have a very good chance at winning lots of baseball games. Darren Oliver has proven to be one of the best left handed set up men in baseball over the last three seasons with the Angels and bringing him to Texas is a coup for GM Jon Daniels.
In addition, the future impact of this deal is next to nothing for the Rangers. By signing Oliver to a one year contract, the Rangers mitigate the risk involved with signing a 39 year old pitcher. It's also important to note that the Rangers did not have to surrender a draft pick to sign Oliver, even though he was a type A free agent, because the Angels did not offer him arbitration.

But the real benefit of adding Darren Oliver is that it could potentially move CJ Wilson into the starting rotation. The Rangers were skeptical of moving Wilson out of the bullpen because he was so valuable as their primary left handed set up man, but now with Oliver on board, the Rangers have more flexibility to give Wilson a chance to start.

Either way this move is a win-win for the Rangers. If Wilson stays in the bullpen, then the Rangers will have a deep and reliable bullpen to fall back on, but if Wilson moves into the starting rotation, then the Rangers rotation could improve even more.

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