baseball

Rangers, Reyes Moronta Agree To Minor League Deal

The Rangers have agreed to a minor league deal with right-hander Reyes Moronta, tweets Levi Weaver of The Athletic. Moronta, a client of LA Sports Management, will reunite with his former manager in San Francisco, Bruce Bochy.

Moronta, who turned 30 earlier this month, has spent his entire career up to this point in the National League West, logging a decade with San Francisco and splitting the 2022 campaign between LA and Arizona. He’s coming off a 4.30 ERA in a combined 37 2/3 innings between the Dodgers and D-backs, during which time he punched out 23.6% of his opponents against an 11% walk rate. The D-backs, however, did not tender him in November.

The 2022 season marked Moronta’s healthiest campaign since undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder late in the 2019 season. Moronta didn’t pitch with the Giants in 2020 and tallied just 22 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2021 while finishing off the rehab from that procedure.

Prior to his injury, Moronta held the potential to become a mainstay in the Giants’ bullpen. From 2017-19, he piled up 128 1/3 innings of a 2.66 ERA ball with a hefty 29.8% strikeout rate and a heater that averaged 97.1 mph. Command has long been an issue for the big right, evidenced by a bloated 13.6% walk rate even during that peak. At his best, however, he mitigated those free passes by avoiding home runs (0.63 HR/9) and ranking among the game’s best at limiting hard contact (86.4 mph average exit velocity, 30.6% hard-hit rate).

Moronta has yet to fully regain the life on his fastball post-surgery. He sat at 95.3 mph in 2022 — still well above the league-average — although it’s perhaps worth pointing out that his velocity crept up to an average of 96.1 mph over the season’s final month. The Rangers will hope that a reunion with Bochy, plus some further distance from that 2019 shoulder procedure, can get him closer to his 2017-19 form.

Beyond the fact that it reunites him with his old skipper, the deal with Texas puts Moronta in a relatively good landing spot for a reliever looking to reestablish himself. Texas has a talented bullpen but is lacking in established relievers, outside of its top names. Jose Leclerc is likely to reprise his role as the team’s closer. Fellow righty Joe Barlow has a spot locked up after posting a 2.81 ERA through his first 64 big league frames, and lefty Brock Burke posted what could be the quietest sub-2.00 ERA in the Majors last year.

Elsewhere, Jonathan Hernandez notched a 2.97 ERA in his return from Tommy John surgery but did so with some command issues. Taylor Hearn was better as a reliever than a starter but is still looking to cement himself in that role. John King proved himself to be a ground-ball machine but didn’t miss many bats. Veteran Jake Odorizzi appears ticketed for long relief or sixth starter work.

Suffice it to say, there’s room for Moronta to work his way back into the mix, particularly given a still-thin slate of fellow non-roster invites to camp. Jacob Barnes and Zack Littletell are among the minor league free agents the Rangers have also picked up this winter.

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