SAN DIEGO — Bruce Bochy’s telephone buzzed on Friday, and Chris Young, the final manager of the Texas Rangers, was on the road. After some general chitchat, Young cut to the chase.
We got him, he informed Bochy. Jacob deGrom is ours.
Time will tell if that blockbuster move changes the Rangers’ fortunes, but Bochy, an out-of-retirement manager who rode Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to 3 World Series titles a decade ago, can spot a lottery ticket when he sees one.
“Euphoria hits at that time,” Bochy said on the winter meetings this week, describing that phone call from Young. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled, more excited that we were capable of bring him here.”
The Rangers will formally introduce deGrom at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, later this week.
Then, the plan is to reintroduce themselves to the baseball world next summer. The team that played in back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011 — the Rangers were the victims in Bochy’s first San Francisco title in 2010 — has fallen on hard times these days and is within the strategy of a serious makeover.
After three fifth-place finishes in 4 seasons, they shocked the baseball world last winter by signing shortstop Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million deal and infielder Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million contract.
With that, they moved from fifth place to fourth place within the A.L. West.
So that they fired Jon Daniels, their president of baseball operations, and gave his duties to Young. Then, they lured Bochy out of retirement, lured the longtime and highly respected pitching coach Mike Maddux back to the organization and zeroed in on deGrom, 34, who signed for $185 million over five years.
“That was very much a necessity for us, a man that’s going to go up this rotation,” Bochy said. “You’re talking probably the greatest pitchers in the sport. For him to be leading the best way was an enormous need for us. And it makes our club so significantly better if you get a player like this.”
Bochy has been away from the sport since his retirement in San Francisco after the 2019 season. But he’s been watching and observing and, increasingly, feeling the itch to return. It was Young who leveraged his relationship along with his former manager into not only deciding to return to the dugout, but additionally to accomplish that in Texas.
“He’s got an actual passion for attempting to construct a winning culture in Texas,” said Bochy, who managed Young in San Diego in 2006. “He’s from there. He’s from the Dallas area. It means so much to him. It means so much to enhance the ball club for the fans and get to playing great baseball and hopefully getting back to the postseason and eventually hoping to win a championship.
“And he doesn’t hold back on it. And you are feeling the eagerness. You possibly can sense it, his drive to get this done. And it inspires you. I’ll be honest. It actually did me.”
The start of something in Texas meant the tip of something in Queens, where deGrom won two Cy Young Awards (2018 and 2019), one Rookie of the Yr award (2014) and helped pitch them into one World Series (2015). Billy Eppler, the final manager of the Mets, hurried to interchange deGrom with Justin Verlander, the reigning winner of the American League Cy Young Award, while taking a couple of minutes to text deGrom to congratulate him and need him well.
“He’s a fantastic pitcher,” Eppler said. “He gave Mets fans loads of really good memories. We wish him the very best.
“We’ll miss him.”
In Texas, deGrom will front a rotation that also projects to incorporate the right-hander Jon Gray, who formerly pitched in Colorado; the left-hander Martín Pérez, whom the Rangers signed as a free agent last March to spectacular results; and the right-handers Jake Odorizzi, acquired in a trade with Atlanta last month, and Dane Dunning.
That group was bolstered on Tuesday when the team got here to terms with Andrew Heaney, a veteran left-hander, on a two-year, $25 million deal.
While Bochy at all times has won with pitching, and Bumgarner, Lincecum and Cain all were homegrown in San Francisco, the Rangers are scrambling to patch together a rotation that can hold and provides them a probability.
To assist with that balancing act, they dipped into the past with Maddux. Long considered one in every of the sport’s best pitching coaches, Maddux was with Texas from 2009 to 2015 before going to Washington after which St. Louis.
Bochy calls the addition of Maddux “huge.”
“He’s got history there,” Bochy said. “He had success there. He’s had success wherever he’s gone. Mike, he’s just considered probably the greatest pitching coaches in the sport. And along with his experience, knowledge and his success, that is just a fantastic fit.
“An awesome fit for me, too. An awesome fit for the pitching staff. And to listen to his voice, it’s been, to be honest, just a little little bit of a struggle getting that pitching developed in Texas. And so, we got him leading the best way now. And he’s a difference maker.”
The Rangers’ moves this off-season on the very last have put people on notice. For one thing, adding Bochy, 67, to Houston’s Dusty Baker, 73, increases the common age of managers within the A.L. West.
“The experience and variety of years managed just shot up,” said Mariners Manager Scott Servais, 55, with a chuckle. “I’m not saying it the opposite way.
“Obviously, those guys have done a ton of their careers, and I even have loads of respect for each of them. They’ve actually been successful. Every little thing is elevated.”
Baker, whose Astros might be defending their World Series championship, said that it was not only the aggressive moves made by Texas that can make for a more rugged division in 2023. He pointed to the Los Angeles Angels’ acquisition of outfielder Hunter Renfroe from Milwaukee last month and the proven fact that they need to have a healthy Anthony Rendon. And after snapping their two-decade playoff drought, the Mariners this off-season have traded for second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Teoscar Hernández.
“I’m predicting it’s going to take less games to win our division than anytime since I’ve been there, just because there’s more parity,” said Baker, who’s entering his fourth season in Houston. “And a few team that you simply were 14-4 against last 12 months, you may find yourself seven and, whatever, because they’re going to chip away. There’s no real doormats that you simply just think you’re going to comb. So, that’s what I’m predicting.”
Too long a doormat, Texas says it will not be finished after the deGrom signing. The Rangers would love so as to add one other bat and more pitching.
After which, they are going to turn things over to Bochy and let him do his thing.
“It wasn’t that way back where the Texas Rangers were playing really good baseball,” Bochy said, adding that Young and the owner Ray Davis “are doing all they’ll to get this club back heading in the right direction. And it was just something that excited me. I desired to be a component of it because you may see that they were ready to offer us the tools to assist this occur.”
He said that the largest thing they talked about was the necessity to improve the starting pitching. Every little thing, he believes, begins with pitching and defense. But he also believes that enough heavy lifting has been done that he can win sooner moderately than later in Texas.
“Sometimes, when you will have some difficult years, the last a part of that process is believing you’ll be able to win,” he said. “And that’s what has to occur now. That’s going to be my job and the coaching staff’s job.”