The Rangers announced a series of roster moves today, activating right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the injured list and selecting the contract of fellow righty Ian Kennedy. In corresponding moves, righty Josh Sborz was placed on the 15-day IL with a left hamstring strain while righty Glenn Otto was designated for assignment.
Kennedy, 38, signed a minor league deal with the Rangers and cracked the Opening Day roster. But he was lit up in the early going, allowing a 7.20 earned run average through 11 outings before being designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and elected free agency but rejoined the Rangers on a new minor league pact. Since that time, he’s been posting fairly solid results in Triple-A, with a 3.51 ERA in 25 2/3 innings, along with a 29.4% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate.
After many years as an effective big league starter, Kennedy moved to the bullpen in recent years with inconsistent results. He had a 3.41 ERA in 2019 but saw that jump to an even 9.00 in 2020. He got back on track with a 3.20 mark in 2021 but it nudged up to 5.36 last year before this year’s aforementioned struggles.
The Rangers bullpen has been a nightmare of late, a key reason why their previously strong division lead has gone up in smoke. The relievers have let many recent games slip away in the late innings, pushing the club to third place in the division and just half a game ahead of the Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot in the American League. For the season as a whole, the relief corps has a collective 4.86 ERA that places them 25th in the league. They will mix things up by getting the veteran Kennedy into the mix to see if he can help.
Otto, 27, got a shot at a rotation job with the Rangers last year, making 27 starts with a 4.64 ERA, 18.2% strikeout rate, 10.6% walk rate and 43.1% ground ball rate. The Rangers then underwent an extremely aggressive offseason, overhauling their rotation by acquiring pitchers like Eovaldi, Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney and Jake Odorizzi. That would have squeezed Otto either to the minors or the bullpen but he suffered a lat strain in March and was placed on the 60-day injured list on Opening Day.
He was reinstated from the IL at the end of June and has made six appearances for the big league club since then, but six home runs in just 10 2/3 innings have led to an ERA of 10.13. He’s also tossed 29 1/3 Triple-A innings over 10 appearances with a 3.38 ERA, striking out 32.5% of opponents in the process.
Since the trade deadline has passed, the Rangers will have no choice but to put Otto on waivers in the coming days. He’s not too far removed from being a notable prospect. In 2021, he registered a 3.20 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the minor leagues, going from the Yankees to the Rangers in the Joey Gallo trade that summer. He went into 2022 ranked as the #15 prospect in the Rangers system.
Though he then had some tepid results that year and has been injured for much of this year, he could perhaps garner interest based on that previous prospect status. He still has two option seasons beyond this one and has yet to qualify for arbitration. That means he could be an intriguing depth arm for any club willing to give him a roster spot.