According to multiple local reports, Texas appears to be on the verge of signing righthander Jason Jennings, pending the passing of a physical, which wouldn't be a formality in the 29-year-old's case.
The Dallas native was completely healthy over his six years with Colorado (2001-2006), with the exception of a fractured finger that cost him the final two and a half months of the 2005 season. Jennings went 58-56, 4.74 as a Rockie, with a strong 1.52 groundout-to-flyout rate, and was particularly good in 2006, going 9-13, 3.78 with a career high 212 innings over 32 starts. In the last four seasons, Texas has had just one pitcher turn in that kind of workload, Kevin Millwood in 2006 (215 innings).
Colorado traded Jennings to Houston last December (with pitcher Miguel Asencio for pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh and outfielder Willy Taveras), and he had an extremely disappointing 2007 season for the Astros, going 2-9, 6.45 in 18 starts and a relief appearance and missing two chunks of the season with elbow issues: seven weeks in April and May due to flexor tendinitis and the final six weeks of the season due to a tear in the flexor tendon (not nearly as serious as the ulnar collateral ligament). Jennings had surgery to repair the tendon on September 1.
More significant last year than the drop in velocity from his normal 89-91 was the loss of bite on his plus sinker, as his G/F rate turned upside down and he surrendered 1.73 home runs per nine innings, compared to the 0.98 he posted in his six years pitching for the Rockies.
If Jennings is healthy, he profiles well in Rangers Ballpark, but clearly this is a move designed at this point simply to create competition for Luis Mendoza, Armando Galarraga, A.J. Murray, Kameron Loe, and perhaps Robinson Tejeda for the final spot in the rotation (assuming Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard go into the season healthy). If he's both healthy and right, he probably fits more as the number four, with Gabbard at the five spot.
There's been no indication whether Jennings would command a big league contract or if instead it would be a non-roster deal, but if it's the former, it would likely be a relatively modest base salary with significant appearance incentives, much like last winter's Eric Gagné contract.
Of course, if it is a big league deal, there will be two more players that Texas will need to remove from the 40-man roster, one for Jennings and one for Eddie Guardado (assuming his too is a big league deal).
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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