ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have agreed with free-agent right-hander Brandon Webb to a one-year, incentive-laden contract to possibly fill the hole in their rotation left by the departure of ace Cliff Lee, multiple sources confirmed to MLB.com on Sunday. The deal is pending a physical.
Webb was the 2006 National League Cy Young Award winner and won 22 games in '08 for the D-backs, but he missed almost two complete seasons because of a right shoulder injury that required cleanup surgery in August '09.Webb hasn't pitched in a regular-season game since April 6, 2009, when he was the D-backs' Opening Day starter. He did pitch briefly for Arizona in the instructional league in September and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. From 2005-08, Webb was 70-37 with a 3.23 ERA in 134 starts and 927 innings. During that four-year stretch, he won more games and pitched more innings than any other Major League pitcher. He also had the sixth-lowest ERA among all pitchers with at least 500 innings during that span. Webb is an extreme ground-ball pitcher, and from 2005-08, he had the highest ground-ball percentage of any pitcher with at least 500 innings while tying for the most double plays turned behind him. At the same time, Webb struck out 7.06 batters per nine innings and walked 2.39. His ratio of 2.96 strikeouts per walk ranked 20th among 84 pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched from 2005-08. Webb could fill a spot in a starting rotation that already includes C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter. Derek Holland ended last season as the Rangers' fifth starter but could face Spring Training competition from left-handers Michael Kirkman and righty Matt Harrison. Right-hander Scott Feldman, a 17-game winner in 2009, is coming off right knee surgery and is not expected to be at full strength for Spring Training. The Rangers have been looking for another starting pitcher since Lee decided to sign with the Phillies this offseason rather than return to Texas. Texas talked about moving either closer Neftali Feliz or setup reliever Alexi Ogando to the rotation, but adding Webb decreases the chance of that happening, unless Webb encounters more shoulder problems in Spring Training. Manager Ron Washington has made it clear that he would prefer to keep Feliz as his closer.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.