Pitching wins championships. The Boston Red Sox know this. Until they went out and got Curt Schilling to compliment Pedro Martinez, they could not get past the superior pitching team of the New York Yankees. The San Francisco Giants know this as they rode the success of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner to victory in 2010. And the Rangers know this. As losers of back-to-back World Series, the Texas Rangers know the importance of pitching all too well. They saw the St. Louis Cardinals throw out an ace in Chris Carpenter, great set-up men in Lance Lynn and Jason Motte, and a shut-down closer in Fernando Salas. Now, the Rangers may have to compete without the services of their own set-up man, Mike Adams.
According to an Associated Press report, Mike Adams has been diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and could miss the postseason. He has already been shut down for the final few games of the regular season as he tries to rest and allow the nerve that affects his upper extremities to release. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome causes numbness and tingling into the hands and fingers, and it has been the source of Adams' recent struggles.
Adams gave up three hits in 2/3 of an inning-pitched - all of which were home runs. He has been battling the injury for quite some time now, but he has tried to pitch through it. The Rangers set-up man has 27 holds this season and a 3.27 ERA. That's a far cry from his career 2.28 ERA and the dominance he has shown year after year.
Adams hopes to pitch again for the Rangers in the postseason, and will rest to relieve pressure on the nerve says Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but surgery will likely be a requirement in the offseason. That is usually the only way to make sure the numbness and weakness goes away. Adams plans to have the surgery in the offseason, but if he can't pitch during the postseason, he will do so as the Rangers plug along through the playoffs.
The problem is, Adams is on the final year of his contract. He is a free agent after this season ends. Adams has been very effective in his career and really took shape as a set-up man while still with the San Diego Padres. He had 38 holds and a 1.76 ERA in 2010 for the Padres. In the middle of the 2011 season, San Diego shipped Adams off to Texas in a deal that landed them prospects Robert Erlin and Joe Wieland. Adams continued his success in Texas in the second half of last year and for parts of this season, but the Rangers did not extend his contract.
Adams is in his third year of arbitration-eligibility and making $4.4 million. He has been a vital part of the Rangers success last season and this season. However, his injury may make the front office think twice about brining him back. Adams is 34 years old and will likely cost the Rangers upwards of $5-6 million per season on on any new contract. After the surgery, he may be willing to sign a one-year contract, but that may still be too risky for Texas.
Recovery from Thoracic Outlet surgery is generally good. The surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic, is usually successful in relieving pain, but if the symptoms have been left untreated for too long, surgery may not be effective in treating muscle weakness. That in and of itself may be enough for the Rangers to second-guess any plans they had of offering Adams a new contract. Especially since the team has been so heavily focused on Josh Hamilton's contract and what to do if he does not return.
Adams may not be of Hamilton's caliber, but if he is healthy, the Rangers need him. The truly great teams have a pitching staff that includes strong starting pitchers and a bullpen that owns the eighth and ninth innings. When the New York Yankees won three straight World Championships and went to a fourth straight, they had exactly that. They had fantastic pitching from the starters to the relievers. Adams is the bridge to Joe Nathan, and while this injury is troubling, the Rangers should take a long look at bringing him back.
As for Adams, he may be looking for a long-term deal, but after he undergoes surgery, he should be willing to take a one-year contract to prove he can still pitch well enough to lock down the eighth inning. A one-year contract for a guy who turns 35 next season may not be appealing to Adams. He surely wants the security of multiple years. However, if he can prove himself successful again, his age should not matter. The Rangers have Koji Uehara pitching incredibly well at the age of 37.
The Rangers bullpen could be stacked going forward with Adams returning, but as of now, his injury muddies the waters. If he can return in the postseason and flash the brilliance he's shown over the last five years, his chances of returning to the Rangers will improve drastically. For now, we'll have to wait and see if he can go.