As General Managers have been for the Texas Rangers they have had some of the worst in evaluating young talent as well as being able being able to maintain them after their original contract. For example: Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Pena, Sammy Sosa (numbers artificially aided I understand but still). Enter Jon Daniels stage right.
Heres a very simple question I want to ask you: Is Jon Daniels a Baseball Jedi mind Ninja? JD as he is affectionally called in Texas Rangers land has turned one of the most laughable organizations into a premier club in Major League Baseball in a few short seasons.
He first burst on the scene in 2007 by trading the Rangers best player Mark Teixeria to the Atlanta Braves and in return received several players many of whom have led to the Rangers recent run of success. The players JD was given in return were led by Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison. All of whom currently hold down major roles for the Texas Rangers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was also part of this trade but he is no longer with the team but when he was here and healthy he was a solid catcher. This trade has been considered the Herschel Walker trade of baseball. Let’s hope this one fairs as well as that did.
His next huge play led them to the 2010 World Series when at the trade deadline he was able to grab Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners before he was traded to the New York Yankees. Losing Justin Smoak and Blake Beaven were big losses but for a player of Cliff Lee’s talent he couldn’t miss.
After the 2010 season JD was unsuccessful in resigning Lee but he did acquire another high profile player. Grabbing arguably the best third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. The Angels were unable to sign him when he all but told them that he wanted to play there. Daniels stepped in and snagged him and the Rangers benefitted last season by making the World Series for a second straight season.
One of the best examples of his ninjahood though is from this past offseason. “Sources” close to the Rangers had everyone believing the Rangers could not afford to sign the Japanese phenom Yu Darvish. When the bidding closed the Rangers were the team who came out on top and had won the rights to negotiate with him. It may have taken right up to the deadline to secure the deal but seeing him work the last few seasons I never lost faith that a deal wouldn’t get done. If he turns out to be as good as everyone expects they signed him for a steal at 6 years, $60 million.
Other less known trades involved trading Eric Gagne to the Boston Red Sox for David Murphy who has been an integral part of the Rangers success the last few seasons. Murphy plays a pivotal role with the club being the fourth outfielder and logging serious time given that the Rangers have two injury prone starting outfielders.
With as nice as some of those have been for the Rangers some of his best moves have been the ones he didn’t make.
He wouldn’t commit a seventh year to Cliff Lee which at first sounded spectacular having a premier pitcher in Arlington is something the Rangers have been looking for, for many years going back to when the team had Kenny Rogers or Nolan Ryan. The deal was smart not to make because as dominant as he may have been for the first few seasons the last 2-3 would have been rough on the Rangers payroll committing that kind of money to a pitcher in his late 30’s.
Now I admit I was as big on bringing Prince Fielder to Texas as anyone you would ever talk to but he wanted 10 years and at 27 normally he should have been signed. Think for a minute on it though, he’s 27, 5’10 and weighs in at 280 lbs, his ability to maintain weight has been a battle his whole career. His father fanned out at 32 and he battled weight as well. If he would have signed for 5-7 years the Rangers could have signed likely the best hitter in baseball over the next few seasons. I was enamored with the potential lineup: Kinsler, Young, Hamilton, Beltre, Fielder, Cruz, Napoli, Andrus, Gentry/Borbon/Martin. Since that is not possible now I have moved on and realized it was best for the future of the franchise to not commit that kind of money to an average first baseman.
He has also been able to keep Josh Hamilton without signing him to a long term deal. A long term contract to Hamilton could cripple the franchise. If Josh Hamilton will sign a contract that is pro-rated at $18 million, based on games played that is what will be best for the Rangers. He is a dynamic player when healthy but his ability to stay on the field has been non existent. He is going to get hurt at some point, it is just a question of how and when. Not to mention his off field issues seem to creep up every 2-3 years.
Is Jon Daniels a mind ninja? Just remember a lot of the players he has brought in have been cant miss players. I almost forgot his trade for arguably the most popular player on the team: Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton was allowed back in baseball in the 2006 season. You all know his story so I’m not going to go into detail about his past. However the Rangers traded Edinson Volquez who went out his first season and dominated for the Reds for Josh Hamilton who has come to Texas and dominated since he’s been here.