The GM's Office: Texas Rangers

Advice to Rangers: It's time to rebuild 

March, 18, 2015
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Jon DanielsAP Photo/LM OteroRangers GM Jon Daniels has done a great job in Texas, but it's time for him to trade some veterans.
As I walked into the lobby of the Texas Rangers' spring training headquarters in Surprise, Arizona, last week, the first thing I noticed was a huge picture of two Rangers executives, a manager and a player celebrating their American League championship in 2011. Something immediately seemed off to me: The only person in the picture still with the franchise is president of baseball operations (and GM) Jon Daniels. Josh Hamilton, who was at the time their best player, is gone. Nolan Ryan, their CEO then? Gone. Ron Washington, their manager? Gone. Then I thought about all the other good players from those 2010 and '11 World Series teams that are gone, from Ian Kinsler to Michael Young to Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Vladimir Guerrero and Darren O'Day, among others. In just 3½ years, some of the team's braintrust and many of its best players have all moved on. Even though the Rangers were still good in 2012 and '13, it feels like it was eons ago they were celebrating AL titles. Injuries sunk this team in 2014. A lot of injuries, and to key players. But I have to wonder if their short-term thinking in terms of player moves -- in an attempt to stay on top in the AL West -- along with the departure of an owner, a CEO, a field manager and a bench coach has sent this team in the wrong direction for the first time since Daniels took over in October 2005. What the Rangers need to do now is look in the mirror and realize their run is over. Blame it on injuries, front-office departures or anything you want to, but it's over. It would be an unpopular decision, but the Rangers need to rebuild. We're talking a total shakeup, including trading away their best players. The good news is if they do it now and they do it right, they could be good again as soon as the second half of 2016. But if they don't, they could be looking at a three- to five-year process

Players who benefit from 'non-moves' 

January, 12, 2015
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Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada Getty ImagesShortstops Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada had a combined OPS of just .655 for the Mets in 2014.
General managers use the offseason to improve their teams at various positions via free agency, trades, waiver claims and international signings. This offseason, we've witnessed more player movement than we've seen in more than a decade, and aggressive GMs throughout the industry have addressed most of their teams' perceived weaknesses and offseason goals.

However, some GMs simply haven't been able to improve certain positions because they didn't match up well with trade partners, they lacked the financial resources in their budget to persuade free agents to sign with them or they just weren't willing to pay the price, in terms of player talent or dollars, to get the deals done.

When this happens, players get opportunities to win a job in spring training that we otherwise didn't think they'd have a shot for. Or in some cases, players simply get a second chance to prove they belong. Unfortunately, it might their last or only chance.

Here are several pairs of players who, at the moment, look like they will get an opportunity to compete for an everyday job because their teams weren't able to address that position this offseason:

1. Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada, SS, New York Mets

The Mets were very thorough this offseason, checking in on practically every available and unavailable shortstop in baseball.

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Likely landing spots for James Shields 

December, 22, 2014
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James ShieldsAP Photo/Colin E. BraleyJames Shields is beginning to make his rounds to determine where he'll call home next season.
James Shields has pitched more than 200 innings and won double-digit games eight consecutive years with a 3.64 ERA during that time, and as the leader of the Kansas City Royals' pitching staff, he was instrumental in the development of many of their young successful pitchers. His intangibles are as strong as his durability, and that's why so many clubs covet him.

He did not pitch well in the 2014 postseason, but most teams will overlook that in part because, including spring training, he threw more than 270 innings on the season. His best fits, in my opinion, are the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, but they're not the only teams that have a chance to sign him.

1. San Francisco Giants

The world champions have had a difficult offseason after losing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox (for basically the same offer they made) and then falling short on their bids for free agents Jon Lester, Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley. (They were able to retain reliever Sergio Romo, who signed for less to stay home.) However, they're still hard at work, and Shields is atop their wish list. They would love to be able to slot him behind Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain and ahead of Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy in their rotation.

The fact that Shields takes the ball for 32-plus starts a year and you can pencil him in for 220-plus innings per season makes him a perfect fit for a team in need of starting-pitching innings, plus his leadership and winning attitude would fit nicely in a clubhouse that has three championships in five years. The Giants also aren't afraid to be the highest bidder here.

Odds they get him: 3-to-1


2. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox failed in their attempt to bring Lester back to Boston, losing out to the Cubs by more than $20 million dollars. Given their unwillingness to spend a little extra on Lester, it's unlikely they would turn around and sign Max Scherzer for more years and money. Their best option on the trade market is Cole Hamels, but the prospect package it would take to get him makes that a reluctant option for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto also have been mentioned as trade options, but that's doubtful given that both of their clubs are potential playoff teams. Therefore, signing Shields might be the team's best option.

Shields would fill the pitching leadership void that has been vacant since the Lester deal; his mentorship of the Red Sox's young pitchers could make overpaying to get him worthwhile here. A rotation of Shields, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello would make the Red Sox the favorites to win the AL East, in my mind. That said, this is the type of free agent the Red Sox normally offer at least one year less than other teams on the market, which could cost them Shields.

Odds: 5-to-1


3. Texas Rangers

The Rangers have quietly met with Shields and realize that he would not only be an important signing for them to place behind Yu Darvish and ahead of Derek Holland in their rotation, but he would also give them protection if Darvish, Holland, Martin Perez and/or Colby Lewis don't come back fully healthy. Like other teams, they also value his leadership and mentorship qualities.

The real question here is whether the Rangers are willing to spend the kind of money it's going to take to sign Shields after the dreadful results they had last year with their free-agent signing of Shin-Soo Choo and trade for Prince Fielder, who spent much of the season on the disabled list (making eight figures in the process). Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine told me they had a great meeting with Shields and his wife, but the team would have to make a trade or two to lower payroll in order to sign him. That lowers the odds, but it's still quite possible.

Odds: 7-to-1


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Five potential trades for Justin Upton 

December, 15, 2014
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UptonScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith just one year remaining on his contract, Justin Upton has been the subject of recent trade talks.
When the offseason began, many insiders believed a trio of power-hitting outfielders would be dealt, including former Dodger Matt Kemp, former Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and the Braves' Justin Upton. Kemp already has been traded (to the Padres), as has Cespedes (to the Tigers) … now we wait to see where the Braves trade Upton.

At age 27, Upton is just entering his prime years after another solid season (.270/.342/.491, 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 102 RBIs). The Braves would love to sign him long term, but with the recent signing of Giancarlo Stanton and the Braves' own signing of Freddie Freeman, the market has quickly inflated in terms of both years and dollars, which lessens the Braves' chances of retaining him. Atlanta also has Evan Gattis, who can play catcher and left field (albeit below average) and whom they control for five more seasons. If the Braves are unable to extend Upton, the smart business decision would be to trade Gattis as well. The team would take a step back in 2015, but the Braves would be building a squad that is ready to win when their new ballpark opens in 2017.

The Braves are ideally looking for young starting pitching and a second base upgrade in return for Upton, but like any other trade scenario, they're more concerned about the overall talent, affordability and controllability coming back in this type of transaction.

There are at least five clubs that remain interested in Upton, and here's an idea of what the return would look like with each of those teams:

1. San Diego Padres

Padres rookie GM A.J. Preller is focused on improving the Padres' lineup for 2015 and is off to a great start in landing Kemp.

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Trade deadline objectives: AL West 

July, 24, 2014
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Billy BeaneMichael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesIs Billy Beane done dealing? Some believe he has one more trade in him before the deadline.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The American League West has been the busiest of the six divisions so far, with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels making the biggest trades thus far in July. The Athletics started the fireworks back on July 4, when they acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster deal, and the Angels answered last week when they acquired one of the game's most consistent closers in Huston Street in a six–player deal.

Everyone is now waiting for the Seattle Mariners to respond and GM Jack Zduriencik is hoping not to let people down; he has been one of the most active GMs in terms of phone calls and texts over the past couple of weeks. The Texas Rangers and Houston Astros are going to sell, and while neither one has an impact player they will be dealing, they both could still make multiple minor deals between now and the deadline.

And don't think the Athletics and Angels are done. Although neither team really has to make another move, both are still out there listening and trying to find ways to make one more deal to enhance their chances of winning this division.

Let's run through the objectives of each team

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Alex RiosAP Photo/Carlos OsorioAlex Rios leads the American League with eight triples this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Alex Rios | RF | Texas Rangers
Possible destinations: Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox


Kansas City Royals

Why? The Royals are last in the AL Central in runs scored and have had very little offensive production from right fielder Norichika Aoki, who has yet to hit a home run and has a .326 OBP. Rios hasn't hit for much power either (just three homers), but he's hitting .304 and has more upside -- and a better track record -- than Aoki, who would be better off as a fourth outfielder.

Who? The Rangers should be satisfied by getting approximately $6 million off the books for the rest of the season, as well as the $1 million buyout on Rios' 2015 team option ($13.5 million).

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Rookie Rankings: Tanaka dominating 

June, 20, 2014
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 Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/Kathy WillensIt's been all thumbs up for Masahiro Tanaka this season.
As we near the halfway point in the season, a dozen rookies are having impact upon their pennant-chasing teams thus far. Let's look at my latest rankings and assess the best of the 2014 rookie class.

1. Masahiro Tanaka | RHP | New York Yankees
If the season ended today, Tanaka would win both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award. I also expect him to start the All-Star Game for the American League if he continues to pitch at this level. Tanaka has been brilliant -- his split-fingered fastball already is the best in the sport, and his late life and command is special, especially when coupled with his vastly underrated secondary pitches.

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Five offseason moves that will backfire 

March, 26, 2014
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Shin-Soo ChooJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsThe Texas Rangers might have wildly overpaid for free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
When a general manager makes a trade or a free-agent signing, he must always have significant justification for why the move was made. This could include:

• Scouting reports
• Advanced metrics and analytics
• Medical reports
• Evaluations of makeup and character
• Financial considerations
• Roster structure
• Team needs to wants

Most GMs will provide owners with at least 20 pages of documentation supporting any significant move. By the time everyone evaluates why the decision was made most of the organization should believe the move was made in the best interest of the organization.

However, after all the preparation and analysis is done, the decision is right only until something goes wrong. That could be an injury, a decline in performance, a personal problem that changes the player’s focus, a change of vibe in the clubhouse or even a change of league or position that all of a sudden makes the move go wrong, leaving the club with nothing but regrets.

Of course, anyone who's ever been a GM, president or owner would love to have a mulligan or two during their careers. Looking at this year’s offseason moves, here are the five that will backfire, either by season’s end or sometime in the next few years.

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Buzz: Addison Russell is coming soon 

March, 11, 2014
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Addison Russell AP Photo/Morry GashAddison Russell, one of the game's best prospects, will be in Oakland sooner than you think.
PHOENIX -- When bouncing around the Cactus League you pick up a lot of good gossip.

It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, and after talking to managers and coaches, players, and team executives and general managers here’s some of the buzz I’ve collected while visiting three AL spring training camps: The Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.

Tomorrow we’ll touch on two NL West camps: The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.


Oakland Athletics
• The A's are not going to let Super Two status stand in the way of promoting shortstop Addison Russell. Whenever he's ready, they'll do it. Though it won’t be Opening Day, don't be surprised if he's promoted shortly after if he tears up Double-A. He is really standing out in spring training and as manager Bob Melvin told me, instead of looking like a 20-year-old kid, he got the poise of a 25-year-old veteran.

• Billy Beane made a lot of lopsided trades in his favor this offseason, but the one that scouts are talking about the most is the one that sent Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Billy Burns.

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Seattle should sign Santana and Morales 

February, 28, 2014
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Ervin Santana, Kendrys MoralesGetty ImagesThe Mariners would improve their chances to contend by signing Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales.
All the Seattle Mariners needed to become relevant again was Robinson Cano.

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik also made some other shrewd moves, signing free agents Corey Hart and Fernando Rodney, as well as trading for Logan Morrison.

But those moves won't be enough to overtake the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers in the tough American League West. That's why they should take advantage of the depressed markets for free agents Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales, who can make them a wild-card contender.

I believe three years and $36 million for Santana and one year at $10 million for Morales should be enough to sign both of them. Zduriencik could easily mitigate any cash-flow concerns by back-loading Santana's contract and perhaps deferring some of Morales' deal.

These two moves not only would position the Mariners as a better overall team, but they would offer Seattle a chance to compete for a divisional title, as well as being a legitimate wild-card contender. Let's look at how:

Weakened AL West starting rotations

If the Mariners compete for a wild-card berth with any AL West teams, they'll probably do it against the Rangers and Angels.

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Rookies I can't wait to scout this spring 

February, 12, 2014
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Every year at spring training there is a lot of focus on the star players who switched teams, with Robinson Cano being a prime example this year. However, what I am most excited about for this spring is the chance to scout some of the game's top rookies.

It’s fun to watch young players develop in real time, and to see if they can do enough to convince their managers and GMs to take them up north. It’s a time when the game’s best evaluators get a taste of just how good some young players can be.

So here are 10 rookies I am looking forward to scouting during spring training. And trust me, just getting the list down to 10 was not easy.

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GM awards for best trades, signings 

February, 7, 2014
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Billy Beane and Brian CashmanGetty Images, AP PhotoBilly Beane and Brian Cashman enjoyed very fruitful offseasons.
I'm all packed with spring training just days away. So before I depart I thought it was time to give my offseason awards and hand out some hardware to the general managers for their offseason work.

BEST OFFSEASON -- BIG-MARKET GM: Brian Cashman | New York Yankees

It was the most expensive free-agent spending spree in baseball history when the Yankees committed a combined $438 million for 22 years of contracts to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. The Yankees quickly rebuilt their outfield, catching and starting pitching with All-Star caliber players and imported the best overall talent of any team in baseball this offseason. They also get credit for walking away from Robinson Cano by refusing to acquiesce to 10 years and approximately $240 million for a player in his 30s.

Runners-up:
Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers:

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The missing link for every AL team 

January, 15, 2014
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Matt Garza AP Photo/Colin E. BraleyIf the Los Angeles Angels lose out on Masahiro Tanaka, they should go after Matt Garza.
On Tuesday, I focused on the missing piece for every National League team heading in to spring training, and today we turn our attention to the American League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros

Missing link: Pitching prospects
Solution: Trade 3B Matt Dominguez for prospects
The Astros are doing a masterful job of following the blueprint of general manager Jeff Luhnow, building through the draft and player development while mixing in a few veteran free agents who will have some trade value at the deadline.

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10 bold predictions for rest of the winter 

January, 7, 2014
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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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Five teams with the best shot at Tanaka 

December, 25, 2013
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After weeks of drama, the Masahiro Tanaka posting saga is finally over. Rakuten, his team in Japan, has agreed to post him, and now all MLB teams have a chance to negotiate with him if they agree to put up the posting fee, which likely will max out at $20 million per the new posting rules. (If a team doesn't sign him, no fee is paid.)

Now the question is: Which team will get the prized right-hander? As far as I'm concerned, these are the five clubs with the best shot:

1. New York Yankees

The Yankees' top free-agent pitching target has always been Tanaka. Although their goal was to stay under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, it was more of a goal than a mandate, as GM Brian Cashman explained to me during the winter meetings.

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