Grading Rangers GM Jon Daniels' Third Year
As we mentioned yesterday, Jon Daniels is entering his fourth year as Texas Rangers general manager. He started off with a bang in year one, trading Alfonso Soriano in his first move and dealing Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez less than two weeks later. Unfortunately, he received very little in return -- Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka, Brad Wilkerson and Armando Galaragga. Eaton and Wilkerson battled injuries and overall ineffectiveness before leaving as free agents; Otsuka was not offered a contract after the 2007 season and had elbow surgery earlier this year; and Galaragga was traded to Detroit for a prospect that was released shortly after the deal.
Daniels bounced back with a successful second year, making the Rangers' farm system one of the best in the bigs after a strong draft and trading Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton for top young talent like Neftali Feliz (9th-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com), Elvis Andrus (21st), Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Max Ramirez and Engel Beltre. Of course, that same year, he dealt away John Danks in perhaps his most illogical move to date.
Through it all, the organization has improved under his watch regarding talent, but that hasn't translated into more wins, as Texas won 80 games in 2006, 75 in 2007 and 79 this year. With another year in the books, it's time for the third annual installment of Jon Daniels' report card.
On December 5, 2007, Daniels traded outfielder Freddy Guzman to the Detroit Tigers for first baseman Chris Shelton. GRADE: C
Guzman turns 28 in January and has played in just 17 major league games since 2004, but his speed (71 steals this year in the minors) and strong defensive skills should make him a useful fourth outfielder. Shelton was a disaster in 41 games with Texas, hitting .216 with two homers and 11 RBI in 41 games before heading to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he hit .340-11-51.
Looking for someone to play first base while Chris Davis refined his skills in the minors, Daniels figured Shelton would hit well enough to stay in the lineup. He was wrong, but giving up Guzman wasn't a huge price to pay to find out.
On December 13, 2007, Daniels traded infielder Tug Hulett to the Seattle Mariners for first baseman Ben Broussard. GRADE: F
Hulett had a solid season (.298-14-47-10 SB) at Triple-A Tacoma before struggling in 30 games playing various infield positions with the Mariners. Meanwhile, Broussard hit just .159 while sharing time at first base with Shelton and was released May 15.
Hulett likely won't amount to much, but that's not the point. Seattle was on the verge of not tendering Broussard a contract, and then Daniels came in and made the deal, taking on Broussard's $3.85 million contract in the process. Nearly two months later, the Red Sox were able to sign Sean Casey, a veteran with much more to offer than Broussard, to an $800,000 deal to be a backup. This move made no sense at the time and made even less when Broussard took the field.
On December 13, 2007, Daniels signed outfielder Milton Bradley to a one-year, $5.25 million contract. GRADE: B+
Bradley's talent has never been in question, but his inability to stay healthy and attitude prevented him from having a breakout year. This year, he continued to have injury issues and had an incident with a Royals broadcaster but still managed to have his first big season, hitting .321 with 22 homers and 77 RBI in 126 games while leading the AL in on-base percentage (.436) and OPS (.999). However, Daniels has shown no public interest in re-signing Bradley.
Daniels could have made this move an A+ by making use of him at the trade deadline, but his refusal to deal Bradley knocks him down a full letter grade. I lobbied hard to move this guy while he had value, but now the Rangers will receive a supplemental pick in the upcoming draft as compensation because Bradley is a Type B free agent. You mean to tell me there wasn't an offer better than that out there for him in July?
On December 14, 2007, Daniels signed pitcher Kazuo Fukumori to a one-year, $1.4 million contract with club options in 2009 ($1.4 million) and 2010 ($1.75 million). GRADE: C
Looking at Fukumori's season, it would be easy to give Daniels an F for this one. After appearing in four games, allowing three runs in three of those outings and posting a 20.25 ERA for the Rangers, Fukumori spent the rest of the year at Triple-A Oklahoma, where he didn't pitch much better (1-6, 5.48 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 38 appearances). But the move didn't cost Texas much financially and they obviously didn't feel compelled to keep him in the majors, so it was worth the gamble.
On December 21, 2007, Daniels traded pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Josh Hamilton. GRADE: A
Has Josh Hamilton already replaced Michael Young as the face of the franchise? You betcha.
For a trade that flew under the radar of most fans outside of Cincinnati and Texas, this might have been one of the more interesting baseball debates of the year: Which GM got the better player in this deal?
I was on the Josh Hamilton bandwagon early, predicting in January that he had "the talent to become a superstar" and "the potential to be the best center fielder in Rangers' history." I even said Hamilton "could even replace Michael Young as the face of the franchise." In June, I defended of the deal after both were having hot starts, citing that Hamilton had pretty much become all of those things, and my opinion hasn't changed.
In his first full season in the majors, Hamilton hit .304 with 32 home runs and an AL-best 130 RBI. He put on a record-breaking show at the Home Run Derby, played great defense and had 198 hits, 98 runs, nine stolen bases and a league-leading 331 total bases. Hamilton also happened to be the best baseball story of the year.
Volquez was no slouch himself, as he was among the best pitchers in the NL. After he was seemingly headed nowhere in Arlington, Volquez broke out to win 17 games with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 196 innings for the Reds. His propensity for issuing walks carried over from the Rangers, as he was fourth in the NL in free passes with 99 and had two starts in mid-September where he walked six batters in each game.
Herrera has a lot of work to do to be remembered as part of this deal, but he was able to post a 2.72 ERA in 57 relief appearances between Double- and Triple-A this year before getting roughed up in seven games with the Reds.
It's tough to give up a player of Volquez's caliber, but when you get someone like Hamilton back, you pull the trigger every time.
On January 11, 2008, Daniels signed pitcher Eddie Guardado to a one-year, $2 million contract. On August 25, 2008, Daniels traded Guardado to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Mark Hamburger. GRADE: A
After getting solid work out of Guardado (3.65 ERA in 55 games), Daniels dealt him to the Twins, where he struggled (7.71 ERA in 9 games). In return, the Rangers got Hamburger, who turns 22 in February and posted a 3.98 ERA with 16 saves and 40 strikeouts in 40.2 innings in the minors this year. A young pitcher with upside for a 37-year-old reliever with an expiring contract? Me likey.
On January 18, 2008, Daniels signed pitcher Jason Jennings to a one-year, $4 million contract. GRADE: B-
It would be easy to fail Daniels on this one too, but the premise was sound: signing a solid veteran to a one-year deal. You can't fault Daniels for Jennings damaging his right flexor tendon, which contributed to a disastrous 0-5 start with an 8.56 ERA and eventually led to season-ending surgery.
On February 5, 2008, Daniels traded pitcher Armando Galarraga to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Michael Hernandez. GRADE: F
Galarraga was a major surprise this year with a 13-7 record, 3.73 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He slipped a bit in the second half (6-4, 4.24 ERA) after a stellar first half (7-3, 3.27 ERA), but it's hard to find much else to complain about, which is hard news to take knowing he was the only player Daniels was able to get from the Soriano trade, and the guy he got in return, Hernandez, was quickly released by Texas and picked up by the Mets. Ouch.
On February 20, 2008, Daniels signed second baseman Ian Kinsler to a five-year, $22 million contract extension through 2012 with a $10 million club option for 2013. GRADE: A
Sure, I've got issues with his defense at second base, but Kinsler has emerged as a dynamic hitter and dangerous base runner, hitting .319 with 18 homers, 71 RBI, 26 steals, 102 runs and 41 doubles in 121 games. This move will save Texas headaches in the arbitration process and money over the long run: a smart, proactive move by Daniels.
On March 9, 2008, Daniels signed pitcher Sidney Ponson to minor league contract. GRADE: C
Daniels took a low-risk gamble on a guy with a past, and the move looked good early as Ponson went 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA for Texas. However, things went downhill when he was waived in June and Daniels had this to say: "He had disrespectful and adverse reactions to situations that were unbecoming of a teammate."
On March 28, 2008, Daniels traded pitcher Jose Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Dustin Nippert. GRADE: B
On paper, it would appear as though the D-backs won this deal, as Marte went 5-2 with a 3.84 ERA in 45 games in the minors this year, and Nippert was 3-5 with a 6.40 ERA for the Rangers. But Nippert showed some flashes of brilliance, such as giving up just one run and striking out 11 in 12 innings in two consecutive September starts. Even as he surrendered nine runs in his final two starts of the season, he struck out 10 in 10.2 innings. Once a highly regarded prospect, Nippert could be a late bloomer. We'll see in 2009.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Daniels follows last year's B+ and C in his first year with a decent, but certainly unspectacular effort. Dealing for Hamilton, signing Bradley and Guardado to smart one-year deals and tying up Kinsler long term were important highlights, while detractors will focus on the losses of Volquez and Galarraga compiled with previous trades of Chris Young and John Danks as painful reminders of possible solutions to the team's pitching woes. In the end, Daniels won't be judged on his deals as much as he will his wins and losses, and if that doesn't change soon, team president Nolan Ryan may look to bring in his own guy.
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