Short of spending $600 million in free agency, nothing Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels could have done this winter would have turned his team into a contender. The Rangers are simply too many pieces away from competing for the franchise's first World Series title. What the GM needed to do was smooth the transition between the Adrian Beltre-era Rangers and the team, whether it comes two, three or four years from now, that's the first to compete for a championship at Globe Life Field, the Rangers' new stadium.
Since the end of the Rangers' season on Sept. 30, Daniels has done exactly what he's needed to do, cobbling together a series of moves that points the team to the future while keeping it out of the sort of competitive death spiral that can afflict teams going through the rebuilding process.
Wednesday, the Rangers came to terms with starting pitcher Lance Lynn on a three-year, $30 million contract. Lynn turns 32 in May and is coming off a season with disappointing primary stats — he had a 4.77 ERA with the Twins and Yankees and lost as many games as he won — and good peripheral numbers, striking out 9.25 batters per nine innings while racking up 2.9 wins above replacement.
Lynn isn't an All Star, but he fits in with the rest of the Rangers' starting rotation. Like Lynn, Mike Minor is capable of being a three-win pitcher. Edinson Volquez and Drew Smyly are too, if they successfully recover from elbow surgery. The Rangers don't have a No. 1 or No. 2 starter on their big-league roster at the moment, but they could run out three No. 3 starters and a couple of No. 4's, giving them better than average production over the course of the season.
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The day after signing Lynn, Daniels made his best move of the week, trading Alex Claudio to the Brewers for a competitive balance draft pick. Competitive balance picks, slated between the first and second round of the MLB Draft, are given to teams in smaller markets to help level the playing field. They are the only type of draft pick that can be traded in baseball.
Claudio has been a mainstay of the Rangers' bullpen over the last three seasons. He was expendable, though, because he has average stuff, the kind that kind be found easily in the bargain bin of the free-agent market or via trade, if needed. Daniels was able to get a top-40 draft pick, a premium asset, for a player who just wasn't necessary to a developing team. Stir in the Rangers' signing of all-purpose fireman Jesse Chavez on Nov. 30, and it's a big win.
Beltre, who retired in November, will be missed. So will Robinson Chirinos, the Rangers' former criminally underrated starting catcher who signed with the Astros earlier this month, but Daniels has paved the way to field a team that will stay in games and provide a competitive environment for talented young Rangers like Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun and Rougned Odor to further develop. All that's left between an already good offseason and a great one is swinging a trade of Jurickson Profar or Nomar Mazara, the Rangers' two most valuable, but expendable, players to further bolster the farm system before spring training begins.