January 24, 2013

After missing on Upton, Rangers ready for spring training

They took a swing at Justin Upton, but are happy with their team.

Justin Upton has joined the list of Texas Rangers' off-season targets who ultimately landed elsewhere.

Upton, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, is headed to the Atlanta Braves, who acquired the two-time All-Star in a seven-player trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.

The Rangers, with one of the top farm systems in baseball, expressed interest in Upton, 25, this off-season but didn't produce a package strong enough to land him. They were willing to go only so far and, according to, their last offer included infielder Mike Olt, a top pitching prospect in Martin Perez or Cody Buckel, minor league infielder Leury Garcia and another prospect.

The D-backs balked at that offer, and eventually found a match with the Braves. Atlanta sent All-Star infielder Martin Prado, top pitching prospect Randy Delgado and minor leaguers pitcher Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury. The Braves received Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson.

For the Rangers, another target going elsewhere isn't earth-shattering news. They've dealt with it all off-season, from Zack Greinke to James Shields to Josh Hamilton.

The Rangers, in all likelihood, could have landed any of those players, given their farm system and a supportive ownership group. But, quite simply, they stayed within what felt comfortable for them to acquire a player in terms of prospects or dollars.

"We've got an advantage in that we have both a supportive ownership group and a tireless scouting/development staff -- puts us in position to be selective about what we want to pursue, knowing we've got resources when the time is right," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Look at our track record. We're not afraid to go big when it makes sense."

The Rangers have made significant investments the past two off-seasons, signing Adrian Beltre before the 2011 season and Yu Darvish last year. They've also been active on the trade market, acquiring Cliff Lee in 2010, Koji Uehara and Mike Adams in 2011 and Ryan Dempster last year.

And Daniels points out that the off-season isn't the only time for the Rangers to add pieces to make the 2013 team a winner.

"The unique thing about our industry is there's no finish line pertaining to improving the club," he said. "It's a year-round process with opportunities to promote talented players, trade for guys, et cetera."

For now, the Rangers appear to be pleased with the team they have going into spring training. They might not have had the major acquisitions of the past two winters, but they brought in veteran players in catcher A.J. Pierzynski, designated hitter Lance Berkman and reliever Jason Frasor.

There are a couple of big-name free agents remaining, right-hander Kyle Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn, but signing either one seems remote at this point. Instead, the remaining off-season moves will likely be on a smaller scale, such as adding pitching and bench depth.

"We like our club, we like the guys we've got coming," Daniels said. "I have a lot of confidence in the group we have to win this year, and we'll continue to work to keep that window open."

Drew Davison


Twitter: @drewdavison

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