Not only did the Texas Rangers close the annual winter meetings by bagging a big name, they believe that the player they selected Thursday in the Rule 5 draft can make an impact next season in the organization.
Even if he never trades in his Seattle Seahawks uniform.
All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson is part of the Rangers’ organization after the club selected him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, taking a $12,000 flier on a player whose work ethic and competitiveness they admire and hope can rub off on some of their minor leaguers.
Wilson, speaking to the Seattle media after practice Thursday afternoon, called being picked “a blessing” after learning about the transaction from general manager Jon Daniels.
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“But at the same time, obviously my focus is on football,” Wilson said. “Mr. Daniels and I talked about that. I’m sure I’ll go down there for spring training and just talk to some of their players and hang out with some of them. It’d be kind of a cool experience, but that’s down the road. I’m trying to win a game this week.”
Daniels said that the Rangers weren’t making a publicity stunt by selecting Wilson, though they have received plenty of publicity. The hope is that Wilson will come to spring training and be the poster boy for how the Rangers want their prospects to approach the game.
Daniels got a taste of Wilson’s makeup during their brief phone call after the draft. It was between 6 and 7 a.m., but Wilson was already at the Seahawks’ complex in Renton, Wash., working out.
“He’s excited and wants to come to camp,” Daniels said. “Right now, I think it’s more of the mindset of work out and be around the guys. But it’s open-ended. If he wants to get more involved than that, we welcome it, but I don’t expect it.”
Wilson doesn’t take a spot on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, and will transfer from the Colorado organization’s inactive list to the Rangers’.
The Rockies drafted Wilson in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and the second baseman compiled a . 229 average with five homers in 93 games over parts of two minor league seasons.
The Rangers had scouted him in high school and college at North Carolina State. But the thing that has impressed them the most is how Wilson handled being starting quarterback as a rookie in 2012 and has led the Seahawks to the top of the NFC this season.
“The biggest thing that intrigued us on Russell from afar is the makeup,” assistant general manager A.J. Preller said. “The way he goes about his business, the professionalism, the competitor, the message we try to preach throughout our organization.
“At the end of the day, he obviously has a lot bigger things that he’s working on right now, and we don’t want to interrupt that aspect of it. But if at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we decided it would be a positive to have him with us.”
The Rangers have drafted football players before, including running back Ricky Williams, tight end Riley Cooper and quarterback Jameis Winston, the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday.
All three were premium athletes. Wilson’s makeup separates him from that pack.
“We always talk about, not just in baseball but in other sports and industry, the great leaders, the great innovators, the coaches, the guys with elite-level work ethic,” Daniels said. “One of the guys the last couple years we talk about with to our scouts the kind of makeup we’re looking for, what wins, Russell Wilson has been an example of that.”