Rangers believe title window remains open

For a man who runs a major-league baseball team, Jon Daniels sure does a lot of talking about windows.

Actually, just one window, the one the Texas Rangers entered in 2010 that led them directly to the postseason and again in 2011 and 2012.

They couldn’t squeeze into the playoffs this season, though, missing out after a loss to Tampa Bay in a tiebreaker game to determine the second wild-card team in the American League.

But there was Daniels, three days later, talking about the Rangers’ window to win a World Series.

“It’s been a tremendous run,” Daniels said Oct. 3 at Rangers Ballpark. “We’re in the middle of what we feel is a tremendous run.”

The window is still open, he reiterated last week as the planning for next season got underway in Surprise, Ariz.

He and his staff, however, are looking at their most important off-season in several years to have the Rangers back in the playoffs a year from now.

“I think that’s fair,” Daniels said Thursday at the Surprise Recreation Campus. “We’re going to strive to build a winning environment and a winning culture. We’ve clearly got to add some talent at the big-league level.

“I don’t think you go into a season saying, ‘Hey, we’re either going to win the World Series or we’re going to rebuild.’ A lot of things happen over the course of a year. Guys get better, guys develop, and guys step up. We’re going to put ourselves in a position to see that.”

Daniels and manager Ron Washington still believe in the core of players that the Rangers were built around from 2010 to 2012, even though some of those players have been sent elsewhere or left on their own.

But third baseman Adrian Beltre, shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler remain, along with pitchers Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando.

Harrison is expected to return in 2014 after missing all but six days of this season, and Ogando appears headed to the rotation despite three stints on the disabled list.

Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers, Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin — all signed and developed by the Rangers — can’t regress next season.

The Rangers, though, have eight players who are headed toward free agency, including their top power hitter, Nelson Cruz, and their closer, Joe Nathan. Matt Garza could also test the market.

The Rangers are open to all three returning, but holes will remain even if all three re-sign.

“We’re talking about the many spots that we may have to fill,” Washington said. “We’re looking at having to put a team together than can compete and give us a chance. My No. 1 priority is to find out what’s available and then try to put a puzzle together.”

The young players Daniels watched at the Rangers’ instructional league left him confident that the window will stay open indefinitely. But they won’t be around to help the 2014 club, and many won’t be of much help in 2015.

That leaves free agency or trades.

Daniels isn’t keen on giving away too many prospects or young players, which could leave Kinsler as the Rangers’ most attractive trade chip.

Even if Cruz returns, the Rangers need another big bat. Garza would be a safeguard in case Harrison’s injury woes extend into 2014.

If Harrison is healthy and Garza is back, Ogando would become the closer if Nathan isn’t back.

There are many moving parts as the off-season begins. But the Rangers’ window to win a World Series, said Daniels and Washington, hasn’t closed even though they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

“Over a 10-year period, you’re going to have ups and downs,” Daniels said. “The winter is about positioning yourself. Nothing is won or lost in the winter. The idea of winners and losers? The bottom line is it’s about winners and losers at the end of the season.”

Said Washington: “We’ve identified what our needs are, and we’ve identified the people who we feel can meet our needs. If we make good choices in who we add and we keep everyone healthy, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to keep making runs.”

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