This isn’t anywhere Jon Daniels hasn’t been during his 12 seasons as Texas Rangers general manager — entering the final year of his contract.
During spring training of 2011, in the first quarter of the final year of an extension he signed in 2008, Daniels agreed to a four-year extension to stay on board.
He was coming off the club’s first American League title and was on the way to the club’s second. How couldn’t he have been given an extension, even if he was reporting to club president Nolan Ryan?
The franchise doesn’t have the same momentum now as Daniels again is faced with entering the final year of his latest extension, signed in 2014. A 78-84 record doesn’t put a lot of wind in the sails, and the new retractable-roof stadium is still three seasons away.
All baseball decisions are now on Daniels’ shoulders and have been since Ryan left at the end of October 2013. In his four solo seasons, the Rangers have produced two losing campaigns and two division titles with early playoff exits.
Also produced among the fan base has been plenty of angst and a sense that the Rangers haven’t finished the job. Daniels feels that way, too.
That’s why he wants another extension, to finish the job. He has no desire to head to another club and continues to find challenges each season despite being the second-longest tenured general manager in baseball.
“We’ve got unfinished business here,” said Daniels, who was hired Oct. 4, 2005. “I genuinely love the people I work with, and ownership has treated me great. They give us resources to work with.
“My family — I’ve got three kids born here — this is home for us. I’m excited about the talent we’ve got coming. I’m excited about the challenge ahead of us. I’m excited about the new ballpark. I have no desire to go anywhere. That really doesn’t appeal to me.”
Ray Davis and Neil Leibman, two of the three key members of the ownership group, declined the chance to comment on the status of an extension, as did Daniels. That could indicate that something is on the horizon.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Daniels to receive an extension coming off a losing season. He has done it three times previously, after the 2006 (80-82), 2008 (79-83) and 2014 (67-95) campaigns.
The 2017 season was only the Rangers’ second losing season since 2008. And it was an eye-opener, so much so that it could guide the Rangers in the months ahead.
“This was not a fun year, just the variety of things that we dealt with, but what it illuminated was getting back to the things that are fun,” Daniels said. “Being creative, finding new ways to compete, finding different competitive advantages, circling the wagons and building with our people.
“Over the last four or five years, we’ve spent on big-money players and we’ve traded prospects. We’ve played the all-in game, and we’ve been successful. But what made us good was beating the bushes and creative signs and creative trades.”
Daniels pointed specifically to the winter of 2009, when the Rangers acquired Colby Lewis, Darren Oliver and Vladimir Guerrero while working on the payroll of a club in bankruptcy. Rich Hardin, Daniels admits, didn’t work out.
But the team, bolster by mid-season acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina, worked out just fine in the first of two consecutive runs to the World Series. Many of the teams in the postseason are built similarly.
“The things that we’re good at, the things that we enjoy, let’s focus there,” Daniels said. “If that means less flashy moves, that’s OK. Look at the teams that are in the playoffs.”
The playoffs are where the Rangers expect to be this time next year. While Daniels doesn’t have the extension he wants, he’s not losing sleep over it.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Daniels said. “That’s the last thing on my mind.”