Texas Rangers

Signed to an extension, Daniels gives a gloomy Rangers outlook

Jon Daniels was working in the final year of his contract before the Rangers gave him a multi-year extension Thursday.
Jon Daniels was working in the final year of his contract before the Rangers gave him a multi-year extension Thursday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Jon Daniels isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He and the Texas Rangers have agreed to a multi-year contract extension that is sure to keep him in place as general manger and president of baseball operations through at least the 2020 season.

Even that might be well before the Rangers are ready to compete for a World Series again.

Daniels isn't willing use the word "rebuild" for the phase the Rangers are in, though his word, "development," might be viewed by many as a synonym. He will listen if other teams inquire about Rangers veterans ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.

He isn't willing to put a target date on when the Rangers will be at the level they were in the World Series years, when a combination of veterans and players from the farm system turned the fortunes of the franchise.

But over 30 minutes of a late-morning conference call that stretched into lunchtime, Daniels said that the Rangers aren't going to be built to contend until at least 2020, when the new Globe Life Field.

"Since last year our focus has definitely been on re-establishing a foundation for a long-term sustainable model to win here for a long time," said. Daniels, who is in the final year of a previous extension. "I hesitate to put a date on it publicly. It reminds us to stay focused on the details and the small stuff.

"We'd absolutely love to be able to really win in 2020. I think the reality is that group we have on the A-ball teams, that would a be a stretch for them. We're not going to artificially push them for that. We think this group of players has a chance to be really special and help us win a championship, and we don't want to short-circuit that.

"I definitely believe that when we open this new ballpark, we're going to have an exciting young team that is going to play a brand of baseball our fans are really going to like."

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but it had been speculated upon since the GM meetings in November that an extension would happen, again just before the end of spring training and even as the Rangers' early-season struggles pointed them to a second straight losing season.

Daniels said that he was never worried that he would be looking for employment after his contract ran out following this season.

"Coming into this season, extending Jon Daniels’ contract was a priority for us.," said Ray Davis, Rangers co-chairman and managing partner. "His track record demonstrates clearly that he is the right person to lead the Rangers back to contending for championships once again. Our ownership group trusts Jon’s judgment and respects his experience and skill as well as that of his baseball operations leadership team.

"Jon and his group understand the challenges ahead and are working diligently to build a major-league team that will be competitive for years to come. We are fortunate to have Jon leading our baseball operations as we enter into what will be a very exciting time for the Texas Rangers franchise."

Maybe it was signed-and-sealed job security that allowed Daniels to open up more on the long-range plan for the Rangers, the team he has overseen since being hired after the 2005 season.

Daniels said after least season that the Rangers expected to compete, though they would have to do so without acquiring free agents at the top of the market. In other words, no Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez or any of the other elite job seekers.

Improvement would have to come from within and from the free agents who were signed at lower-end deals.

That was the messaging to third baseman Adrian Beltre ahead of the final year of his Rangers contract, Daniels said.

"I'm not sure it was in those words, but I told him very clearly we were looking to play a lot of young guys and that we were looking to add in some veteran pitching but we're not play at the top of the market, and a lot of success in a lot of ways will be determined by the development of our core at the big-league level," Daniels said.

"The pitch staffing has been OK. Some of the slow start we got off to, in part, was the position-player group got hurt and some guys got off to slow starts. Now that they're getting going, they're playing better."

The Rangers entered Thursday in last place in the American League West, 10 games below .500 at 27-27 and 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners. The Rangers were five games behind the fourth-place Oakland A's, and had to sweep two games from them Tuesday and Wednesday just to be that close.

The Rangers were scheduled to open a four-game series Thursday against the Houston Astros, the preseason favorites to defend their World Series title.

Now that the MLB First-Year Player Draft is over, contending teams like the Astros can begin to look at "development" teams, like the Rangers, for upgrades for the postseason. Beltre and Thursday starter Cole Hamels are considered the Rangers' top trade pieces.

The Rangers will also do prep work on players in other organizations, but they aren't necessarily entering the trading period with a fire-sale mentality.

"It depends on a variety of things, but the biggest one is just what the interest is out there," Daniels said. "The reality is it's got to be demand-driven. It's got to come from somebody else. You don't have to draw up a sales pamphlet and try to sell your guys. Teams know who they value and who they like. They'll let us know, and then we'll explore that if there's a fit."

Whatever happens will be done with the goal of winning down the road, not now or next season, in mind. Maybe 2020. Maybe not.

"I don't want to put a timeline on it because they're usually wrong," Daniels said. "Sometimes thing go a lot faster than you expect. Sometimes they go slower. But we're going to put a lot of attention to detail on the small stuff, which I think, ultimately, will lead to accelerating the time line."

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