Among the things that happened during the first half of the Texas Rangers’ 2018 season was general manager Jon Daniels receiving a multiyear contract extension.
He’s not going anywhere, and the course Daniels has set the Rangers on is not going to change. This season, as Daniels said clearly last month while discussing his new deal, is about development now.
The Rangers entered the All-Star break at 41-56, 22 games out of first place in the American League West and 17 out of the second wild card. They will open the second half of the season, which covers only 65 games, Friday at home against the Cleveland Indians.
They will do so with young players filling their lineup as the Rangers evaluate them for their future. There are some not-so-young players who need to be evaluated, too.
Manager Jeff Banister listed several areas where he wants to see growth — Delino DeShields’ offense; the bullpen, anchored by Jose Leclerc and Keone Kela, maintaining its performance; Rougned Odor continuing his surge the past month; rookie Isiah-Kiner Falefa and Ronald Guzman continuing to grow; Joey Gallo turning his season around; and Martin Perez finishing with a flourish.
There’s also a little thing known as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, and the Rangers are expected to be sellers.
How does Daniels feel about the first half and the keys in the second half? And where do things stand with trading franchise cornerstone Adrian Beltre?
He has answers.
What have you liked the most in a first half that was pretty trying at times? “I thought a few things stood out, in no particular order. Developments have been really positive. Delino’s defense has really stood out as a major improvement, and defensively he’s one of the best center fielders in the game right now. He’s got to maintain that. Rougie’s adjustments here midstream. His recommitment to doing above and beyond work and seeing that pay off has been really rewarding.
“Kiner’s debut and seeing the different ways he’s impacted the team, and the same with Guzman offensively and defensively. He came on gangbusters, went through a little slump, and now he’s adjusting back. That’s been really positive. Leclerc’s emergence in the ‘pen. Keone’s development in a prime-time role. Mike Minor’s transition to the rotation. There have been a number of positives.”
What’s your level of concern on Joey Gallo? “We just talked about Rougie a bit. Joey’s got the ability. We’ve seen it. We saw what he did in the second half last year. It’s a matter of consistency. I think the biggest part for that is Joey’s ability to exhale and do what he’s capable of not and not let all the external factors in. He’s got the ability to do it both mentally and physically, but the consistency hasn’t been there.
“We don’t sit down and evaluate everybody and make decisions every day, but periodically you do sit down and assess where different guys are and what we can do to help them. We’ll continue to do that.”
How big is the second half for Martin Perez if he wants to convince the Rangers to pick up his $7.5 million option for 2019? “It’s important. He’s always had potential. We’ve seen flashes. We saw a stretch in the second half last year. He got derailed with the injury. There’s no doubt it’s important. It’s a lot money. He was great on his rehab assignment. There’s a lot of reasons to think he will be successful, but we’ve got to see it.”
You’ve been on both sides of the trade deadline. Is it a trying time? A busy time? A fun time? “It’s a mix of all. I would always prefer to be on the side of acquiring big-league help to help us win a title. That’s the position you always want to be in.
“Fun’s not the right word. The work involved, talking to our people and going out and scouting other organizations and identifying players that can help, that’s a fun part of the job. I’d rather do it on the other side, but either way you’re building. One is you’re building for something right in front of you, and one is you’re building for a step further down the line. Either way you’re building, and that part’s fun.”
Is it plausible that the players who are expected to be moved, namely Adrian Beltre, might not be worth moving if they’re not going to bring a good return? “We’ll see. I think this time of year a lot gets said by people who work for clubs or writers or analysts that kind of draw lines in the sand and make definitive judgments. That changes like that [snaps fingers]. It’s all performance-driven. We’ll see.
“I hope I’ve been clear with Adrian, and we’ve communicated with other teams. We’re going to have to be motivated to even have the conversation because, one, the player he’s been and is and his value to the organization is above how you typically view it. We view him as separate than most typical trade conversations. If someone has real interest and wants us to consider it and talk to ownership and talk to Adrian, we will based on their level of interest. But if it’s more of tire kick, that doesn’t appeal to us. For us to consider anything, it’s got to be beneficial for all parties involved.”
Is anyone untouchable? “I think most organizations would say the same: There are some that are a lot less likely to be talked about than others. Ultimately, you’re always going to listen.”