Looking at the final MLB standings, or, honestly, the MLB standings from April on, was not a fun experience for the Texas Rangers or general manager Jon Daniels.
It was the reality of where they are as a franchise, far from contention while in the early stages of a rebuild.
Daniels on Tuesday didn’t guarantee another loser next season. In fact, he said that the goal this off-season is to give the Rangers a chance to compete and evaluate their status at mid-season.
If they’re well out of it, as they were this season, July could turn into another fire sale. If the Rangers are in the hunt, things could change.
But much would have to change for the Rangers to contend. Daniels said that the Rangers won’t be big spenders this off-season — sorry, Bryce Harper fans — and that the farm system won’t be able to contribute yet again.
So, the Rangers’ success will be determined by the players who went 67-95 this season and the starting rotation Daniels is able to assemble with a mix of internal candidate and value free-agent acquisitions or trades.
He, the Rangers and whoever becomes the next-full time manager might not enjoy looking at the standings in 2019, either.
“Off-season-wise, we’ve got a lot to do,” Daniels said during the annual after-season dissection of the season and preview of the off-season.
“We’ve been working on it now for a period of time. I think our first priority is our personnel side on our staffing and our organizational structure in addition to the a major-league manager.
“We’re very aware of the competitive landscape. Our goal and our belief is we can take steps forward next year. I don’t believe in the word “tanking” or that sort of thing. That’s not in our mind-set. There are a lot of ways we can get better.”
The Rangers need to improve across they board. Daniels wants pitchers to strike out more batters. He wants hitters to continue to move forward from what the showed this season, which at times was a very capable offense.
He’s open to third baseman Adrian Beltre returning. Daniels will attempt to trade one of the four left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, either to make room for Beltre’s 22nd season or to acquire a starting pitcher.
But improvements will be made throughout, in the front office and in research and development. Some minor-league coaches could be moved out. The Rangers will look at the data they are giving to players.
On many levels, the rebuild the Rangers are through isn’t just on the big-league roster. Changes are being made at all levels.
However, many of those changes won’t be seen and many of the players being developed won’t be seen in the majors next season. Daniels said that the soonest some of the Rangers’ most advanced pitching prospects (Taylor Hearn, Jonathan Hernandez, Joe Palumbo) are in the majors is the middle of next season.
That’s why the Rangers will be shopping off the value rack in free agency.
“We’ve got to develop the group that we have down below,” Daniels said. “That group’s several years away. They’re in A ball, and we’re not going to rush them. To line things up with this group of positions players that are 24 and 25 years old, we’re going to have to look outside.”
The managerial search will extend outside the organization as well. Don Wakamatsu, who finished the season as the interim manager, is the only confirmed candidate for the opening created when Jeff Banister was fired with 10 games left in the season.
Daniels said that the Rangers are still in the info-gathering stages of the process, and there is no timeline for a hire to be in place.
But that is only one — albeit likely No. 1 — on a long list of things the Rangers must accomplish this off-season.