Texas Rangers

Groundwork for deals in place after winter meetings, Rangers GM Daniels says

Even though the Rangers had a quiet winter meetings, general manager Jon Daniels said that it was a productive week in Nashville.
Even though the Rangers had a quiet winter meetings, general manager Jon Daniels said that it was a productive week in Nashville. Special to the Star-Telegram

Priorities on the final day of the winter meetings are as follows: Getting to the airport to catch a flight as soon as the Rule 5 draft ends, or even better, getting to the airport to an earlier flight.

General manger Jon Daniels was on well on his way by 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

On the surface, he and the Texas Rangers’ contingent left the Death Star-size Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center having accomplished very little.

They are in agreement with right-hander Tony Barnette, who has been a star closer in Japan the past two years; they have closed in on a right-handed hitter; they signed nontendered outfielder James Jones to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training; and they and the Chicago White Sox swapped pitchers stuck in minor league purgatory.

Seems like a waste of time and room-service charges, at least against the hype of the meetings and the flurry of moves made by some clubs.

Not so, said Daniels, who headed home again confident that the groundwork for deals is in place and additions are in the Rangers’ future.

“There are some things that are in front of us we need to decide if we want to do and vice versa,” Daniels said. “There’s nothing really out of the realm of what we’ve been talking about.

“I don’t view the winter meetings as the end-all, be-all of putting your club together. If you come here with expectations you’ve got to put a team together at a four-day industry convention, it’s probably not a good recipe for success.”

The Rangers secured Barnette on a two-year deal with a club option, according to a source. Daniels would say only that the Rangers “have interest” in the star closer in Japan, who was originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006.

Barnette, 32, doesn’t light up radar guns, topping out in the low-90s, but he throws a sinker and a cutter in addition to two breaking pitches and a changeup. That repertoire produced 41 saves and a 1.29 ERA in 2015 for the Yakult Swallows.

His addition could lead to a bigger move as the Rangers continue to look for starting pitching and catching help. Potential trade partners covet the Rangers’ bullpen pieces, and the impact of trading one away would be softened with Barnette in the fold.

Arizona has a surplus of young, controllable starting pitchers after they splurged on Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, and need bullpen pieces to protect the leads they expect to have with those right-handers on the mound.

Colby Lewis continues to be one of the few free-agent starters the Rangers have targeted. If Lewis and the Rangers reach an impasse, Daniels expects that the Rangers will trade for rotation help.

“While we look to add a starter, we’re going to look at bullpen options,” Daniels said. “It gives us flexibility both ways, with the club and the depth but also trade interest we’ve had, we don’t want to take back in that area.”

Daniels expects a right-handed hitter to be added on a big-league deal before Christmas. The Rangers want a corner outfielder/corner infielder who could work in a platoon with Josh Hamilton in left field and Mitch Moreland at first base.

That bat likely isn’t Mike Napoli, Daniels said, barring a trade of Moreland. That’s something the Rangers haven’t been inclined to do.

But that they listened to Pittsburgh on Moreland is a sign that Daniels and crew weren’t just twiddling their thumbs. The week wasn’t a waste for the Rangers despite the lack of big headlines pouring out of their war room.

“We’ve said all along that we like the core of the team,” Daniels said. “We’re going to explore a variety of things, but at the end of the day we’re content being boring this year. I don’t feel like we need to reinvent the wheel.”

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