Mac Engel

Forget Otani; Rangers must focus on MLB Draft

The Rangers are in the running to acquire Shohei Otani, the latest Japanese sensation, but the club should focus more on building through the draft.
The Rangers are in the running to acquire Shohei Otani, the latest Japanese sensation, but the club should focus more on building through the draft. AP

His name is Shohei Otani. If you believe the internet, the Texas Rangers are leading the race to acquire the latest Japanese import.

The Rangers have sent their people to scout the 22-year-old pitcher/hitter who can strike out the side in the top of the inning on eight pitches, and hit a grand slam in the bottom of the inning with nobody on base.

No one is sure if Otani will make himself available for the posting process to come to America, but per a report by veteran Yahoo baseball reporter Jeff Passan, a handful of MLB GMs believe our Rangers will bag him if he eventually does.

A source with the Rangers said the interest in Otani is “high.”

Please, no. Enough.

The results never meet the hype for these Japanese imports ... see Darvish, Yu. They’re good players. Sometimes All-Star players. But save for Ichiro Suzuki, they’re not the first ballot Hall of Famers we’re promised, and they’re seldom worth the financial investment.

The GM/president who built so much of the team that became one of the best in baseball needs to return to the roots of what made this franchise successful and established him as one of the smartest men in the room.

Jon Daniels is no dummy, but it’s time to get real about the mess he’s created in Arlington. Although they are nice, a couple of wins in D.C. should not change our minds. The state of the team should force everyone to evaluate why they are one of the worst in the American League despite one of the highest payrolls.

Starting with the MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 12, the Rangers need to start developing their own again. That’s the best way back.

Beginning with the 2011 signing of Adrian Beltre, the Rangers went for it. And they went for it. And they went for it. And it didn’t work.

We have seen the results of deals to acquire Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Napoli, Jonathan Lucroy, Prince Fielder, Ian Desmond and bringing back Josh Hamilton.

The high points were one strike away from the World Series and a trio of AL West titles. The Rangers have been relevant.

Now they are beginning to look like one of those high-priced “train wrecks” that JD’s former boss, John Hart, said his team would never become after taking over as GM in 2002.

The Rangers do not need to sell it all, rip it down and level it. Just because a team sells all of its assets does not automatically mean it will successfully restock its farm system.

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost for decades and were never able to win until recently. It took the Kansas City Royals only a few short decades as well before becoming a World Series team.

The Rangers need a re-tool more than a rebuild. They need younger players from within, starting on the mound.

There are quality anchor pieces in the clubhouse that should not be moved, while there are a few others who could net something in return (Hint: His name rhymes with You.)

But the first player who should be addressed is not the Japanese pitcher who, per the team’s owner, is going to win the Cy Young this season. The team needs to have a serious conversation with Beltre and see if he wants to stay.

JD’s decision to pursue and sign Beltre in ’11 was the original “Go For It” move, and it worked even though it was originally feared to be another Scott Boras Special. It was such a dicey decision that then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig famously scolded the Rangers for giving Beltre the deal during an owner’s meeting.

But the second contract for the future Hall of Famer finally got JD.

It’s the only reason why I never thought the Rangers should have given Beltre the two-year, $36 million extension in April 2016; older guys who want to play every day and play hard tend to get hurt.

Beltre missed the first two months of the season with a leg issue, and in his seventh game of the season he sprained his ankle. Even if the 38-year-old heads to Cooperstown as a Ranger, he may want to take one more shot at the World Series.

Though he is not aging gracefully, like David Ortiz, the way the team had hoped, Beltre could net a decent young player in return. But the decision to stay or go should be made by the star third baseman.

Between Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Martin Perez, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo, the club has enough to survive a re-tool without making it a rebuild.

They need to start finding their own again, and it begins with the draft and doing what made this team so good in 2010-11.

JD needs to develop his own again rather than fall in love with the latest over-hyped Japanese import.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram