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Daniels: Pitching's our missing link to postseason

Rangers GM says he might not go 'all in' this winter, but he'll find ways to win
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers believe they have a strong group of young position players who are ready to win and compete in the postseason.

The overwhelming issue facing the Rangers this winter is how to line up those players with the necessary pitching. That will be a daunting task.

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers believe they have a strong group of young position players who are ready to win and compete in the postseason.

The overwhelming issue facing the Rangers this winter is how to line up those players with the necessary pitching. That will be a daunting task.

"I don't think this is the winter we are going all in on the top free agents necessarily," general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday. "That doesn't mean we can't find a number of ways to improve and we will.

"We are very aware of the competitive landscape. Our belief is we can take steps forward next year. I don't believe in the thought of tanking. That's not in our mindset. There are a lot of areas we can get better. We will get after it this offseason."

The Rangers appear to be on a rebuilding course. But Daniels is not ruling out the possibility of competing for the postseason next year.

"We want to give the team a chance to demonstrate at midseason and allow us to make decisions, one way or another," Daniels said. "If the team is in the mix in July … if your team has played well, we would always look to [upgrade through trade]. We are going to look to get better internally and externally in the offseason and see where we are in the summer."

Daniels admitted the Rangers were in a better situation with their pitching at the end of last season than they are this year. They went into last offseason able to build a rotation around Cole Hamels and Martin Perez, and had a group of proven relievers, including Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, Alex Claudio, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette.

This offseason, the only two pitchers guaranteed spots on next year's staff are starter Mike Minor and reliever Jose Leclerc.

Video: TEX@SEA: Leclerc strikes out Cruz to notch the save

The Rangers are back to buying bulk. Rookies Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado and Adrian Sampson made progress this year, but they will still have to compete for a job in Spring Training.

"All three guys will be in the mix for jobs but not guaranteed," Daniels said. "We will have some internal pitching ready to contribute, but more midseason and second half than guys really prepared to jump in on Opening Day."

The Rangers have pitching in the Minors, but Cole Ragans, Joe Palumbo, Kyle Cody, Alex Speas and Ronald Herrera are in various stages of recovery from major arm surgery while others like A.J. Alexy, Tyler Phillips, Hans Crouse, Jason Bahr and Yerry Rodriguez haven't advanced beyond Class A.

"We have to develop the group we have down below," Daniels said. "A lot of real positives, but that group is several years away. We are not going to rush them. To line things up with this group of position players, we are going to have to look outside."

There will be interesting names on the free-agent market, including Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and others, but it remains a difficult and expensive way to building a rotation. The top free-agent starting pitchers last winter were Jake Arrieta (10-11, 3.96), Yu Darvish (1-3, 4.95), Lance Lynn (10-10, 4.77), Jason Vargas (7-9, 5.77) and Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90) and they all went through struggles.

"It's a challenge," Daniels said. "It's risky, but at the same time, you can make quality signings. There have been very productive pitching acquisitions. Minor for instance. Charlie Morton for the Astros, Jon Lester on a higher scale for the Cubs. You have to dig in, do your homework and make good evaluations."

Oakland won 97 games this season with a rotation that included Sean Manaea, Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson and others. Their pitching strength was in an outstanding bullpen.

"It is clearly a priority for us, both in traditional starting pitching and looking at the best way to build a staff," Daniels said. "In years past, teams were built with five strong starters. Look at some of the teams in postseason, they have advantages elsewhere. Starting pitching is still a priority. I don't want to downplay it, but there are multiple ways to go about it. We'll look at all of it."

Rangers beat 
• The Rangers have told assistant hitting coach Justin Mashore that he will not return next season. All other coaches are on hold until the Rangers complete the managerial search.

• Daniels said the Rangers have not finalized a list of candidates to interview for the manager's job. He made it clear that the ability to communicate with players will be a high priority.

• The Rangers have extended their working agreement with Class A Short Season Spokane in the Northwest League for two more years.

• Daniels said the Rangers are looking for a senior director of baseball operations to add to the front-office staff. There is a possibility that assistant general manager Jayce Tingler could go back to the Major League coaching staff.

Nomar Mazara had his right thumb examined by Dr. Thomas DiLiberti on Tuesday. DiLiberti reported that the ligament in the thumb is a little swollen but fully stable. That slight swelling should subside with rest in the next few weeks. No other treatment is necessary at this time.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers