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Rangers' rebuild not just happening on field

Changes to front office may prove just as important as player moves
December 6, 2018

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have spent the past year going through a massive rebuilding of the foundation and infrastructure of their organization. It would not be an overstatement to say this has been a historic development for the franchise.The vast scope of this project goes beyond midsummer trades giving up

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have spent the past year going through a massive rebuilding of the foundation and infrastructure of their organization. It would not be an overstatement to say this has been a historic development for the franchise.
The vast scope of this project goes beyond midsummer trades giving up veteran pitchers for unproven Minor League talent; it goes beyond the dismissal of manager Jeff Banister, the hiring of Chris Woodward and the overhaul of the Major League coaching staff.
When the Rangers start making significant changes in their front office structure and seriously contemplate the overall working philosophy of the organization, that is convincing evidence that it is no longer business as usual in Arlington. Even by the Rangers' standards, this has been an enormous and lengthy undertaking.
Figuring out a way to upgrade research and development has been just as important as looking for pitching. Adding Shiraz Rehman -- who once worked as a commodities trader -- from the Cubs as assistant general manager for strategic initiatives, or Matt Blood from Team USA to head the farm system, may end up being bigger acquisitions than pitcher Jesse Chavez or catcher Jeff Mathis. Blood was director of the Team USA 18U team that just won a gold medal in Panama.

Pitching coach Julio Rangel has never spent a day in the big leagues at any level. The Panama native last pitched for the Berkshire Black Bears in the Northern League in 2002 and spent four years in the banking business before getting into professional coaching. Assistant hitting coach Callix Crabbe spent the past six years as an instructor at the IMG Academy in Florida.
But they and others offer unique talents not normally associated with the career baseball resume for a franchise trying to find new and unique ways to become competitive again.
"We spent a lot of time throughout the summer into the fall and up to this week in hiring the right people to complement what we are doing and moving us forward," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I am really excited about what we are doing. Talk about rebuilding the foundation, that really has been the priority and I think it is going to pay off big time over the course of time."
The Rangers' approach this offseason toward putting together their 2019 ballclub should be further evidence of what they are doing. The Rangers are vowing to stay away from the quick fixes and ill-conceived shortcuts that have sidetracked them in the past.
At a time when the Rangers have unusual financial flexibility to make a big splash in the free agent market, they are determined to take the opposite approach. The Rangers' focus will be to continue rebuilding the young talent base of the organization that they hope will direct them to long-term success.
"Probably be a little more conservative," Daniels said. "We do have the ability to maneuver a little bit, but it is just going to depend on the right fit, the right player, the right situation."
The Rangers had an Opening Day payroll of $133 million last season. It will likely be closer to $120 million next year.
One sign of the Rangers' approach is they did not get involved in the market for free-agent pitchers Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi. Corbin is reportedly heading to the Nationals, while Eovaldi is going back to the Red Sox. The Rangers have a desperate need for pitching, but aren't willing to play at the top of the market yet.
"We weren't involved in Corbin or Eovaldi," Daniels said. "We like both guys, but those weren't the moves we were willing to make right now. This is not the year where we are going to go all out. We are probably a year away from starting to look at some different options for expanding the payroll."
The Rangers know they need pitching. They also know that one pitcher isn't going to make the difference. They do like Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, but also realize that the competition will be steep and his price tag -- as dictated by agent Scott Boras -- will almost certainly fall beyond their self-imposed boundaries.
• Daniels: Rangers doing homework on Kikuchi
The Rangers will look for pitching that can help them this season, but also with the belief that the best acquisitions will be players who can be a part of the organization beyond 2019.
"From a player standpoint, we are looking at two things," Daniels said. "We are looking at players who can help us now. We have some work to do clearly on this club and the market is just starting to move now. But a lot of the potential moves we have looked at are geared at younger players who can help us in the future."
The Rangers have spent much time, effort and resources in rebuilding their farm system over the past year. That system took major hits over the years through multiple trades for players intended to have an immediate impact at the Major League level.
The Rangers are starting to build the system back up. They do not plan to veer from that this offseason for any short-term fixes.
"For the most part, that's not where our heads are," Daniels said. "Strategically, that's not what we are thinking. If there is a longer-term fit, we are open to those conversations. We could have made those deals a year ago. We have had the option and ability to go out and trade prospects for 'now' talent. There has never been a time where we couldn't.
"But it has to be the right fit for you and it hasn't been the right fit for us the last year. Strategically, it didn't make sense. Right now, we are going to look to avoid that."

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