Daniels hails initiative of core group this winter

Young players like Mazara, Gallo, Odor, Leclerc setting course for Rangers moving forward

January 26th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The meeting that defined the Rangers' offseason took place in Seattle at the end of last season. General manager Jon Daniels was there, along with interim manager Don Wakamatsu, a couple other staff members and what is now being labeled as the "core group" of young players.
That includes , along with Joey Gallo, , and others. Daniels and Wakamatsu spoke, but mainly wanted to hear what the players had to say.
"The season was about to finish up, and anytime you have a managerial change, it is a trying year in some regards," Daniels said Saturday at Fan Fest. "We told them, 'We're going into the offseason, we have a lot to accomplish, what do you want to accomplish? Where are your heads, where is your focus?'
"For me, it was the message: 'This is your team -- we are going to go where you guys go.'"
The players debated the questions among themselves, and the answers became clear as the offseason progressed. Mazara did not decide to hibernate for the winter in the Dominican Republic and Odor elected not to hang out with his horses in Venezuela. Gallo changed his offseason home from Las Vegas to Dallas.
The Rangers as a group made the decision to stick together this offseason and work out together in Texas. Daniels said it was the players' idea and not dictated by the front office. The Rangers MLB Youth Academy -- with superior indoor training facilities -- proved the perfect spot. The players started working out there, the group has grown as the winter has progressed and they have stayed after it.
"It's been a lot of fun to watch, seeing everybody come together like that," Mazara said. "It's like a band of brothers, everybody working together as a team pushing each other, all close friends. It has been great."

That is the central theme of the Rangers' offseason, and it was amplified by Daniels and others at Fan Fest on Saturday at Globe Life Park. It is what will define the club in 2019.
Yes, Texas needs pitching, and there is still work to be done constructing the roster. But more than anything, the 2019 Rangers will be about the core group of players putting in the work every day in west Dallas.
"These guys are coming together," Daniels said. "They have two or three years in the big leagues. They are ready to take that next step in their development, from contributing, quality big leaguers to another level they can get to. They made strides from a baseball standpoint, a workout standpoint.
"But more important, just the way they've come together, it was really fun to watch. Nothing was set up, nothing was orchestrated. Everybody who saw it said, 'We have something pretty good going on.'"
The Rangers want to see what happens with this group of players before they try to accelerate their rebuilding program. That is why Texas is staying out of the chase for Manny Machado, and other high-priced free agents this offseason.
"We are probably a year away from adding cornerstone-type pieces," Daniels said. "Our plan all along has been to get the staff in place, get this young group in place, develop them, put in our new systems and as we move into the new ballpark, kind of change the focus."
The philosophy could still change. The Rangers took a similar approach after a 95-loss season in 2014. They weren't planning on being aggressive in 2015, but that all changed as the season unfolded, Daniels said.
"You watch that 2015 club, we got off to a slow start," Daniels said. "You see teams around the game get off to a slow start and they're done. They're not in every game, they don't come back, they don't fight, there is something missing. I remember watching in 2015, that team had something unique. They believed in themselves, they were in every game."
The Rangers were four games under .500 and six games out of first place in the American League West at the All-Star break in 2015, but that didn't deter Daniels. He gave up five valuable Minor Leaguers to get starter Cole Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman from the Phillies on July 31, and Texas went on to win the division.
"They were going to play better anyway, but we showed some faith in the club and we added some guys that helped that," Daniels said. "My expectation is, you are going to see the same things with this team. You've got a group that likes to be around each other and is going to fight and be in every game. Then we'll make some evaluations on where we are.
"Doesn't mean we're putting any limits on this team. If our guys achieve what they are capable of and stay healthy, and we're in it in July, we're always going to look to capitalize on that."