Rare Peek Into Rangers Front Office: Thad Levine


It’s no secret: the Texas Rangers Front Office is secretive.

Jon Daniels and his army of advisers operate in the shadows, lurking behind every waiver claim, trade bait, and free agent. However, on Tuesday, the veil was lifted.

Thad Levine, Assistant General Manager of the Texas Rangers, conducted an AMA on Reddit.com to promote his new company MeaningfulWins.com, a fantasy football startup that enables players to “play for the nonprofit of your choice rather than just for yourself.” AMA stands for Ask Me Anything and the premise is quite simple: ask him a question, he’ll answer.

Some background: Thad Levine’s main duty is negotiating contracts. While he participates in a variety of other parts of the Rangers Front Office, contracts are his specialty.

Without further ado, here are some highlights from Levine’s AMA… (Beware: grammar mistakes)

We commonly see the big money contracts that get signed all over baseball. My question is: besides the money aspect, what else gets put into big league contracts?

Thad Levine: Common things like no trade protection, bonuses for awards or reaching certain performance thresholds … For the players from the Pacific Rim, you will oftentimes see requests for interpreters and massage therapists … by far the most curious thing that I ever have seen was one player asked for an annual $250,000 allowance for his wife to spend on her equestrian expenses.

How difficult has social media made it to keep trade or signing negotiations private? Has this impacted your approach to these things?

TL: You identified one of our biggest challenges … Last year, Ian Kinsler found out through the media that he had been traded. We felt awful, but someone called the media literally before we were able to complete a call to Ian. That being said, at the trade deadline, we are all on twitter, because you may be surprised how many trade discussions are inspired or refined by tweets

Are you on Twitter?

TL: I am on twitter, under an alias…

Does this mean JD [Jon Daniels] has a twitter?

TL: He does, but he has an alias as well.

How much have advanced statistics and sabermetrics been incorporated into player evaluation over your years with the Rangers and Rockies?

TL: When the book Money Ball came out, front offices were labeled as either analytical or scouting based in their decision making … we were considered an analytical group, when in practice, we were much more scouting focused in our decision making. In the past five years, we have made significant investments in analytics both in people and systems.

Have you ever in your career experienced the type of injury situation as my beloved Rangers have this year?

TL: It was about 5 injuries ago, that we all looked at each other in the front office and said, “I have never seen anything like this.” Then we proceeded to have five more injuries…

Can you explain the challenges you, your organization, and the people that make the day to day ball club decisions had to deal with regarding Josh Hamilton during his tenure with the Texas Rangers?

TL: Josh was a tremendous part of our success during our two World Series runs. We supported him as best as we could. Truth be told, a large part of his success here can be attributed to how open he was with Ron Washington and how much chemistry the two had.

Would you mind giving some insight on anything that the general public doesn’t normally hear about what Ron Washington brings to the club?

TL: Wash is the best morale manager that i have ever seen. His ability to make every player feel as if he is going to be the player of the game is so genuine and pays dividends each and every night.

What’re your views on a possible salary cap in MLB?

TL: I would be surprised if the Union ever approves a formal salary cap. There have been discussions about stiffer taxes for going over a certain threshold. There has also been a lot of talk about having a salary floor as well. In the next collective bargaining session, i am sure that this topic will be discussed exhaustively.

Have you ever eaten a Boomstick?

TL: Our health insurance doesn’t cover complications due to Boomstick consumption, so I haven’t risked it yet.

Do you think Gallo would make an immediate impact if given his cup o coffee next week?

TL: Joey Gallo has amazing talent. The temptation is to call him up, knowing that he would likely launch some bombs up here. Our hope is that once he comes up, he will never have to go back down to the minors, so we are making sure that he has much of a foundation for success up here as possible before promoting him.

What’s it like been dealing with this injury ridden season you guys are having?

TL: It has been quite challenging. We have had to redefine what is success for the season. We have worked with Ron Washington to establish that our focus for this season is developing some of our younger now and future core players at the big league level.

When you shower, do you use a bar of soap, or do you use bottled products?

TL: Most recently, i have been using Old Spice shower gel. Very refreshing.

What do you think about Odor’s development at the big league level? Do you take him or Profar at 2B next season?

TL: Odor and Profar are both extremely talented. In addition with Sardinas and Elvis, we have what we believe to be 4 of the better middle infielders in the game. I think that there will be a lot of competition in spring training next year.

I’d say one of the brightest spots in this season has been watching Rougned Odor and see him develop defensive instincts, pop behind the plate, and an overall solid chemistry with this team. I’m curious how much of this was expected, versus how much was a pleasant surprise?

TL: Every time that I saw Rougned play in the minors, I walked away thinking that he was the best baseball player, not always the best prospect, on the field. He is going to have a very bright future.

With the rangers season lost due mainly to injuries and lack of starting pitching, how do you approach the off season as a GM?

TL: Our mantra as we approach this off season is to get back to out scouting teams rather than relying on out spending teams. We will make smart, targeted free agent acquisitions, but i would expect us to be more active on the trade and development fronts.

When Nolan Ryan was in town, some fans bought into a narrative about a split between the GM office and the President’s office. How much, if any, of that was based in fact?

TL: I think that was far more fiction. We valued Nolan and his advice very highly. He helped shape this franchise and played a major role in our success.

Will Neftali Feliz ever get his old fastball back, or will he have to continue to learn how to pitch at 91-94?

TL: Feliz continues to regain arm strength, but i do not anticipate him returning to throwing 96-100 mph.

You mentioned you use Fangraphs and Bas. Ref [Baseball-Reference.com], do you also use the projections or do you only look at the stats?

TL: We scour the entire sites, and several others. We are not too proud. If there is cutting edge information out there, we want to know about it.

What would you say to a Rangers fan who’s feeling pretty down about baseball these days? Cheer us up, please.

TL: 2015 should be very bright. Once we get our horses healthy and blend them with some of our upside prospects, we should be very competitive next season. Also, we are going to have the ability to do some serious damage on the amateur and international fronts.

You can read the rest here.