Evaluating Jon Daniels, GM: A 3-Part Series (Part One)
By Kenneth Nash
After an offseason without big moves setting up a low expectations season, some fans are calling for the end of the Jon Daniels era.
We’re going to take a look at Jon Daniels history as the GM of the Texas Rangers as part of a three part series on JD and his future with the club. Part one will focus on the early years (2006-2009) of Jon Daniels leadership. Part two will focus on the middle part (2010-2014) including two World Series runs. The final part will focus on the recent years (2015-2018) as well as Jon Daniels future with the team.
Jon Daniels has been the General Manager of the Texas Rangers since October 2005 when he became the youngest GM in history at the age of 28 years and 41 days. Daniels took over for John Hart who had spent 4 seasons with Texas in which the team had never made the playoffs.
When Daniels took over, he quickly started making moves to improve the team immediately and for the future. It started with the trade of Alfonso Soriano for a package including Brad Wilkerson. This move opened up a spot for Ian Kinsler to take over at second base for Texas. Daniels first big move with the Rangers wasn’t without concern as Soriano was considered to be in his prime at the time of the deal.
Call to the Pen
In the same offseason, JD sent pitcher Chris Young as well as first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the San Diego Padres in a deal for pitchers Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. This is considered by many to be the worst move of Jon Daniels career as it sent what turned into a perennial all-star first baseman (Gonzalez) and a talented pitcher (Young) for a closer (Otsuka) and injury laden pitcher (Eaton).
The other big move of the 2006 season came when Daniels traded Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench and Francisco Cordero to the Brewers for Carlos Lee and prospect Nelson Cruz. This is regarded as one of the better moves of Daniels early career with Cruz turning into a star right fielder for the club and playing a big role in their playoff pushes in 2010 and 2011.
In December of 2006, Daniels kept the big deals rolling by sending young starter, John Danks, to the Chicago White Sox, for another young starter in Brandon McCarthy. This move was the first of this season that marked the move to a full rebuild within the organization. The 2007 season held two of the most important trades that Jon Daniels would make in his time with the Texas Rangers.
At the trade deadline of the 2007 season, Daniels sent Rangers star Mark Texeira and relief pitcher, Ron Mahay, to the Atlanta Braves. In return, Texas received catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as well as a handful of minor league prospects. Those prospects turned into a core group of players for the Rangers a few short years later. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, reliever Neftali Feliz and starter Matt Harrison were all acquired from the Braves and would shortly become mainstays within the Rangers organization.
This season, Daniels also was able to acquire outfielder, David Murphy, from the Boston Red Sox along with two more players in return for closer Eric Gagne.
The 2008 season had just one major trade deal for the Rangers organization. Texas sent young pitcher, Edinson Volquez, to the Cincinnati Reds for future AL MVP, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton’s time with the Rangers was full of ups and downs. The outfielder however, made a mark in Arlington that will last for years to come.
Entering the 2009 season, Jon Daniels and the Rangers were widely regarded as having the best farm system in baseball. In Keith Law’s 2009 Organizational Rankings, Law had Texas as the number one farm system in baseball, touting players such as Martin Perez and Neftali Feliz as examples of the depth within the system.
The Rangers finished the 2009 season in second in the AL West at a record of 87-75 and just 10 games back of the division winning Angels. Texas would debut a number of young talents during the 2009 campaign and were led by a number of names that will bring back nostalgia for long-time fans. Led by names such as Ian Kinsler, Kevin Millwood, Elvis Andrus and Michael Young, this Rangers roster showed the blending of young talent and veteran savvy that Jon Daniels had constructed over the previous 3 seasons.
The 2009 season marked the approaching peak of the Texas Rangers organization and arguably the pinnacle of Jon Daniels career with the team. At this point Daniels was widely viewed as one of the top GM’s in the league. His business savvy as well as aggressiveness in pursuing the growth of the Rangers future players set the team up for a lot of success.
At this time, very few fans would have wanted to see the departure of Jon Daniels. Despite trading away big names stars early on, the fruits of Daniels’ risks and faith in prospects were starting to show. Texas was just a few pieces away from being a legit contender within the AL West and the American League as a whole.
Next: Rangers Prospect Radar: Willie Calhoun
This is part one of three part series covering and evaluating the career of Jon Daniels, General Manager of the Texas Rangers. Be sure to check out part two, next week, covering the 2010-2014 seasons which set the stage for the Rangers team that we see now.