Jon Daniels has spent over a decade as the GM of the Texas Rangers. Many fans say time’s up for JD and Texas needs to move on. We’re taking a look at his tenure in a three part series to evaluate the Rangers man in charge.
The Rangers and their fans had pretty low expectations and the team has met those expectations. Just over a quarter of the way into the season, Texas is in the cellar of the AL West Standings and a long way off the pace. With even a Wild Card out of the question and the calls for a rebuild gaining momentum, the club and fans alike are turning their attention to General Manager, Jon Daniels for answers as well as blame. This being the third part of this series, we’ll briefly look at the past few years under Jon Daniels as well as an evaluation of his time with the club and what the future looks like moving forward.
Aftern a disappointing end to the 2012 season that saw Texas bounced from the playoffs with a one-game Wild Card loss to the Baltimore Orioles, 2013 began with Jon Daniels being appointed to President of Baseball Operations as well as General Manager. Daniels took over the majority of day-to-day operations for the club moving forward.
The 2013 season proved disappointing as well with Texas finishing second in the division for the second year in a row. Despite a 91-72 record, the Rangers failed to make the Wild Card playoff game ensuring that the magical runs of 2010 and 2011 were long gone.
Call to the Pen
The 2014 season/offseason started off with a jolt when Nolan Ryan resigned as CEO of the Texas Rangers in late October. Personal differences as well as varying views on scouting and baseball caused a rift between Daniels and Ryan which led to his departure.
In an effort to jumpstart a team that seemed to be on the decline, Daniels made waves when he traded Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for slugger Prince Fielder. The team seemed poised for big moves to try to reverse the trend and move back into the upper echelon of baseball. However 2014 was as dismal as they come for the Rangers. A slew of injuries and inconsistency saw the team that won 90 games in 2013, lose 90 games in 2014 and finish last in the AL West.
In the offseason, the Rangers had parted ways with Ron Washington and brought in Jeff Banister to manage the club. In desperate need of a turnaround after a poor 2014 year, Texas struggled mightily in the early part of the 2015 season. However, a late resurgence, due in large part to the acquisition of lefty, Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies pushed the team into first place in the AL West in mid-September and the team held on to win the division. A hot team heading to the playoffs can be a scary sight for opposition but Texas was bounced early again losing to the Blue Jays in the ALDS.
The Rangers seemed to have found their stride in 2016 and were one of the top team’s in baseball for much of the season. Texas won the division for a second straight year and managed to finish the year with the best record in baseball, 95-67. With Texas rolling, Daniels made a number of trade deadline moves in an effort to strengthen this team for a deep playoff push. Carlos Beltran was acquired from the Yankees in exchange for top pitching prospect Dillon Tate as well as Nick Green and Erik Swanson. Daniels also traded highly touted outfield prospect, Lewis Brinson, and Luis Ortiz to the Milwaukee Brewers for All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress. He finished off the moves of 2016 by adding outfielder Carlos Gomez who had recently been let go by the Astros. Daniels and the Rangers were all in on the 2016 season.
Despite the big trades and attempts to make this team a World Series contender, the Rangers were once again bounced from the playoffs by the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS putting a sour taste in the mouth of many Texas faithful.
The Rangers failed to build on a successful 2016 campaign finishing fourth in the AL West in 2017. The team top to bottom was aging and without any real star power that could generate wins. Without much minor league depth to speak of, the team was forced to continue on with the squad they had and at the trade deadline, made the move to trade away ace, Yu Darvish, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, in exchange for top prospect Willie Calhoun.
Present And Future
The lack of a World Series still haunts the Rangers and their fans. As a team who came so close two seasons in a row and were one strike away in 2011, the recent fall off has drawn calls for a change in leadership. Daniels is now in his 12th full season as the General Manager of the Texas Rangers and as far as fans are concerned, he doesn’t have much to show for it.
Despite a number of AL West titles, the endings to the 2015 and 2016 seasons, losing in the ALDS to the Blue Jays both times, have shown that this team didn’t have the quality to be elite. In efforts to be elite though, Rangers fans have seen the farm system traded away in moves to try and put this team over the top. At the time, these were deals everyone could get behind, especially if won the World Series. But with no championship to speak of, now it looks like we gambled the future for an outside shot at the present.
Once the cream of the crop, the Rangers farm system has fallen off the pace set by other organizations. MiLB.com had the Texas system as the 22nd ranked group heading into this season. Perhaps adding insult to injury, Rangers fans have sat by and watched in-state rival and long-time little brother, the Houston Astros, develop prospects into MVP caliber players that led them to the 2017 World Series. Sitting back and watching a rival put together all the pieces after being so poor for so long is sure to aggravate fans.
When evaluating Jon Daniels and what his future should look like with the club, we have to take his dealings and moves for what they were at the time. Hindsight is 20/20 and when you don’t see a trophy in your rearview mirror, it’s really easy to blame the driver. Daniels is not faultless in this, however he has brought this club to an era where winning the division was an expectation for many years and bowing out in the ALDS was a failure which is something to be commended in and of itself. For those calling to fire Jon Daniels now, that move just really doesn’t make sense. This club has been one of the better in baseball for a number of seasons and that should have bought him some grace within the fan base.
Here’s where culpability does lie however. This team needs to commit to a rebuild. Jon Daniels reluctance to admit that has also stoked the fire amongst fans as they see a team nowhere near the caliber of division rivals. With the farm system depleted, it’s time for the Rangers to sell. Rebuild the youth of the organization and start playing those guys who have the potential to be starters on a competitive team two or three years from now. There really is no reason why Isiah Kiner-Falefa or Jurickson Profar shouldn’t be getting ample playing opportunity for the rest of the year. Willie Calhoun should get the call up sooner rather than later so he can get some big league exposure. I’ll join the parting ways with Daniels bandwagon if by the trade deadline, the rebuild hasn’t started.