Rangers GM makes blockbuster deal after win-now trades with Cubs

Rangers GM makes blockbuster deal after win-now trades with Cubs
November 21, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels isn’t afraid to make the blockbuster deal.

That would have been the scouting report even before Wednesday night’s shocking trade that shipped All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for slugger Prince Fielder and $30 million.

Winning the Yu Darvish sweepstakes gave the Rangers the kind of top-of-the-rotation, in-his-prime starter that’s almost impossible to find now. Flipping Mark Teixeira for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia – that’s what sellers dream about at the trade deadline.

The Rangers have become buyers, winning at least 90 games in each of the last four seasons and back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. They’ve gone to the Cubs for Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto the last two summers.

If things turn around at Wrigley Field, it could have a big Texas influence. After a drawn-out, no-trade soap opera in July 2012, Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer cashed in 12 Dempster starts for Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks.

Villanueva emerged as a Southern League All-Star in 2013 and should begin next season as Triple-A Iowa’s starting third baseman. Hendricks became the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year.

The Rangers rented Matt Garza for two-plus months last season, giving up a package of four prospects headlined by C.J. Edwards and Mike Olt.

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“Want to win?” Daniels said. “Yeah, I’m guilty.”

Daniels showed a dry sense of humor during last week’s GM meetings in Orlando, Fla., where the idea of acquiring Fielder would have sounded like a bad rumor from a fake Twitter account.

Of course, Daniels might not have needed Fielder if he hadn’t traded away future All-Star first basemen Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Davis. But no one bats 1.000 and sometimes that’s the cost of doing business as a go-for-it franchise. Eventually, the Cubs are going to have to make those difficult decisions in the next stages of their rebuild.

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The Cubs feel like they struck gold with Edwards, a 48th-round pick in the 2011 draft that developed a feel for pitching in a men’s sandlot league in rural South Carolina.

“Our scout basically beat everybody and found him (in) an area of the country that really wasn’t scouted heavily,” Daniels recalled. “The physical skills are obvious, but (there’s) tremendous makeup. That was the hardest part of that deal. The guy’s got unbelievable makeup. He comes from a background that has some challenges there, an area of the country that doesn’t have much money.”

Edwards helped advanced Class-A Daytona win a Florida State League title, running his career numbers in the minors to 13-5 with a 1.72 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 183.1 innings.

“(Our people) said his parents gave him that foundation of values,” Daniels said. “He’s a hard worker. My guess is he’s going to get the most out of his ability.”

The Cubs bought low on Olt, who had been untouchable in the Dempster talks but struggled as he dealt with lingering vision/concussion issues from a freak accident in the Dominican Republic.

“You go back to when he got hit in winter ball,” Daniels said. “We had him see a bunch of doctors and I’m sure the Cubs have followed-up. I’m just hoping it’s one of those deals where he needed some time to get away from the game and come back ready to go.”

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The Rangers selected Olt out of the University of Connecticut with the 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft. He was their minor league player of the year in 2012 after generating 28 homers and 82 RBI in 95 games at Double-A Frisco.

Olt wasn’t the same player in 2013, hitting .168 in 39 games at Iowa after the Garza trade. The 25-year-old third baseman is trying to hit the reset button.

“I have every expectation the guy’s going to be a quality big-leaguer,” Daniels said. “He’s too athletic and the makeup’s too good. I don’t think you lose that overnight. He obviously had a rough year and hopefully he can bounce back from that. But I would expect this guy is going to be a successful big-leaguer.”

Daniels grew up in Queens, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University. He didn’t get the internship with the Boston Red Sox that went to Hoyer at the beginning of their baseball careers.

Daniels might not fit the profile of a Texas gunslinger, but he’s already won a power struggle with former Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan. Maybe Olt, Edwards and these ex-Rangers will be part of the next contending team at Clark and Addison. But the Rangers won’t really care about the ones that got away if Fielder is the missing piece and they’re spraying champagne next October.