How they did it- Part I- The Texas Rangers
By Gary Hill
I feel very strongly about the right way to build a winning baseball team. I have written and spoken about my thoughts in great detail in the past. For the moment I will share my general blue print. I believe that teams need to build a winner from the ground up. The draft, amateur free-agent signings and shrewd trades are the building blocks for successful organizations. Free-agent signings can help supplement what is already in place, but it is impossible to build a winning franchise with signings as the driving force. First of all, it is too expensive to sign a team-full of free-agents. Secondly, a team would end up with too many players outside of prime playing years to be effective. A major goal is to cobble together as much young talent, which is cheaper and can be controlled for a number of years before free-agency hits, as possible. Winning teams need a number of good players in their prime years and the best way to get there is brining them along through your system or trading your system assets for those from the outside.
From time to time, I like to examine the rosters of the top teams in the game to see how they got there. The first team we will look at is the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers. I have listed the major components from their roster below along with how they were acquired.
Mike Napoli- Trade- Blue Jays
Mitch Moreland- Draft 2007 17th RD
Ian Kinsler- Draft 2003 17th RD
Elvis Andrus- Trade- Braves
Adrian Beltre- Free Agent
David Murphy- Trade- Boston
Craig Gentry- Draft 2006 10th RD
Nelson Cruz- Trade- Brewers
Michael Young- Trade- Blue Jays
Josh Hamilton- Trade- Reds
Yorvit Torrealba- Free Agent
Leonys Martin- Amateur Free Agent
Matt Harrison- Trade- Braves
Yu Darvish- Free Agent
Colby Lewis- Free Agent
Derek Holland- Draft 2006 25th RD
Scott Feldman- Draft 2003 30th RD
Neftali Feliz- Trade- Braves
Joe Nathan- Free Agent
Alexi Ogando- Rule 5 Draft
Mike Adams- Trade- Padres
Roy Oswalt- Free Agent
Koji Uehara- Trade- Baltimore
Mark Lowe- Trade- Mariners
Martin Perez- Amateur Free Agent
Draft- 5– I am guessing as we examine the top teams in baseball that the number 5 will be on the low end. What is also striking is where the 5 came from. Kinsler and Moreland in the 17th and Holland in the 25th.
Trades- 11– The most significant portion of the current Texas Ranger roster was built through trades. There was one trade in particular that netted a massive haul. In 2007 The Rangers traded away star first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves for Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Andrus, Feliz and Harrison have all been All-Stars for Texas. This is exactly the kind of deal that no longer happens. Teams put a premium on top prospects and as their perceived value goes up deals like the one Texas pulled off get very rare. There were also several other key deals. They rolled the dice and took a gamble on a talented, but troubled young outfielder in Josh Hamilton. Hamilton played 90 games for the Reds in 2007 before being dealt to Texas for Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez. Since the deal he has piled up an MVP, 5 All-Star appearances, an ALCS MVP, a batting title, an RBI title and two appearances in the World Series. The Rangers also struck gold when in 2000 they traded a struggling Esteban Loaiza (5-6 5.37) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Michael Young. He has been a seven time All-Star, Batting Champ and Glove Winner. He has played every position on the infield in his Texas tenure while amassing over 2100 hits. The sauntered back to the Toronto well and picked up Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco. They also landed late bloomer Nelson Cruz from the Brewers.
Amateur Free Agents- 2 – The Rangers have two potential high impact talents playing fringe rolls this year.
Free Agents-6 – Adrian Beltre is one of two long-term big money free-agents the Rangers invested in- 5 years $80M. Yu Darvish is the other- 6 years $56M. Joe Nathan (2 years $14.75M), (Roy Oswalt 1 year $5M), Colby Lewis (2 years $5M) and Yorvit Torrealba (2 years $6.25M) were all low risk and low term signings.
Rule 5 Draft-1 – The Rangers drafted Ogando away for the Oakland A’s in 2005, but he did not make it to the Big Leagues until 2010 because he was banned from entering the United States.
I will continue to examine the rosters of the top teams in MLB and I will go through the conclusions all the once. The Rangers have provided a very interesting starting point.