By Wes Yee
They might run different clubs now, but both Theo Epstein of the Cubs and Ben Cherington of the Red Sox extolled much the same message in their introductions. Building an organization focused on “sustained success” sounds like a nice cliche, but it’s a key component of team construction that organizations emphasize to varying degrees. Texas and their young general manager Jon Daniels has taken this to heart, building what many in the game are starting to recognize as a model organization – one built to last.
So, what separates the Rangers from some of the other marquee franchises in the game? Yes, they’re in the World Series, but any team that makes the playoffs has some chance of playing for the title. What sets Texas apart is the structure of their club. While they have elite talent in their lineup, they haven’t committed ungodly amounts of money to individual players. Only Michael Young and Adrian Beltre make more than $10M. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz will combine to make less than $25M in 2011. Texas is just 13th in baseball in total team salary, at $91.89M. Many of their best players are still on their rookie contracts. The six players below (with 2011 salaries), with the exception of Moreland, have all played critical roles in the clubs success:
Neftali Feliz 457,160
Elvis Andrus 452,180
Derek Holland 431,810
Alexi Ogando 430,150
Matt Harrison 428,830
Mitch Moreland 426,000
So their current major league team is cheap, cost controlled and talented. But that alone doesn’t make bode for sustainable success. Indeed, Texas will likely lose its ace for a second consecutive year, in CJ Wilson. It’s how equipped they are to replace him, and how equipped they were to replace Cliff Lee a year ago, that shows just how strong a position they are in.
Jon Daniels was promoted to GM in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2007 when he began taking the steps that have put the Rangers in such an enviable place. Beginning with the Mark Teixeira trade, which netted Texas Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus, Daniels has made building a strong farm system one of his key priorities. While they’ve drafted reasonably well, where they have excelled is in the international market. LHP Martin Perez has been on the scene for a couple of years now as a potentially top of the rotation arm. He’s battled inconsistency yet reached AA as an 18 year old. He’s 20 now and could reach the bigs in 2012.
Texas’ most exciting prospect, perhaps its top player, is shortstop Jurickson Profar. Profar, who burst onto the scene at the 2011 Futures Game, is just 18 years old and has only just now completed his first full season of pro ball. He’s shown serious promise, hitting 12 home runs with 23 steals at High-A Hickory. He’s a plus defender with projectability in all five tools. David Perez and Miguel De Los Santos are right behind Martin Perez in Texas starting pitching pipeline. De Los Santos made major strides in 2011, striking out 142 in just 94.2 innings. He could move quickly in 2012.
Just as exciting for Rangers fans is the signing of dual 16 year old Dominicans Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara. The two received record bonuses of $3.5M (Guzman) and $5M (Mazara). Both are obviously years away from the big leagues, but offer some potential first-division talent in years to come.
What Daniels has achieved in Texas, and what Cherington and Epstein will seek to match, is to create a sustainable baseball machine that can lose key players and replace them from within. Cost-controlled young players are one of the most valuable assets in baseball, and Texas has capitalized by building a system that is both flush with high end talent and deep. Their new TV deal, which pays them $80M per year, only makes them all the more dangerous. Already pundits are floating names like Fielder and Pujols as potential free agent pickups. Texas hasn’t been considered a big dog over the past decade, but with a contending big league team, a stacked farm system and a big budget, we could be looking at the closest thing to a dynasty this game has seen since the 90’s Yankees.
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