With more than 80 trades under his belt since taking over the helm of the Texas Rangers almost nine years ago, GM John Daniels has never been shy when it came to pulling the triggers on blockbuster deals. However, with the clock ticking down on the MLB trade deadline, will the architect of two World Series squads finally put together an elite starting rotation for a serious title run next year?
Daniels has enjoyed tremendous success putting together championship-caliber batting lineups, and Texas has led the league in hitting three times since 2008. But the 36-year-old Ivy League graduate — who has also been nothing short of masterful at building strong bullpens — has failed in his attempts to assemble an elite pitching staff.
To be fair, the babyface 28-year-old inherited a woeful pitching staff that finished 26th with a 4.96 ERA in 2005. The Rangers moved up six spots after Daniels first season calling the shots, but had the majors worst pitching unit in 2008. That same season, Texas led all of baseball with a .283 team batting mark.
“Improving our pitching staff is our top priority for next season,” Daniels proclaimed after luring pitching coach Mike Maddux from the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2009 campaign. And, with an Opening Day rotation featuring Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Kris Benson and Matt Harrison, the Rangers jumped to 18th before propelling to the first World Series in franchise history a year later with the majors ninth-ranked pitching staff.
Daniels has had mixed results signing second-tier veteran pitchers to go along with homegrown pitching prospects, but Texas has profited significantly when adding an elite arm. The acquisition of Cliff Lee in 2010 helped the franchise reach its first World Series, and the signing of Japanese hurler Yu Darvish two years later has given the Rangers a bona fide staff ace who led the AL in strikeouts last year.
Even without the injuries to Harrison, Derek Holland and Martin Perez, Texas still opened this season one big-time arm from becoming a serious World Series contender. Now, with only one MLB team sporting a worst pitching crew, and numerous frontline starting pitching available, will Daniels finally pair another staff ace with Darvish to position the Rangers for a title run next year?
With the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners threatening to change the landscape in both the AL and NL with the possible additions of David Price, Jon Lester or Cole Hamels, the time has come for Daniels to pull off yet another blockbuster deal to make Texas relevant, again.