Rangers stick to plan of keeping young players

Key offseason additions included free agents, Draft pick

Rangers stick to plan of keeping young players

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have achieved one goal this offseason, general manager Jon Daniels said.

"We were able to hold on to our young players," he said.

The Rangers' resolve to take that approach is why they did not get seriously involved with the White Sox about left-hander Chris Sale before he was traded to the Red Sox.

Daniels said that's also why the Rangers tried to steer away from free agents who would have cost them a Draft pick. Daniels acknowledged the Rangers did flirt with first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who ended up signing with the Indians, but otherwise refrained from playing in that arena.

The Rangers' main acquisitions of outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross were non-compensation free agents. Instead, the Rangers picked up an extra Draft pick when the Rockies signed Ian Desmond. The Rangers will have the 26th and 29th overall picks in the 2017 MLB Draft.

"We tried to take a disciplined approach to the offseason," Daniels said. "Hold on to our young players. That was a concerted effort."

Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor could have been the inspiration for the Rangers. They are two impact young players added to their lineup in the past two seasons, and both could have been traded in the past.

Odor was discussed when the Rangers acquired pitcher Matt Garza from the Cubs on July 22, 2013, for third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez and Carl Edwards Jr. The final piece of the deal was if the Rangers would include Edwards or Odor as the fourth player.

The Rangers held on to Odor even though they appeared to be loaded with middle infielders and reluctant to give up pitching. This past season, Odor hit .271 with 33 home runs, 88 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage.

Mazara was prominently discussed when the Rangers pursued Sale at the Trade Deadline last year. Those talks eventually went nowhere, and the Rangers veered away from starting pitching. They instead acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers and outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Yankees.

Those deals cost the Rangers six Minor League players, including three players -- pitchers Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate and outfielder Lewis Brinson -- who were former first-round picks.

Those deals and others -- most notably Cole Hamels from the Phillies in 2015 -- took a toll on the Rangers' farm system. They had just two players listed among the 2017 Top 100 Prospects rankings by MLBPipeline.com.

The Rangers were able to retain infielders Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, and there is still talent within the system. Outfielder Leody Taveras (No. 55) and left-hander Yohander Mendez (56) were the two to make the Top 100.

Top Prospects: Taveras, TEX

But the Rangers are trying to change that trend.

"We want to hold on to our young players and be able to develop them ourselves," Daniels said. "We are excited about that. We could have some interesting competition at key spots."

First base is the most obvious spot, as Profar, Gallo, Ryan Rua and Ronald Guzman are among the candidates going into Spring Training. Guzman and Mendez are two of four prospects among the Rangers' top 10 who will be in big league camp.

Banister on Rangers' 1B options

Right-handers Ariel Jurado and Connor Sadzeck will also be in big league camp. There will be plenty others right down the hall in the Minor League clubhouse who can be summoned at a moment's notice. In 2014, Nick Martinez didn't make it out of the Minor League clubhouse until the final days of Spring Training and still ended up in the Rangers' season-opening rotation.

That was the Spring Training when Daniels confessed to being "energized" by the many positive developments taking place in the farm system. Subsequent events prove Daniels had reason to be energized. The Rangers were developing a wealth of young talent, but a large portion ended up being traded away.

All of those trades took place in July when the Rangers were trying to reinforce their postseason chances. If the Rangers are in contention this coming July, their avowed discipline toward keeping young players will be severely tested.

It is much easier to be disciplined in the offseason. But that's the approach the Rangers have taken this winter, and so far, they have stuck to their plan.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.