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Richard Justice

Daniels hits mark to help improve Rangers

Daniels hits mark to help improve Rangers

Daniels hits mark to help improve Rangers

HOUSTON -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was aggressive on one trade, patient on the other. Maybe he simply was playing the market as he saw it. Regardless, when he was done, no general manager had helped his team more.

"He did his part," Rangers manager Ron Washington said simply.

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Now comes the hard part.

"It's up to the players to win," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

In a span of 18 days, Daniels made two significant additions to his roster by acquiring right-hander Matt Garza from the Cubs and outfielder Alex Rios from the White Sox. He shopped relentlessly, talked to dozens of clubs, chewed on proposal after proposal.

In the end, Daniels probably acquired the best available starting pitcher and outfielder. For a team attempting to make a fourth straight playoff appearance, Daniels sent a message through his clubhouse that he has confidence that this group is good enough to win a championship.

"It definitely shows the front office is behind us," Pierzynski said. "They believe we can win."

Garza's arrival on July 22 shored up a rotation that has had four starting pitchers on the disabled list most of the season. Daniels moved quickly on that one, getting Garza nine days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.

Daniels paid a steep price, surrendering third baseman Mike Olt, pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edward and at least one more player. He had to make a substantial enough offer that the Cubs wouldn't think they could do better by waiting until the Deadline.

Daniel could surrender so much young talent because he has built the Rangers from the ground up, working exhaustively to build a great Minor League system, one that will keep a flow of talent coming.

Or give him the option of making an impact trade.

Garza arrived at a time when the Rangers appeared to be slipping out of the playoff race and made immediate dividends. The right-hander won for the fourth time in five starts on Friday in 9-5 victory over the Astros.

Garza joined a rotation that already had Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and with Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan at the back of the bullpen, the Rangers might have their best overall staff during this four-year run.

"These guys are making moves to put us into position to play in October," Garza said. "They want to win. We just need to enjoy it and keep going."

The Rangers had fallen six games behind Oakland on July 28. Since then, they've won 10 of 11 and to get back into a virtual first-place tie with the A's in the American League West.

Daniels shopped for offensive help before the Trade Deadline as well, but with the Marlins unwilling to trade Giancarlo Stanton, with the Giants holding onto Hunter Pence, the GM found nothing he thought worth doing.

Daniels talked to the White Sox about Rios, but decided not to pull the trigger. The White Sox were in more of a dealing mood after acquiring young outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers.

To open up playing time for Garcia, the Sox had to deal Rios. When Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz was hit with a 50-game suspension on Monday, Daniels placed a waiver claim on Rios and went to work on a trade.

Because Rios is signed for 2014, Daniels has some security as two other outfielders, Cruz and David Murphy, approach free agency.

Cruz was having a terrific year, leading the Rangers in both home runs (27) and RBIs (76). His .841 OPS was the 13th-best in the American League.

Meanwhile, Rios is a better defensive player and a better baserunner.

"He's a complete player," Washington said.

But Rios won't provide the Rangers with as much thunder. He has 15 fewer home runs and 21 fewer RBIs. Rios' OPS is a respectable .749, but 92 points below Cruz's. Still, the Rangers felt pretty good about how things had worked out.

Washington effusively praised his general manager, saying, "I don't have enough good words to say about him."

Some of his players, most notably Lance Berkman, praised Daniels for playing the market smartly, holding out for a trade he was comfortable with.

Washington wouldn't say that the two trades had fundamentally changed how the Rangers viewed themselves. When a team has made three straight playoff appearances, when it has proven veterans like Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler, there's an inner-confidence that's close to unshakeable.

Still, when Rios joins the Rangers on Saturday, it will improve their chances of, first, making the playoffs and, then, hanging around for awhile. For that, Daniels is a popular man in his clubhouse.

"We always thought we had as good a shot as anyone in the," Washington said. "We've just improved our club."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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