Rangers poised to own the offseason
The Texas Rangers are poised to own the offseason. Zack Greinke? Still seems likely. Josh Hamilton? Yep, there's a good chance he's back in Arlington. Justin Upton? Stay tuned.
Sometimes the toughest thing for a general manager to do is shake up a good club, but Jon Daniels seems determined to give his team a dramatic makeover, perhaps one that will elevate it to "Best Team In Baseball" status.
There are dozens of moving parts in all of this, and it could all come undone at any time. Greinke seems in no hurry to make a decision even though money almost surely is no longer an issue, and the Dodgers and Angels have sent signals that they're no longer in the mix.
While the Southern California clubs are getting frustrated that Greinke hasn't made a decision, Daniels has kept working other fronts.
Hamilton continues to shop for a better offer. The Rangers began discussions with a three-year offer, but may be willing to add a fourth year to the deal. Hamilton would like six, so he has kept looking at other options.
The Red Sox and Mariners have shown interest, but it's not known if either made an offer. Inside the industry, there's widespread speculation the Yankees will fly into the fray.
If that happens, Hamilton probably is headed to the Bronx. But general manager Brian Cashman has stayed the course, intent on getting his club under the 2014 luxury tax threshold of $189 million.
From the beginning, the Rangers seemed confident they'd be given a chance to match the other offers to Hamilton. Daniels has kept the lines of communication open and seems to have been upfront about what the Rangers will and won't do to get a deal done.
Meanwhile, Daniels has worked relentlessly to put a package of players together that would get Upton from the Diamondbacks. His discussions have involved at least two other teams -- the Indians and Rays -- at various times.
Daniels believes Upton, 25, is on his way to becoming one of the game's elite players, someone good enough to construct a franchise around. In listening to offers for Upton, the D-backs are discovering how much other clubs think of him.
General manager Kevin Towers will not make the deal without getting a shortstop and front-line starter out of it. Would Elvis Andrus and James Shields be enough?
Daniels dealt Michael Young to the Phillies and perhaps is attempting to trade Nelson Cruz as well. In the end, his message will be a response to a bitterly disappointing finish to the 2012 season.
If the Rangers could begin 2013 with Greinke, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish at the front of their rotation, they'd have a front three as good as almost any. They'd have quality depth behind them, especially highly regarded young left-hander Martin Perez. And if they had a batting order built around Adrian Beltre, Hamilton and Upton, they'd be scary good.
There's some risk involved. Young had been the Rangers' clubhouse leader, but he probably would not get regular playing time in the reshaped Rangers.
The Rangers drew a franchise-record 3.46 million fans in 2012, and management has shown fans it will invest that money back into making the club better. Even if Daniels adds Greinke, Hamilton and Upton, he may keep his final payroll number below $170 million.
He has the advantage of having a very good club no matter what he does. He has also expressed a desire to push his best young players -- Jurickson Profar, corner infielder Mike Olt, left-hander Martin Perez and center fielder Leonys Martin -- into more prominent roles.
Daniels believes they'd bring both production and energy to the clubhouse. But if he adds Greinke and Upton to the mix, if he can retain Hamilton, he will have given his club both a new look and an infusion of talent.
Daniels long ago established himself as one of baseball's smartest executives. This latest chapter of his career may only reinforce that assessment.
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.