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Thursday, July 31, 2014
To compete with A's, Rangers must do more

By Calvin Watkins

The Oakland Athletics made a daring move, one Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels wished he could have made, but couldn't due to injuries and ineffective play, on Thursday afternoon.

The Rangers own the worst record in baseball, so making a trade to upgrade the current roster is pointless.

Needing more pitching for the pennant chase, the Athletics acquired one of the best pitchers in the game in Boston's Jon Lester and gave up a young outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes. The small-market Athletics most likely are renting Lester for the stretch run to cement themselves as baseball's best team.

Even Seattle made a move, acquiring outfielder Austin Jackson from the Detroit Tigers.

The AL West was all about moves at the deadline with the exception of the Rangers. All Daniels could do was watch the proceedings without reaching deals to trade outfielder Alex Rios and reliever Neal Cotts.

Daniels did point out the Rangers made two trades in acquiring minor league pitchers who should compete for roster spots within a year or so.

As for the Athletics, Daniels' club will face them seven more times, including a four-game set at Globe Life Park to end the 2014 season. Those games, at least the seven with the AL West leading A's, are meaningless for the Rangers from a standings perspective. All that's left is to evaluate the young talent Daniels plans to give manager Ron Washington.

"I love to see teams go for it," Daniels said. "I sure wish I was in that position right now. That's not been our mindset when you get it in front of you to take a shot. I admire the clubs that are doing just that."

The Athletics already have a powerful starting rotation, something the Rangers saw over three days last weekend in Arlington. In the short-term, the Rangers shouldn't be worried about the Athletics with this Lester deal.

Concern about the future is something at the front of Daniels' mind.

Injuries to key players such as Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando, Geovany Soto, Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar, Engel Beltre, Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers have sapped Daniels of the power he needed to compete this season.

Losing a power hitter in Fielder added more pressure to the lineup and not having Holland, who could return in September from knee surgery, as a No. 2 starter forced young pitchers to perform at the big league level before they're ready.

While the Astros are utilizing their best young talent, Daniels said he will do the same for the rest of 2014 and in the early stages of next season.

He doesn't have much choice given the moves made by the front office last winter.

Finding another quality starter is a must and he noted the Rangers tried to do that in the last few days before the trade deadline.

Is there another power hitter at the Winter Meetings to be had in December?

Is it worth picking up the option of Rios instead of possibly getting him through waivers and trading him?

Too many questions and not enough answers in a lost season for the Rangers.

"The health factor is real," Daniels said. "You're talking about some major contributors, guys expected to be major contributors that we got to get right. You know the list. I think even before looking at positions, we got to get more consistent production out of our own guys. We got to play better baseball and I think we have played better baseball over the last two weeks since the break (5-8). That's a good thing. It's got to continue.

"We got to get our core players to produce at their custom levels. We have some work to do this fall and winter in terms of lining things up and evaluate which of our young players are going to be ready to contribute and looking at potential acquisitions in a couple of different areas."