Commentary

Next piece of Rangers' title puzzle

By acquiring Choo, GM Daniels will be big step closer to delivering a championship

Updated: December 21, 2013, 9:11 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Jon Daniels, the anti-Jerry Jones, has a ruthless pragmatism that makes him one of baseball's best general managers. He makes decisions based on logic rather than emotions -- the way the Dallas Cowboys owner tends to do.

It's the reason Daniels has the courage to make unpopular decisions, such as letting fan favorites Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler leave in the past year.

[+] EnlargeShin-Soo Choo
AP Photo/Al BehrmanShin-Soo Choo's numbers would have an immediate impact on the Rangers. He was fourth in MLB in on-base percentage (.423) last season.
It's not about what guys have done, but what they will do. There's no time for sentimentality when the goal is winning championships.

Daniels is always thinking about the next move. He can do that because he has an aggressive mentality, a well-stocked farm system and a couple of billionaire owners backing him who are intent on keeping the Texas Rangers positioned to win a title.

He showed his mettle again Saturday.

The Rangers have reportedly agreed to terms on a seven-year, $130 million deal with free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who's expected to hit leadoff and play left field for the Rangers.

That's a lot of cash for a player who turns 32 in July, but the Rangers are trying to win it all.

Now.

The Rangers have won 90-plus games each of the past four seasons, a feat only the Tampa Bay Rays can match in the American League. But they don't have the ring Daniels' covets.

They choked away the World Series in 2011 after twice coming within one strike of winning it all, and they gagged in the final two weeks of the 2012 season to blow the division lead.

Last season, they won 91 games and tied for the second wild-card entry with the Rays. They lost the tiebreaker game to become the first team in eight years to win that many games and miss the postseason.

That's when Daniels went to work.

See, he could have lied to himself and said it was a fluke the Rangers missed the playoffs. But anyone who watched last season's team play knows it had an awful offense.

Without Hamilton and Napoli, and Kinsler being inconsistent much of the season, the Rangers dropped from first to eighth in MLB in runs scored. The Rangers scored two or fewer runs in 54 games.

Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz were their only consistent power threats, and Cruz missed the final 50 games for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

The Rangers' pitching was worthy of a division champion; the offense was not. If not for a 17-2 record against the pathetic Houston Astros, the Rangers would have essentially been a .500 club.

So Daniels has gone out and fixed the lineup with a couple of bold moves.

He traded Kinsler for Prince Fielder in November, adding significant power to the lineup. The addition of Choo gives the Rangers a versatile offensive player who will enhance their lineup in a number of ways.

Choo excels in on-base percentage, finishing fourth in the big leagues (.423) last season. He stole 20 bases and hit 21 homers and 34 doubles. More than one-third of his 162 hits went for extra bases.

He is not some singles slap hitter. Choo drives the ball, having hit at least 20 homers in three of the past five seasons.

"This is how we compete," Daniels said a few days ago. "When you're acquiring a player or closing a deal, there's an adrenaline rush. You gotta make sure that's not the reason you're doing it, but it's fun to deliver a player that's going to make a difference.

"That's a joy. Any scout that doesn't get excited about a player he's going to sign or any coach who's not excited about working with a player or someone in the front office that's not excited about a deal makes you wonder. That's what we do. It has to play out on the field, but it's fun."

Choo should give the Rangers an offense worthy of winning a championship this season. Or next season. Or the one after that.

No team is significantly better than the Rangers in the American League. But winning the offseason, as we've seen, means nothing; the Rangers must prove it on the field. Choo will help them do it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES