Only 24 hours earlier, a general manager had told a national sportswriter that Jon Daniels held “the keys to the deadline.”
Apparently he lost them.
Believe it or not, Lance Lynn is still a Ranger. Which, granted, might seem silly to complain about in one sense, given Lynn’s performance, salary and historical standing among the club’s best pitchers ever. I mean, I love Lance Lynn. Who wouldn’t want an ace like Lance Lynn, right?
Turns out several teams wanted him.
Just not enough to suit Daniels.
“If there was an overwhelming deal out there,” he said at a news conference after the deadline, “we probably would have made it. But I would not have been proud of some of those deals had we made them.
“And I don’t think our fans would have been happy about it, either.”
Oh, Jon, you don’t want to go there. Check your Twitter feed. It’ll set your hair on fire.
Fans labor under the impression this team isn’t good, and there’s not much on the horizon, either. They don’t need an expert to tell them this. Even the DoppelRangers can see it. Seems like the Rangers could, too.
Except Daniels — who has never liked the R-word, rebuild – doesn’t seem exactly sure what kind of team he has on his hands.
Trade Mike Minor for less than what you could have gotten last year, and keep Lance Lynn?
Isn’t the organization straddling a fence?
“Yeah,” Daniels said, “I think that’s fair.”
Give him points for honesty, anyway.
The problem with not knowing where you are is that it leaves open the question of how you get where you want to be. Even my maps app asks my current location. Either you’re in or you’re out. You can’t allow yourself to be stuck in the middle, but that’s where the Rangers are. Daniels acknowledged that the payroll will be less next season than it was this year, so no significant help is coming through free agency. The Rangers’ best prospects aren’t ready yet, either. If no help is on the way, then, it wouldn’t take much to strip it bare, sink in the standings and pile up a couple years’ worth of top picks.
But it requires guts to take that slash-and-burn approach, especially when you’re taking a beating on lost ticket revenues this year and you’re hoping to recoup some of it at the gate if fans are allowed to come back next season. It’s hard to market an abomination even with a shiny new stadium as a backdrop. The promise of air conditioning will only get you so far.
Basically, the Rangers figured that whatever they could have gotten for Lynn, it wasn’t worth giving up a guy who’ll eat innings, work cheap, set a fine example for the kids on the staff and give the club one day out of five when it won’t be embarrassed.
Frankly, those reasons aren’t good enough to pass on a deal now. Daniels didn’t have to win a trade, a complaint lodged against him by rivals early in his career. He just needed to make a fair one. Check the deal with Philadelphia for Cole Hamels. None of the guys he gave up became stars to rival Hamels, but several were serviceable. Meanwhile, Hamels only lasted a little more than two seasons in Arlington, but he fronted the rotation on a pair of division winners.
If you asked me to rank that deal now, I’d call it a push. And that’s good enough.
Consider what Cleveland got from the Padres for Mike Clevinger, the only starter on the market considered better than Lynn. A.J. Preller didn’t give up a top five prospect, but Cleveland still reaped a nice return from one of baseball’s best systems.
Maybe Daniels wasn’t offered anything close to Cleveland’s deal. Organizations operate by different rules in this sawed-off season. Some question what a guy making a half-dozen starts can do for them this year.
And what if something happens with the pandemic and there are no playoffs at all?
Daniels said he concluded several inquiries with assurances that they’d talk again in the off-season. See what the market bears then. No, teams won’t be as motivated without the adrenaline rush of a pennant race. But the market will be broader in scope this winter, a time when most teams strive to fill their fan base with a little hope.
Which is exactly what an ace making just $8 million can do for an organization.
Except in Arlington, a club going nowhere Monday because it couldn’t find its keys.
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