Depth of system perhaps Rangers' top asset
General manager Daniels' bold approach backed by wealth of talent on farm
ARLINGTON -- Now, the Texas Rangers turn their attention to upgrading their offense. White Sox outfielder Alex Rios? Yes, he'd be a nice fit.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence? Yeah, him, too. He grew up right here and might love trying to help his hometown team win a championship.
Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales? Plenty of teams covet him, too.
Those might be the first three players on Rangers general manager Jon Daniels' list, and given the uncertainty surrounding Nelson Cruz's possible Biogenesis suspension and Lance Berkman's lingering left hip inflammation, the Rangers may try to acquire more than one hitter.
The truth of the matter is that Daniels can probably acquire any of those top three guys if the other team is interested in dealing. After all, he just landed the best starting pitcher on the trade market.
Did Daniels overpay for Matt Garza by parting with third baseman Mike Olt, pitchers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm and at least one player to be named? He may have. He'd be the first to admit as much. How do you judge these things anyway? If the Rangers end up where they hope to be, then it won't matter what all those prospects do for the Cubs in the years ahead.
The Rangers made this deal because they could -- because Daniels has built a great baseball organization. Not just a great baseball team, not just those 25 players on the Major League roster, but an organization built on scouting and development, an organization that believes everything begins with having a steady pipeline of talent flowing toward the big leagues.
To acquire Garza, Daniels had to be aggressive. Otherwise, the Cubs were going to play the market leading up to next Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Daniels had to overwhelm the Cubs and convince them there wasn't going to be anything better available later.
"What it comes down to is we had the players to do it," Daniels said. "I talk about it all the time, but the work our scouts and our player development and coaches and trainers, what they've done to allow us to put these guys in a deal and get a pitcher of Matt's caliber can't be overstated.
"Not just [giving up] these few players, but the confidence we've got that there are more coming behind them. We paid a steep price in talent to acquire Matt, but we did so knowing we've got other guys in the system because of the work of our scouts, because of the work our coaches have done. I really appreciate them."
Daniels paid a high price in 2008 when he acquired Cliff Lee for what turned out to be a four-month rental. That season was a big one for the Rangers, who won the first of back-to-back American League pennants.
Now, along comes Garza, who in his debut on Wednesday night pitched the Rangers' best game in almost a month. He went 7 1/3 innings and allowed no earned runs, leaving to a standing ovation.
"We're trying to make it to October, so every game is a big game," Garza said. "Every game counts."
The Rangers defeated the Yankees, 3-1, on Wednesday, and suddenly a shaky rotation has been dramatically solidified with the return of ace Yu Darvish and right-hander Alexi Ogando from the disabled list, plus the acquisition of Garza.
"One through 12, this might be the strongest pitching staff we've had," Daniels said.
Will pitching carry the Rangers?
"Our pitching has been leading the way all year," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I don't see why it would change now. They're the reason we're where we are."
The Rangers are in a remarkable place considering everything that has happened. They played the first half with four starting pitchers on the DL for a significant amount of time, and yet they're hanging in there, just three games behind the first-place A's in the AL West.
"I'm proud of our guys," Washington said. "Our players did it. Our coaches did it."
Now, about that offense. The Rangers are ninth in the AL in runs -- a huge reason the club is just 29-31 since a 27-14 start. What was a seven-game lead over the A's is now a deficit, but the Rangers are as positioned as well as anyone.
"We feel like we're in a good place," outfielder David Murphy said.
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.