2011 Organizational Rankings: #7 Texas

After reaching the World Series last season, it’s easy to forget about all the struggles the Rangers have had in the past 11 years. After winning the AL West in 1999 with an impressive 95 wins, the Rangers spent the next the next nine seasons wallowing in mediocrity. They always had a good offense and never lost more than 91 games in a season, but until 2009 they only had one season where they finished with above a .500 record.

Over the past few years, though, the Rangers have gone through a transformation: their major league team is the strongest in the AL West, their minor league system is much improved, and they finally have a new ownership in place that has already expanded their payroll.

Present Talent – 83.33 (8th)

Rangers Season Preview

Future Talent – 80.0 (16th)

Rangers Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 83.46 (5th)
Baseball Operations – 84.17 (8th)

Overall Rating – 83.08 (7th)

The Rangers have always had a good offense; until recently, though, they’ve never had a strong enough pitching staff to complement that offense. Pitching well in the Ballpark In Arlington is no small feat – it’s a very hitter-friendly park – and the Rangers compounded their problem by filling their past rotation with names like Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, Vicente Padilla, Ryan Drese, Rob Bell, and Rick Helling. In fact, the 2010 club scored 29 fewer runs than the lowest scoring Rangers team from 2000-2008; their success stemmed from their pitchers, who allowed 100 fewer runs (or more!) than any of those clubs.

Due to some shrewd trades and free agent signings (and a minor league system that was rated 4th best in the majors in 2008), the Rangers have a core in place that should be around for multiple years going forward. Nelson Cruz is under team control through 2013, while Josh Hamilton is signed through 2012. Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis both have affordable team options for 2013, and Adrian Beltre is signed through 2015. And if you want to start talking about young talent…well, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland, and Elvis Andrus aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. With a core this talented and affordable, the Rangers are in a good position for the future.

Of course, the Rangers do have some dangling bad contracts that hurt their flexibility. Michael Young’s contract is looking less and less attractive every day (signed through 2013 at $16 million per year), especially now that he’s splitting time at first base and DH. Also, Scott Feldman looks less likely to repeat his “breakout” 2009 season now, as he posted a 4.73 FIP / 4.69 xFIP in 2010 and is starting this season on the DL. He’s only owed $10 million through 2012, though, so his contract extension at least isn’t that damaging. And with the new ownership in charge of the Rangers, these contracts aren’t nearly as damaging as they’d be on some other clubs.

In fact, the Rangers’ new ownership situation already appears to be making a significant difference. Past owner John Hicks defaulted on a loan in early April of 2009 and put the club up for sale shortly thereafter, so there was plenty of financial uncertainty circling around the team. Who would buy the club? How would they run it? Would they be willing to invest money in the team’s payroll, or no? While Chuck Greenberg has now left new ownership team due to differences with Nolan Ryan (and rumors that he was trying to butt into baseball operations decisions), the club appears to be in very good hands. The Rangers had kept their payroll around the $55-65 million range for the past seven seasons, but Ryan has already increased that to around $85-90 million for 2011. Also, and possibly most importantly, Ryan has signed GM Jon Daniels to a four year extension and stated publicly that:

“With the team of people we have in place, I’m not a micromanager. I really believe in hiring good people and allowing them to do their jobs. So it will definitely be a joint effort, not only in the front office, but as it’s been in the baseball department.”

Daniels took over running the Rangers before the 2006 season, making him the youngest GM in baseball at the time (although also newly appointed Andrew Friedman was only a year older). He had a bit of a learning curve and certainly made some early trades that didn’t work out (trading away John Danks and Adrian Gonzalez for peanuts smarts a bit), but his overall track record is very positive and he’s made it clear that he values advanced statistical analysis. During his time with the Rangers, Daniels has restocked the minor league system, built a strong pitching staff, and turned the Rangers into a team built for long-term success. His work this past season might be his pièce de résistance: working through the swirling financial issues, Daniels struck gold with Colby Lewis, switched C.J. Wilson to the starting rotation, and managed to swing a trade for Cliff Lee. He got the Rangers to the World Series, which is no easy feat even under the best of financial circumstances.

The Rangers are in a very good place at the moment. The back end of their pitching rotation is a bit weak and they’ll need to get creative if C.J. Wilson leaves via free agency after this season, but they are still well situated to compete for many years in the future. The AL West isn’t the strongest division at the moment, and the Rangers appear to have both a smart ownership and baseball operations team in place to fill any holes that may develop in their squad. Rangers fans, be glad – ownership switches don’t always have this happy of an ending.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


51 Responses to “2011 Organizational Rankings: #7 Texas”

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  1. Nom Chompsky says:

    A bit lower than I would have the rangers, but I have more faith in their Future Talent than you guys seem to.

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    • JBImaknee says:

      I think the future talent ranking is fair – it is a middle of the road system.

      My only real quibble is with the front office ranking. One has to consider what JD & his excellent cohort of talent evaluators were able to do last year with absolutely no help from ownership. I know JD had a rough start, but (in my completely biased opinion) it is hard for me to believe that there are 7 organizations that have better front offices at the moment.

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      • Mike K says:

        Texas is 8th with an 84.17 ranking. Oakland is 6th with an 85.0 ranking. There’s really very little separating them.

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  2. WonkoTheSane says:

    So the Rangers are in worse shape now than they were a year ago? Or did FG have Texas too high in 2010?

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    • bill says:

      Kind of makes sense – their younger guys got promoted, they lost some assets to trade for Cliff Lee, etc, some of their good players are getting more expensive and older.

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    • Mike K says:

      One of the nice things about having a number-rating on the teams going forward. We can tell if the FG staff feels a team took a step back, or if other teams improve more. Which could be the case here.

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  3. philkid3 says:

    I don’t get how a new TV contract, a World Series appearance, and stabilizing ownership causes a drop of three slots.

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    • descender says:

      Trading away future talent, worse depth in pitching by losing Lee, 2 starters who played over their heads last year.

      There are plenty of reasons.

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      • John says:

        I’m guessing the 2 starters are C.J. and Colby (though it could be Hunter). If you’re talking about Colby, I really don’t understand why. I know the talent isn’t the same, but he’s had 3 great seasons in a row. No reason to think he can’t do it again.

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      • Todd says:

        CLee was not with the Rangers last year when these rankings were done.

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      • descender says:

        Yes Todd, but Smoak et al were, and that’s part of the reason why the Rangers were ranked higher last year.

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      • descender says:

        Basically they lost their prospects AND what they got for the prospects. Double whammy.

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  4. Nick V says:

    Are there really 7 teams with better current talent than the Rangers? Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Phillies…Braves? Twins?

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  5. Or says:

    Yeah, hard to see how the Rangers aren’t higher.

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  6. Xeifrank says:

    I have Texas at #5. Solid pretty much across the board.

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    • Matt says:

      Thanks for keeping us updated. The first thing I do when they post another ranking, before I even read the article, is to double check how it compares to your ranking.

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      • Xeifrank says:

        Oooh, seems I have a troll. If you don’t like what I post, just ignore it. Atleast I have put in some work and have something to offer. Y Tu?

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      • descender says:

        I have Texas at 11. How do you like that?

        If you don’t qualify your opinion with a “why” no one will ever listen to you.

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  7. Steven Ellingson says:

    I’m going to make a guess that Tampa Bay goes next. I don’t think they would if it was chosen by one person, but with this system I could see it. They have to be at almost the bottom in finances, so even if they’re top 5 in the other three I could see that dropping them to 6.

    The obvious next choice would be Minnesota, but I could see Tampa, or Atlanta, or Philly going next.

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  8. drivlikejehu says:

    The way the rankings are done this year, as I understand it anyway, you can’t really say ‘they should be a few spots higher.’ The overall ranking is just the added results of the individual categories. I would put them higher in ‘future talent’ and thus probably have them a couple spots higher, but the overall ranking isn’t unfair or anything.

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  9. JMS says:

    Yeah I see it as 6. TB 5. Minn 4. Atl 3. Phi 2. Boston 1. NYY

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  10. Xeifrank says:

    So who will be the lowest team on this list to make the playoffs this year. Guesses?

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  11. Therm Here says:

    Did anyone else worry that Cameron was going to try and give the rangers the #6org curse?

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  12. Aaron W. says:

    5th in financial resources? Dallas is great and all, but a ~$90 MM payroll in the good league? And yet the Chicago White Sox are tied for 9th in FR with a ~$125 MM commitment?

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    • Telo says:

      That was going to be my question, too. Not sure how you get to 5th. I guess they are considering budget efficiency, but that gets pretty sloppy. It should be purely spending power. The other factors (ability to wield bankroll, player value) should be incorporated elsewhere in the system.

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    • Rodney says:

      Well, there is the little thing that the two main investors are worth $1+Billion each, and also the new TV deal, which is guesstimated at 10 yrs, $1.5B.

      Admittedly I am a Ranger fan, but attendance/TV revenue/ad revenue/season tickets sales are way, way up over previous seasons.

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      • Aaron W. says:

        The owners’ worth is irrelevant until that wealth is committed to the team. There are lots of rich owners that *could* spend a bajillion dollars on their baseball team, but they aren’t likely to. If the Ranger payroll ever does jump 20%, then we’ll talk. The fact that the owners MIGHT commit a bunch of extra money to the team is a non-factor.

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  13. Jared says:

    I think you meant Tom Hicks, past owner, not John Hicks.

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  14. Sam says:

    “Due to some shrewd trades and free agent signings (and a minor league system that was rated 4th best in the majors in 2008), the Rangers have a core in place that should be around for multiple years going forward.”

    —————-

    Present Talent
    Texas: 8th
    Seattle: 25th

    Minor League Ranking
    Texas: 8th
    Seattle 16th

    So Texas has a vastly superior squad for 2011, a much better minor league system, and their core is locked up beyond 2011. Yet…

    Future Talent
    Texas: 16th
    Seattle: T-5th

    Can anyone explain this?

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  15. MH says:

    As has been discussed/criticized ad naueseum, future talent is judging justthe minor league system, as rated by only 2 people. So the difference between T-5th and 16th is actually not nearly as big as it would seem. The individual team prospect write-ups and rankings were done a differently and separately than the Org ratings, which explains the disagreement between Seattle>Texas in this but Texas>Seattle in the minor league prospect write-ups.

    I’d be interested in seeing an aggregate-type rating for minor league/farm system/future talent in the future. Use the team ratings from F (from one or both prospect guys), and BP, and Klaw’s, and BA’s, and John Sickels, or some combination. That way there is more input and spread of teams and avoids the bunch up like we got this year.

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    • Sam says:

      I’d love to see someone from FG clarify this regarding future talent. If it’s just for minor leaguers, I don’t understand how Seattle could have moved from 16th to T-5th, assuming that the guy who did the original rankings was one of the two guys who did the future talent rankings. There’s simply no reasonable argument to be made that only 4 teams have a better farm system than Seattle.

      ————–

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2011-organizational-rankings-introduction/#comment-611530

      Dave Cameron says:
      March 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm
      Future talent includes anyone under club control beyond 2011, regardless of their major league experience level.

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  16. CircleChange11 says:

    Due to some shrewd trades and free agent signings (and a minor league system that was rated 4th best in the majors in 2008), the Rangers have a core in place that should be around for multiple years going forward. Nelson Cruz is under team control through 2013, while Josh Hamilton is signed through 2012. Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis both have affordable team options for 2013, and Adrian Beltre is signed through 2015. And if you want to start talking about young talent…well, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland, and Elvis Andrus aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. With a core this talented and affordable, the Rangers are in a good position for the future.

    When I read this, my mind jumps to the realization that the Blue Jays’ front office is rated higher than the Rangers, even though you just told me that the Rangers went from bad to “good position for the future” … while TOR just saved some money by getting rid of a bad contract.

    TEX looks like it just made a similar move as BOS did in ~2004. TEX went from bad to “could rule the division for the next 2-4 years”.

    Texas, like Colorado, is not a team that I follow closely. But man, both organizations don’t seem to be getting enough credit for the moves they have made. The ‘Texas Turnaround’ has been outstanding, Michael Young’s contract aside (who didn’t think that Young was going to be really good for a decade?).

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  17. Anthony says:

    The Dallas-Fort Worth area is the 2nd fastest growing metroplex in the nation and the 4th biggest in the US. Dallas is insane about sports and they now have an amazing front office. That’s how their financial resources are so high.

    In Texas they love winners, they will support this team. I would not be suprised to see Texas win the division 5 years in a row. OAK is financially crippled, LAA is clogged down and will have to develope talent, SEA is poorly run. I love this team.

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