The Texas Rangers franchise hasn't exactly been known for its success. The Rangers have never won a playoff series in their entire history, dating back to 1961 when they were the Washington Senators. In fact, the Rangers have only ever one one playoff game. However, things are starting to change in Arlington.
The general manager of the Rangers, Jon Daniels, took over for John Hart (who loved every pick of the draft this year) after the 2005 season. Daniels' early tenure was marred by failed trades, most notably when he traded away Alfonso Soriano, Adrian Gonzalez, and Chris Young in two seperate deals and only managed to get back Brad Wilkerson, Akinori Otsuka, and Adam Eaton. That's quite the downgrade.
However, the Rangers would turn the page and soon after began to build on what currently looks like a future powerhouse. After letting type-A free agents like Carlos Lee, Mark Derosa, and Gary Matthews Jr. leave to get extra draft picks, the Rangers made a new commitment to investing in the draft and scouring Latin America for young players. They also traded away their older and more expensive players for cheap young talent. This began with the massive haul they received for Mark Teixeira (Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones) but they also received key players in the Kenny Lofton and Eric Gagne deals. Most people thought it would take another year or two for the Rangers to turn things around, but they've already shown that they can win their division this year.
Jamey Newberg of the Ranger's blog "The Newberg Report" chronicles what it takes to build a successful franchise and how the Rangers five step plan was put into action.
1. Divest at The Top: The Rangers traded away older players for young prospects under team control.
2. Reinvest at The Foundation: The Rangers let type A free agents leave, aggresively signed the top draftees like Justin Smoak, Derek Holland, and Taylor Teagarden (they also drafted Tanner Scheppers in the supplemental first round this year even though he will want top dollar), and invested in marquee Latin American talent.
3. Accelerate, challenge: Let the young players play and develop. The Rangers made the tough decision to move Michael Young to 3rd to make room for top prospect Elvis Andrus start at shortstop in 2009.
4. Lock in the core: They've locked up their young players like Ian Kinsler and Blalock and have had discussions about giving Josh Hamilton an extension.
5. Bang. This is the one step the Rangers have yet to address as of yet but they could start as soon as this year. They have lots of spare young players that can be used as trade chips if they feel they need to upgrade and should have payroll flexibility in the coming years to sign free agents.
Note the similiartities to the success the Dodgers are enjoying. A commitment was placed on developing young talent, and with the help of Logan White the Dodgers cultivated one of the best minor league systems in the game. While Ned Colletti was conservative with the young players, they were eventually put in positions where the team was dependant on their success. And as the young players started to grow, veteran talent was brought in from outside the organization to support the young core in the form of Derek Lowe, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson, etc.
This plan is really the basis for all successful organization, and it is one the Dodgers must not abandon as they finally start to bear the fruits of it. They need to continue to emphasize obtaining young, talented players, locking them up to keep their salaries down (Billingsley, Kemp, Ethier, and Broxton should all be approached about extensions in the offseason), and filling in the weak spots through free agency. The Dodgers are blessed with being in the second biggest market in the country, but if they become overly reliant on spending money in free agency it will eventually negatively impact the team.
The Rangers are a dangerous looking team already, currently in first place with a 34-25 record. But this is just the beginning. They have a deep, talented young roster, a stacked farm system, and a front office committed to winning. With the way both franchises are looking, I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers and Rangers meet up in October some time in the not too distant future.