Building A Foundation: Texas Rangers Win 2023 MLB Organization Of The Year


The 2020 Rangers entered the shortened, 60-game season with hopes of contending for the American League playoffs.

They were built on pitching, or so they thought, and would need some veteran bats to help eke out just enough runs. By mid August, with the trade deadline looming, the Rangers were an average club.

Average was good enough for club officials to weigh the merits of acquiring help that would get the Rangers into the expanded, eight-team AL postseason field. But Texas collapsed in the week prior to the deadline, making the front office’s decision easy.

Rather than retooling for 2021, though, Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels decided it was time—past time, really—to blow the whole thing up.

The Rangers weren’t good enough. Their farm system wasn’t good enough. And they hadn’t played well enough for four seasons running to convince ownership that the World Series was just a high-priced free agent or two away.

It was time to rebuild, starting immediately and with no deadline to complete the project. 

That deadline is clear today after the Rangers’ dominant October performance.

The Rangers won the 2023 World Series in five games against the Diamondbacks, just two years removed from losing 102 games. Texas lost another 94 games in 2022. Preseason expectations for 2023 were modest. The Rangers were projected to finish around .500, plus or minus a few games.

They finished well on the plus side. The Rangers are the 2023 Baseball America Organization of the Year.

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Texas headlines our December-January double issue, which also features AL Top 10s and more BA awards.

The executive who brought it across the finish line, general manager Chris Young, wasn’t even with the organization when Daniels created the blueprint. Young didn’t tear it up. Instead, he followed it to a T. He rebuilt the farm system, added talent through under-the-radar acquisitions and eventually spent the big bucks.

“It started way before me,” Young said, humbly. “There are people in our organization who have made great decisions for a period of time. And I came in at a moment in time where things were, in my opinion, on the up. 

“It may not have shown record-wise, but there was a foundation built by Jon Daniels, commitment from ownership with (owner) Ray Davis and many others within the organization.”

The splashy signings always grab the spotlight, but the Rangers’ 2023 success is also built on player development and some savvy work by their professional scouts. It takes the entire group of executives, scouts and coaches to overhaul an organization.

Much like gutting a house for renovation, the Rangers’ rebuild wasn’t pretty. Most good players were shipped away in 2020 and 2021 for young talent, but there weren’t many quality veterans to trade.

In December 2020, shortly after Young was hired, the Rangers acquired righthander Dane Dunning from the White Sox for veteran Lance Lynn and added first baseman Nathaniel Lowe in a six-player deal with the Rays. In February 2021, the Rangers traded veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus to the Athletics for a package that included young catcher Jonah Heim.

A few days later, they picked up reliever Josh Sborz in a trade with the Dodgers after Los Angeles had designated him for assignment. The Rangers also had some good fortune when no team claimed an outfielder they had DFA’d named Adolis Garcia.

“We don’t always make good decisions,” Young said. “Nonetheless, sometimes you have some luck.”

The Rangers weren’t built to win in 2021. At best, they were built to occasionally be competitive while attempting to develop young talent in the major leagues. Among their 102 losses were losing streaks of 12 and nine games.

They dealt Joey Gallo, their best player, at the 2021 trade deadline for four Yankees prospects, including infielders Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran; and dealt Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy, their best starter and reliever, for young pitchers who have not developed.

The 102 losses might not have been part of the plan, but the Rangers found out what they had and didn’t have in the organization—and what they needed to target in the offseason. They needed everything and aimed high to get it.

Daniels, Young and former manager Chris Woodward met with all-star shortstop Corey Seager, the 2020 World Series MVP for the Dodgers, and Gold Glove-winning second baseman Marcus Semien. The Rangers were honest with both free agents, acknowledging the season they just had and that the immediate outlook wasn’t particularly sunny, but that winning wasn’t far off.

The signings shocked the baseball world, with Seager and Semien leaving winning clubs for one of the game’s worst. Both players were sold on the plan, though the $325 million Seager received and the $175 million for Semien were strong selling points. 

Big Bets Pay Off For Rangers

Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray delivered on baseball’s biggest stage.

“A lot of it was C.Y. Just the way he laid it out,” Seager said. “He didn’t hide from anything. He didn’t shy away from anything. He knew where they were, and he knew where they wanted to go.”

As forecasted, 2022 wasn’t much better. The Rangers lost 94 games, and Semien and Seager struggled at times. Another offseason acquisition, righthander Jon Gray, was felled by nagging injuries. But Lowe, Heim and Garcia showed progress, along with homegrown center fielder Leody Taveras.

The losing seasons served a purpose with individual development.

“Looking back, I think some of that is where we were as an organization in terms of allowing these guys the runway to go out and fail and have their moments,” Young said. “They went through tough times, they faced adversity and they were able to fight through it.”

Changes also swept through the club during a three-day span in August 2022. Woodward was fired as manager despite not being dealt a winning hand for three straight seasons. Daniels, one of the longest-tenured executives in the game, also was dismissed.

That left Young in charge to make a managerial hire in the offseason and to continue adding talent to the roster. He coaxed future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy out of retirement to become manager and hired pitching coach Mike Maddux for his second go-round with the Rangers.

Young pulled another stunner when the Rangers signed righthander Jacob deGrom, the oft-injured two-time Cy Young Award winner, on a five-year $185 million pact and followed it up four weeks later by signing another righty, Nathan Eovaldi, for two years and $34 million.

“Just the reputation he has within the industry as a winning player, I think that’s what stood out the most,” Young said of Eovaldi. “He’s performed at the highest level, on the biggest stage. He’s been in big markets. He’s performed.

“But we also knew what kind of teammate he is, how he makes the guys around him better. His work ethic is as good as it gets.”

Amid all the high-priced signings, the Rangers’ draft luck was changing, which helped them rebuild their farm system. They placed 26th in organizational talent rankings ahead of the 2021 season and peaked inside the top 10 in 2023.

The silver lining to rebuilding is a series of high draft choices, which the Rangers used on righthanders Jack Leiter (2021, second overall), Kumar Rocker (2022, third overall) and Brock Porter (2022, fourth round) and outfielder Wyatt Langford (fourth overall, 2023).

Texas’ 2019 draft produced third baseman Josh Jung (eighth overall), and the five-round 2020 draft gave the Rangers the prospect inventory to trade for lefthander Jordan Montgomery to bolster their 2023 stretch run. Righthander Tekoah Roby (third round) and second baseman Thomas Saggese (fifth round) were shipped to the Cardinals.

But the star of that 2020 draft class is Tennessee high school outfielder Evan Carter, whose selection in the second round was initially panned. But Carter reached the big leagues in September, shortly after turning 21, and was one of the Rangers’ most important players in the postseason.

“It’s been a very mature approach at the plate for such a young hitter,” Semien said. “I remember when I was his age, still in the minor leagues, I was still trying to figure things out. A lot more swing-and-miss. 

“I think he’s learned a lot from what we talk about in spring training as a group. How he’s implemented it. I think he has qualities that we want here.” 

The Rangers also regained some traction in Latin America, where they spent lavishly a decade ago. They signed Venezuelan outfielder Anthony Gutierrez in 2022 and Bahamian shortstop Sebastian Walcott in 2023. They traded Top 100 Prospect Luisangel Acuña, a Venezuelan shortstop signed in 2018, to acquire Max Scherzer from the Mets for the last half of 2023 and all of 2024.

The improved farm system also helped them land Bochy. He was playing golf and going fishing and spending time with family whenever he pleased, but he missed baseball.

Bochy wanted another World Series and picked up the phone when Young, one of his former players, called with a sales pitch. It didn’t take long for Bochy to be sold, especially once he gauged the readiness of the farm system.

Bochy’s three championship teams—the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Giants—were built on homegrown talent.

“How you not only win but sustain winning is those kids come up through your system, and I think they’ve done a great job on their draft and developing these young kids and you’re starting to see it,” Bochy said during his introductory press conference in October 2022.

“So I think that’s what excited me as much as anything is what can happen even beyond next year.”

The Rangers are built to continue winning, which was the idea behind the rebuilding plan. Seager has eight seasons remaining on his contract. Semien has five. Heim, Garcia and Lowe are all in tow through 2026.

Jung placed fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting and enters his second full MLB season in 2024. Carter still has rookie status. By the time Scherzer, Eovaldi and Gray hit free agency, the Rangers hope they can entrust a few internal options with rotation spots. 

Leiter and Rocker could be candidates. So too could 2019 sixth-round lefthander Cody Bradford and 2018 second-round righthander Owen White, both of whom made their MLB debuts in 2023.

The Rangers will continue to be active in trade discussions and on the free agent market. Davis has already said more World Series are coming to Globe Life Field.

“We have the luxury in this market to be aggressive in free agency, and our ownership has given us tremendous support,” Young said. “We’ve been able to accelerate the rebuild through that.”

Accelerate is the key word. Young and Bochy admitted they didn’t expect to reach the World Series this season, but the Rangers believed they had a chance to compete for a postseason spot. Their window to win the World Series was about to open and would stay open.

The Rangers were the No. 5 seed in the American League after finishing in a first-place tie in the AL West at 90-72 but losing the tiebreaker to the Astros. But Texas played like a No. 1 seed  in the postseason.

The Rangers swept the Rays in the Wild Card Series, then swept the Orioles in three games in the Division Series. They needed seven games to dispatch the Astros in the AL Championship Series, winning Games 6 and 7 on the road to do so.

Garcia was the MVP of the ALCS, with a record 15 RBIs. Seager was the World Series MVP with three critical home runs. Carter reached base in all 17 postseason games as the Rangers went 13-4 in October, including 11-0 on the road.

Those three players alone underscored the Rangers’ success in various acquisition pools. Garcia, purchased from the Cardinals in December 2019, was a pro scouting success story. The emergence of Carter is a testament to Rangers amateur scouting and player development. Seager is a product of financial muscle and vision. 

Young followed the blueprint he inherited when he joined the organization late in 2020. There is much more to the Rangers franchise than payroll. They are built to last with a strong farm system, a belief in player development and a trust in the scouting department.

“It’s not about the high-dollar signings,” Young said. “It’s all about all the other players who often are role players and are also winning pieces who have come in trades (and) player development, international signings, stuff like that. There’s not one way to do it.”

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