The trade of Cliff Lee to the Rangers in 2010 was the lynchpin of that team making the World Series. The trade of Matt Garza in 2013 was a dud that Rangers General Manager, Jon Daniels has publicly said may come back to "haunt him." The trade for Harold Baines in 1989 ended up being a disaster.
The common denominator in these trades and others is the young talent Texas has traded away. Over the years there are all-star players around the league that were once in the Texas farm system. Adrian Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa and Wilson Alvarez come to mind. All three were also traded for veterans before becoming big league regulars. All three became all-star caliber players. There are many others who may have not reached all-star status but have been very good players.
After the 2013 season, Jon Daniels made the statement that the front office was going to reevaluate trading young players for veterans. With Leury Garcia, Mike Olt and CJ Edwards now on other teams, reevaluating the process of trading young players for “rentals” would be a smart move. There are times when the trade is the right move for the club, as in the Cliff Lee deal. It’s easy to second guess any GM in the game, however the new market efficiency seems to be to hold on to the younger kids and see if they can develop.
Look around the league at the successful teams and you’ll find that most, not all, follow the formula of developing young players and keeping them in the fold unless it’s necessary to move them, for a variety of reasons. Tampa Bay, Detroit and St. Louis have had success as of late and they are loaded with players from their own farm systems.
On the flip side, the Yankees are about signing high priced veterans and putting a team together with cash. The Yankees modus operandi is strange, simply for the fact that Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada were key members of championship teams and were all groomed in the Yankee farm system and they have gotten away from that model of success.
Having your own player be successful at the Major League level is a financial bonus, as well as a control bonus. Mike Trout will make a million bucks this year. On the open market he could get somewhere around $30 million per year. The Angels will eventually have to cough up that money, if they can, but Trout is under club control until the end of the 2017 season, while the Rangers have Jurickson Profar under control until 2019. LA will eventually sign Trout to an extension and buy out his remaining arbitration years, but they can choose to keep the status quo and not do that.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been the leader in buying out players’ remaining years of arbitration and rewarding them with a new contract and the Rangers have followed suit. Martin Perez signed a club-friendly deal this offseason that did just that. Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison have all been signed prior to them reaching free agency.
Buying out arbitration years is a positive move for a couple of reasons. It rewards the player for performance and shows them that the club is willing to move into the future with them on the team, the club gets more years from the player without worrying about losing them to free agency, and it generally locks up that player at a discounted rate. The risks are injury and ineffectiveness, just like any prospect or veteran. Matt Harrison, for example, has been injured, but at the time it was the smart move. A move that Jon Daniels would do again.
Trades are necessary in baseball. Mike Olt, for example, was blocked in Arlington by Adrian Beltre at third base and Joey Gallo is in the minors as possibly the future at third for the Rangers. Leury Garcia, who was dealt for Alex Rios was blocked by the log jam of Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar at the time. The Rangers, in the minds of many, would have not made the 2010 World Series without the Cliff Lee trade. Some trades work out, some do not (i.e. the aforementioned trade for Garza, who is now a Brewer after going 4-5 with a 4.58 in less than half of a season).
While Andrus, Harrison and Neftali Feliz were not "homegrown" by the Rangers, it shows that you can build your team by getting young players in exchange for veterans. The Houston Astros are building their team this way and their farm system is talented and deep. Sustained success is geared toward youth.
The injuries suffered by the Rangers this spring pose an interesting question: Would the Rangers be better off with Leury Garcia at 2nd and Michael Choice in the outfield, or are they better with Alex Rios (who was traded for Garcia) and Adam Rosales filling in for Jurickson Profar? Again, hindsight is 20/20, but it's an interesting question.
Keeping young talent is the wave of the future and the Rangers have a bright future. If Jon Daniels can refrain from getting trigger happy at the trade deadline for the sake of trading players, then the window in Arlington should be open for a long, long time.