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Seager & Semien: Two 'Pillars' That Embody Rangers' New Culture

$500 million and some honest, transparent discussions made the Texas Rangers a desirable destination for two of the biggest free agents on the market.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Christmas came early for the Texas Rangers. In all honesty, it had to because of the impending lockout that is expected to begin sometime after the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association expires at 11:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday. Otherwise, a day like this would have been shelved to a later date.

All the formalities that took place on Wednesday—which included plenty of handshakes, smiles and baseball caps and jerseys worn over fine clothes—capped off a 48-hour period that's never been seen before. Not only in Texas, but in history of the game of baseball. Never before has a team shelled out $561.2 million in an entire offseason. If that kind of commitment is being made, it's probably a good idea that the conviction behind it is substantial.

On multiple occasions, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward used the term "pillars" to describe the free-agent additions of second baseman Marcus Semien and shortstop Corey Seager. That makes sense, considering general manager Chris Young used a similar metaphor when the team addressed the media at the beginning of the offseason, saying, "a lot of great things that are happening underneath the surface". Every good infrastructure needs a solid foundation.

But after that foundation is laid, it also needs a strong support system. And now the Rangers have two "pillars" to lead them into the future.

"[A pillar is] a stable force in the organization," Woodward said. "What stands out to me with Corey and Marcus is they both want to be that. They're not shying away from that. There's a lot of great players in this game that I've played with, that I've coached, that I've seen or heard about that don't want that responsibility. They'd rather just kind of do their own thing. But these guys are not only great players on the field, but off the field. They want to have an impact. When you hear a superstar player talk about building and wanting and desiring to build a championship ... [and] for us to get two in a 24-hour time period? It's pretty remarkable."

In order to find the players they truly wanted, it took more than just money-whipping them with half a billion dollars. It was about presenting them with honesty and transparency, making sure they weren't just finding the best players, but the right ones.

"The players that we have met with this free agency, we've identified as the right people," Young said. "Challenges like this aren't for everybody, but that's one of the things we asked in each meeting. We’ve laid it out. We’ve been authentic. We’ve been very transparent. We were a 102-loss team. We haven’t run from that. But we have a vision and a plan and this is how we’re going to accomplish it."

In free agent meetings, sometimes there are powerpoint presentations, pamphlets or some other tangible outline for the courted players. While the Rangers certainly provided something for players and their representation to review, the meetings were very clearly driven by honest, heart-to-heart discussions. After all, both Young and Woodward are former players. They identify with what players want to hear. Honesty was key.

“'Does this scare you? Are you afraid? Do you want to be part of this? You want to do something special that’s never been done in Texas Rangers history?'" Young said. "We knew the answer with these players before we asked the question.”

"A pillar is not something that everybody wants to be," Woodward added later. "Some people don't desire that as a great player. But these guys want that. They've come here to be that, and that speaks volumes to who they are."

Semien was the first player the Rangers met with in person. They've known him from his days with the Oakland Athletics, and see the same accolades fans can find on Baseball-Reference. But the front office was "blown away" when they walked away from their meeting. So much so, that Daniels said they identified Semien as "their guy".

"All the intangibles that we could ask for in a player and a leader, Marcus embodies," Young added. "Marcus gave perhaps the best answer [in the free agent presentations], and was all in, saying, 'I'm not afraid of that.' He's a winner, and that's why he's here."

"I was so impressed with the way they talked to me," Semien said. "They're looking for players that they want; to be part of a winning culture and winning team. Yes, it hasn't been like that for the past couple years, but let's accelerate that process."

As for Seager, it was clear that Chris Woodward was going to pound the table for him. Admittedly, he did. He coached the 27-year-old shortstop for three years in Los Angeles and knew the type of player he was on and off the field. And as they went into the meeting with Seager, Woodward hoped he would captivate the Rangers front office the same way Seager captivated him during their time with the Dodgers.

The rest is history.

"They were straight forward," Seager said. "They were very open and honest about how many games they lost and where they're at in their organization right now and what their vision is for the organization. That's something that we wanted to embrace. That's something that I enjoy—the work of it, the grind, the passion for the game; to do it the right way and to have the right people. It always comes down to people."

In addition to two pillars for their organization, the Rangers announced Kole Calhoun and Jon Gray as part of a big day in Arlington. Calhoun could be a sneaky-good signing if he captures similar form he had in 2019-20, and the Rangers believe Gray has another level he could hit on the mound.

The $561.2 million dedicated to these four players send an emphatic statement that the Rangers are focused on winning. Leashes will be shorter for certain players, and the younger players on the roster will have to learn and develop in a winning environment—just like Semien and Seager both did in Oakland and Los Angeles, respectively. And that's the duo that will support the Rangers for at least the next seven years.

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