The Big Five with … Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels

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Editor’s note: Tony DeMarco is a contributor to NBCSports.com who has been covering the big leagues since 1987. He’ll interview a guest during each day of the World Series for HardballTalk.com. Here is the first installment:

SAN FRANCISCO — Jon Daniels has been on the job since October of 2005, and remains one of the youngest general managers in the game at age 33. Few would argue his strong candidacy for MLB’s Executive of the Year award as the Texas Rangers have reached their first World Series.

Daniels preferred not to rank the top five developments that got the Rangers where they are. (Although through a smile, he did admit that acquiring Cliff Lee ‘is in the conversation.’)

So we took care of the rankings, and let him provide the commentary:

Beating the New York Yankees to the punch in acquiring Lee: “We credit that to the prospects we had, no doubt. Everything in this game is competition. Between the lines, obviously. But other teams decided they liked our prospects better than our competitors’. And that’s why we got (Cliff) Lee — and (Bengie) Molina. That’s a great endorsement. We’re nowhere without our scouts and our (minor-league) coaches.”

Signing Vladimir Guerrero away from the division-rival Los Angeles Angels: “We’ve competed against him. We’ve been on the wrong side of his heroics for a long time. We had a feeling after meeting with him in January that he was motivated. He knew some people were questioning him, and thought maybe he was on the decline. He felt like he had something to prove.”

Moving C.J. Wilson to the rotation: “C.J. had always wanted to do it, and a few guys in the organization had a vision of what he could do as a starter. Nolan (Ryan) hasn’t been too hands-on with the players, but C.J is one guy he’s had a significant impact with. They have developed a relationship, and he told C.J what kind of adjustments he was going to have to make to succeed.”

The quick rise to stardom of shortstop Elvis Andrus: “He’s 21 years old. How good can he eventually be? I don’t know. We wanted to get more athletic. We wanted to better support our pitching staff. We wanted to be more aggressive on the base paths. He brings an element in each of those categories. He’s been big for us. I don’t ever thing he’s going to be a power hitter, but he’ll eventually show more power than he did this year.”

The emergence of Rookie of the Year candidate Neftali Feliz in the closer role: “We didn’t move C.J to the rotation knowing what Feliz could do. I’d say those were separate deals, because we didn’t make Feliz the closer role coming out of camp. Frankie (Francisco) was the closer, and within a week or so, Feliz took over.”

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.