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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.”

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.