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.”

Report: Rays acquire Lucas Duda from the Mets

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MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.

Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.

Video: Blue Jays walk off against the Athletics again, this time with a grand slam

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The Blue Jays completed a four-game series sweep against the Athletics on Thursday afternoon and won their second consecutive game in walk-off fashion. Last night, the Jays went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-0, but a two-run home run by Justin Smoak followed by a solo home run from Kendrys Morales led to a 3-2 walk-off victory.

Thursday’s game was already interesting enough as starter Marcus Stroman, catcher Russell Martin, and manager John Gibbons were all ejected by home plate umpire Will Little. Despite the adversity, the Jays battled the A’s, tying the game at four apiece when Morales blasted a solo home run — his second of the game — in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the 10th inning, A’s reliever Liam Hendriks walked the bases loaded with two outs to bring up Steve Pearce. Pearce worked the count full before pulling a fastball down the left field line for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Jays an 8-4 victory to complete the sweep.

Before Pearce, the last Jays hitter to hit a walk-off grand slam was Gregg Zaun on September 6, 2008 against the Rays, per SportsNet Stats.