John Hart’s Cleveland resume is unimpeachable. But his stint with the Rangers, from 2001-05, was marked by bad investments and weak drafts
In 2001, the Rangers drafted middle infielder Drew Meyer over Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher and Denard Span — all chosen later in the first round. Top to bottom, the 2001 draft was a disaster.
Hart’s first big trade wasn’t much better: Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese. In 10 years with Cleveland, Hafter hit .278 with 200 homers and a .890 OPS. Diaz was a back-up catcher near the end of his career while Drese’s brief MLB career ended with a 5.31 ERA.
He redeemed himself the next year, swapping Ugueth Urbina for a trio of prospects that included Adrian Gonzalez.
Hart’s second draft was better — John Danks, Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman remain relevant 10 years later — but his final two were as bad as his first. In 2004,he selected pitcher Thomas Diamond, whose MLB career consisted of 16 games with the Cubs. Among those taken after Diamond in the first round: Neil Walker, Jered Weaver, Billy Butler, Stephen Drew, Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes. Another pitcher, Eric Hurley, was chosen 30th overall as a compensation pick; the Rangers could have drafted Gio Gonzalez, Huston Street, Yovanni Gallardo, Hunter Pence or Dustin Pedroia, all taken in the second round.
A year later Hart drafted John Mayberry ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza and Colby Rasums.
Fortunately the Braves have put together an outstanding supporting staff in scouting and player development, so don’t look for that pattern of bad drafts to continue.
I’m not forgetting Hart’s signature moves in Texas: the trade of A-Rod to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and the signing of free agent Chan Ho Park to a 5-year, $65 million contract. Park won 22 games as a Ranger.
But longtime Rangers beat writer Evan Grant reports Hart’s “hands were effectively tied” during his first couple of years in Texas.
“(Former owner Tom) Hick handled several of the big-ticket free agent negotiations that ultimately proved fruitless (such as Chan Ho Park) and then was left to oversee a team that continuously scaled back payroll for the last half of his tenure.”