Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
The Texas Rangers made a surprise pick in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, normally an event that simply ends baseball’s winter meetings with little fanfare.
On Thursday at Walt Disney World, the Rangers decided they wanted some of the Wilson magic on their team and selected the former second baseman, taking him from the Colorado Rockies system. It cost them $12,000 to do so, and he goes on the club’s restricted list because he’s in the NFL.
The Rangers know Wilson is settling in to a successful career as the signal-caller for a Super Bowl contender, but they like Wilson’s character and athletic ability. Even if baseball isn’t in Wilson’s future, the Rangers want him around.
General manager Jon Daniels called Wilson — impressed that the quarterback was working out at 6:30 a.m. PT, shortly after the Rangers made the pick — and told him the club wasn’t trying to distract him from his current job.
Wilson, however, expressed a desire to come to spring training and work out.
“We talk to our scouts about the makeup we want of our players and the work ethic it takes to win, and Russell Wilson has been an example of that,” Daniels said. “He has off-the-charts character and focus.
“We want to be respectful of where he’s at right now. I got a chance to talk to him, and he was excited. We wanted to welcome him to the organization and told him, ‘Don’t be insulted if you don’t hear from us again until you’re done playing because we don’t want to get in the way of what you’ve got going on.'”
Daniels said Wilson told him he wants to come to spring training and work out and that the invite is open-ended. If Wilson wants to do more than that, he certainly can.
“Everything you see and read about him and seeing him play on Sundays, you hear about the work ethic, the person,” Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller said. “I think that’s going to be a positive message for all of our players in our system, our coaches, everybody to have somebody like that around.
“At the end of the day, if he decides it’s not something he wants to come back and do full time, just having him around, having him talk to a group, I think there’s definitely positives in all that.”
The Rangers scouted Wilson in high school and college and considered him to be an athletic second baseman. Preller described him as a player with “good hands, [is a] solid runner and a guy that we thought before the draft that could bounce around to different positions.”
“We feel like if he ever decided he wanted to come back and play again, he’d be a guy that we’d want in our system with us and see him develop,” Preller said. “The biggest thing that intrigued us on Russell from afar is the makeup. I think the way he goes about his business, the professionalism, the competitor, [that’s] the message that we try to preach throughout our organization.
“At the end of the day, he obviously has a lot bigger things that he’s working on right now and we don’t want to interrupt that aspect of it, but if at some point down the road he decides he wants to do the baseball thing again, we felt like it would be a positive to have him with us.”
Wilson was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Colorado — he was taken in the 41st round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 out of high school but opted to go to NC State — and signed with the Rockies. Once he received nearly $3 million from the Seahawks, he had to return part of his $200,000 signing bonus.
Wilson hit .229 with five homers and 19 stolen bases, striking out 118 times, in Class A in parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The Rangers’ scouting department believes strongly in acquiring good athletes and isn’t hesitant to draft some who play other sports. Texas acquired the rights to Ricky Williams from Montreal after the Expos had taken him in the Rule 5 draft in 1998, even though the Texas running back and Heisman Trophy winner was likely headed for a career in the NFL.
The team has also selected wide receiver Riley Cooper and most recently quarterback Jameis Winston, the heavy Heisman favorite who will lead top-ranked Florida State against No. 2 Auburn in the Vizio BCS National Championship on Jan. 6.