My dad and I have decided that we’re going to Jamey Newberg’s book signing party on Thursday! We already pre-ordered the books, so they’ll be ready for us to pick up at the party. Rusty Greer, Ian Kinsler, Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, and Chris Davis will all be there to sign autographs. Yay!!
I have Rusty Greer & Derek Holland’s autographs already, but not the other 4 guys. Last year I almost got Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis’ autographs, but I couldn’t close the deal. Each player will sign up to 3 items per person, so I can get all of them to sign the book, baseballs, and Daddy’s glove. I hope it’s not too crowded. Anyway, moving on…
In another huge 3-team trade, Cliff Lee (formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies) is going to Seattle and Roy Halladay (formerly of the Seattle Mariners) is going to Toronto. The full details haven’t been released yet, but when you’re dealing with 2 high-quality starting pitchers like Halladay and Lee, the deal is sure to be enormous.
Great, that’s just what we need: for a team in our division to go into next year with Cliff Lee AND Chone Figgens.
John Lackey (formerly of the Angels) has been signed by the Boston Red Sox to a 5-year, $85 million dollar deal. That works out to $17 million per year. Yikes.
But don’t feel bad for the Angels yet. They may have lost John Lackey, but they signed DH/OF Hideki Matsui (formerly of the Yankees) to a one-year deal. Lovely.
The Rangers look like they’re in for a bumpy ride within the AL West this year.
No news on the Mike Lowell/Max Ramirez trade. Apparently it’s being held up because of all the injuries involved (i.e. Mike Lowell’s hip and thumb, Max Ramirez’s injured wrists).
After it appeared that Jim Crane had fallen out of the ownership race, he has suddenly emerged as the frontrunner. Around Thanksgiving, Crane, Gilbert, and Greenberg all submitted their original bids to buy the team.
Then they had a deadline of December 7th (last Monday) to submit bid modifications, which Gilbert and Greenberg did, but Crane didn’t. It was sort of assumed that Crane had taken himself out of the race. But then, last Thursday, Crane submitted his modifications 3 days late.
Crane’s proposal is rumored to be around $530 mil, and supposedly economics is what is driving this ownership deal. But Crane had a “handshake agreement” to buy the Astros in 2008 that fell through, and that makes Major League officials wary about him getting final approval to buy the Rangers.
Today is the deadline set by Comissioner Bud Selig for Tom Hicks to chose one bidder to go into final negotiations with. But Hicks has apparently been dragging his feet throughout this whole process, and he’s doing everything he can to try to find a way to keep the team. So he just might pick Crane to negotiate with, knowing that the deal might not go through, just to give himself more time to try to find a way to keep the Rangers. Who knows?
I have billions of questions buzzing around in my baseball-obsessed mind, all of which will be resolved at some point during the off-season, but I feel the need to get them out. Then I can cross them off when they’ve been resolved and explain the answers. So here we go!
Ownership: Who will be the new owner of the Rangers? Will Nolan Ryan still be the team president? Will Nolan Ryan be a minority owner? Will Tom Hick stay on as a minority owner? Will new ownership affect (i.e. increase) our budget for the 2010 season?
Here’s what we know: There are 3 main groups, which are fronted by Chuck Greenberg, Dennis Gilbert, and Jim Crane. Greenberg’s group has included Nolan Ryan as a minority owner, so if he wins out, obviously Nolan will have a stake in the ownership and will stay on as president. But then again, it’s possible that if one of the other groups wins out, they’ll let him in as a partial owner. It is possible that the new ownership could fire Nolan as president, but I think that’s unlikely at this point. The fans love Nolan, and it wouldn’t make a good impression on the fans if their first move was to fire him. Tom Hicks has expressed interest in retaining a portion of his ownership as well, so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. At this point, the budget for 2010 will be approximately the same as it was for 2009, so the new owners will have to meet that budget or increase it. It would be nice if we could have a little more leeway to get some big names to Texas for our playoff push next year.
Marlon Byrd: Will the Rangers re-sign him for 2010 and beyond?
Here’s what we know: Marlon says that he wants to stay with the Rangers. The Rangers want him to stay. He made a little over $3 mil in 2009, so he’ll want at least that much per year in his next contract. How much more is anybody’s guess. This is probably his only chance to negotiate a multi-year contract, and he’s probably wanting at least 3 years. But Marlon is already 32, so I’m sure the Rangers are anxious that health issues may mar his future playing time. And the Rangers don’t have a whole lot of money to throw around, so I’m sure that will affect how much progress is made towards contract negotion. But Marlon is a strong influence in the clubhouse, and Michael Young (team leader) is strongly campaigning for the Rangers to keep him. I think the Rangers will offer him something in the neighborhood of 4, 5, or 6 million dollars for the next 3 years, plus lots of incentives (i.e. bonuses if he plays at least x number of games, if he hits at least y home runs, or if he steals at least z bases, etc.). But if he wants something like $10 mil a year for 5 years, I think the Rangers will let him walk.
Ivan Rodriguez: Will Pudge be back?
Here’s what we know: The fans adore Pudge, and he said that he wants to finish out his career here. And even though he’s pushing 40, he’s still pretty darn good. He’s played on 2 World Series teams, and he has a lost of post-season experience (which the Rangers are seriously lacking). He has 13 Gold Gloves. But because of his age, the Rangers might be hesitant to offer him a multi-year contract, or to pay him a particularly hefty sum for 2010. Jarrod Saltalamacchia recently had surgery for Thorasic Outlet Syndrome, and while his prognosis looks good, there’s no telling how he’ll progress. Taylor Teagarden was unimpressive in 2009. Max Ramirez spent a lot of time on the DL in AAA. And the Rangers just outrighted Kevin Richardson to the minors. So it might be good to have him around. We acquired him as “strictly a back-up catcher” in August of 2009, but he ended up being our everyday catcher to close out the season. He made 1.5 mil in 2009. Will he accept $1 mil and a one-year contract? $5 million and a 2-year contract? We’ll see.
Omar Vizquel: Will he be back for 2010?
Here’s what we know: Omar has said that he wants to play next year, even though he’s the oldest active position player at 42 years old. He was a great mentor for Elvis Andrus in his rookie year (2009), but does Elvis still need him in 2010? He has 11 Gold Gloves, and his defensive work is truly beautiful. I swear, he looks like a ballet dancer out there sometimes! He played 63 games for the Rangers this year: 16 games at 2B, 27 games at SS, and 20 games at 3B, and he made NO errors. None, zippo, nada. That’s pretty amazing. He’s said he would be interested in returning, but he wants to shop around first.
Starting rotation: Which 5 pitchers will we go with in our starting rotation for 2010?
Here’s what we know: Ron Washington has already said that Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman have guaranteed slots next year. But the other 3 are up for grabs. The possible candidates are: Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Brandon McCarthy, Dustin Nippert, Matt Harrison, Eric Hurley, and Guillermo Moscoso. I discussed the pros and cons about all these pitchers in a previous blog. But Wash has also said he would like to obtain another veteran starter this winter. So if he does that, then there will only be two spots up for grabs, making the competition even tougher. But can we get anybody good for relatively little money? And of course, as we all know, our starting rotation can change a lot during the year due to injuries, etc. I mean, look at our poor rotation in 2009! On Opening Day, it was Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kris Benson, Matt Harrison, and Brandon McCarthy. Matt Harrison and Brandon McCarthy both went on the 60-day DL, Kris Benson was a disaster, and we released Padilla because of all his foolishness. So you never know what can change throughout the season!
Acquisitions: Right-handed bat to play 1B and DH, left-handed relief pitcher
Here’s what we know: In addition to a veteran starter, Wash also said he’d like to pick up a right-handed bat who can play 1B or DH, as well as another lefty reliever. I’ve heard Jermaine Dye’s name brought up to fill that first role, and while he is right-handed, he has played mainly in the outfield. In 2005, he played 1B once and SS once for the Chicago White Sox. That’s it. But if we keep Marlon Byrd, we may not need another right-handed bat. CJ and Eddie are our only lefty relievers at this point, and Eddie’s probably not coming back (I’ll address that later), so it would be nice to have another one.
Batting coach: Who will replace Rudy Jaramillo?
Here’s what we know: Jon Daniels and Ron Washington are supposedly “constructing a list” of candidates to replace Rudy, and they plan on interviewing about 4 or 5 guys for the position. Some names that have been thrown around are Scott Coolbaugh (Rangers AAA batting coach), Rusty Greer (former Ranger), Will Clark (former Ranger), Julio Franco (managing in Mets farm league), Gary Pettis (currently our 1st base coach), Carney Lansford (fired by San Francisco last week), Clint Hurdle (former Colorado manager), Tim Wallach (Dodgers hitting coach in 2004), Thad Bosley (hitting coach in Oakland with Wash), Gerald Perry (hitting coach for Cubs, fired in June), Greg Colbrunn (minor league hitting coach for Yank
ees), Dave Hudgens (former A’s hitting coach), Mike Boulanger (Minor League hitting coach), and Toby Harrah (former Ranger, current hitting coach for Tigers). I’m sure there are a bunch of other names too that I haven’t heard yet. So obviously, there are a lot of choices. It’s just about finding a good fit.
Eddie Guardado: Is he really retiring?
Here’s what we know: He’s definitely thinking about it. But that’s about all we know. He didn’t pitch too well towards the end of the season, so as terrible as it sounds, I’m kind of hoping he retires. He’s a free agent, and I just don’t think it’s useful to pay him a significant amount of money for just one more year when he’s at the end of his career and losing his stamina.
Outfield: What will our outfield look like next year?
Here’s what we know: Marlon Byrd (righty) is a question mark. We have Josh Hamilton (lefty), Julio Borbon (lefty), David Murphy (lefty), and Nelson Cruz (righty). We also have Chris Davis (another lefty in the lineup) as our starting 1st baseman, and Salty is a switch hitter. So we could possibly have 5 left-handed bats in a 9-man line-up. That’s not so good. Borbon is rumored to be “the center fielder of the future,” but he has a weak arm. He’s supposed to be working on that this winter, but who knows? Josh Hamilton had a spectacular 2008, but he had trouble staying healthy this year. I don’t want to lose anybody, but I have this sneaking suspicion that we’re going to trade David Murphy. That hurts me, because he’s a good Texas boy, but I just can’t shake that feeling. And I have a feeling that Nelson Cruz could be great. I’m mean he could be Josh-Hamilton-in-2008-great. But what about Craig Gentry? He was the surprise September call-up from AA. It makes the most sense that he would at least begin next year in AAA, but it’s certainly an intriguing idea. He’s a righty, with an incredibly strong and accurate arm, and he’s supposedly speedy on the bases, but he needs to learn how to bat against big league pitching.
…and that means that the Rangers are expanding to a 40-man roster! I’ve read from several sources that the Rangers are definitely adding pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Warner Madrigal, who are already on the 40-man roster. Eddie Guardado and Esteban German will also be reactivated from the 15-day DL, but they were already on the 40-man roster too. Willie Eyre (also on the 40-man) will probably be called up in a few days as well, but he was optioned to AAA last week and has to wait 10 days before being called back up.
But some other names have been mentioned that will have to be added to the 40-man roster, and I’m not sure who the Rangers are planning on dropping to make room.
Craig Gentry, an outfielder from AA Frisco, has reportedly been called up, as well as catcher Kevin Richardson from AAA Oklahoma City. And pitcher Brandon McCarthy has been on the 60-day DL (and thus not on the 40-man roster), but he’s being activated too.
So who will the Rangers drop? Thomas Diamond or Omar Poveda? They’re both AA pitchers that the Rangers have on their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Or Luis Mendoza? He threw a no-hitter in AAA a few weeks ago. Max Ramirez or Jarrod Saltalamacchia? I guess it’s possible that they could add Salty to the 60-day DL, which would drop him from the 40-man. Joaquin Arias? He didn’t do too well during his stint in the Bigs this year. Brandon Boggs or Greg Golson? Boggs has big league experience, so they’ll probably be calling him back up.
But why did they call up an outfielder from AA? I mean, sure, he’s a great AA player, but is he ready for the Bigs? We already had 5 outfielders on the 25-man roster, as well as 2 more on the 40-man and another one on the 15-day DL. Hmm…
I got this from the blog “Texas Rangers Trades” (http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/). Apparently the blog writer got to go to some kind of press conference or something about the Rangers. It was called “Newberg Report Night,” referring to Jamey Newberg. I didn’t know they had a “Newberg Report Night.” Anyway, there was some great info:
Here are some of the questions that I asked and their answers:
Q: What was the strategy of the Mariners and Reds at the trading deadline, when they both traded prospects for veterans, and then traded veterans for prospects?
A: Mariners: They have a long-term strategy, and they think that the Mariners are way ahead of where they thought they would be, although Will and Kevin are still trying to figure out the Jack Wilson trade.
Reds: They don’t understand what the Reds did with getting Scott Rolen. They said that they are confused by it and that the Reds got him because they could for a reasonably cheap price, even though Kevin wonders what it does for the team.
Q: What was the most surprising trade to you?
A: The Jake Peavy trade because nobody saw it coming and there were no rumors whatsoever. They also said that it might be the best trade and that it came so quickly, they didn’t even talk to the medical people because apparently this deal got done in minutes.
Q: What teams do you think are best at starting pitching and relief pitching?
A: Starting Pitching: Red Sox and Giants
Relief Pitching: Brewers
Will and Kevin also said that if the Rangers traded Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter, Wilfredo Boscan, and Thomas Diamond, it would be about the equivalent of what the White Sox gave up for Peavy, and if the Rangers traded Wilfredo Boscan and Tommy Hunter, it would be about the equivalent of what the Tigers gave up for Jarrod Washburn. Kevin also said that he could see Justin Smoak and Kasey Kiker coming up to the majors around this time next year.
After the Will and Kevin Q&A, Jamey auctioned off some prizes, with proceeds going to the Hello Win Column Fund. They raised thousands of dollars, which was great. There were two items that were very exciting for me personally. First, I won an inning in the TV booth with Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve! That was awesome. Second, I had donated one of the items for auction (a baseball with autographs from a lot of different Rangers players) and it went for $200.
Then, at 5:00, Jon Daniels came in and did 90 minutes of Q&A. When Jon kicked off the Q&A he said ‘I typically open up with Grant but his questions are usually a little challenging so I’m going to warm up with a few others first.’
I was able to ask the following three questions:
Q: Can you please name 3-5 minor leaguers who are most likely to be called up and have an impact on this year’s pennant race, including at least one who’s not currently on the 40-man roster?
A: ‘A handful of guys have the chance to play some role for us either as part of a September call-up or earlier. I think guys like Julio Borbon, Doug Mathis, and Guillermo Moscoso have done nice jobs while they’ve been up here. I think (Neftali) Feliz is certainly an option. Esteban German has had a very good year for us. I think he has the chance to help us in some regard. He’d be a nice guy for any contending club to have on their bench down the stretch.’ (Note that Mathis and Feliz were activated for that evening’s game.)
Q: The Rangers have managed to remove a number of players from their 40-man roster over the last couple of years, get them through waivers, reassign them to the minors, and then repurchase their contracts later to help the major league team, like Nelson Cruz and Doug Mathis. Is there a key to the timing of these moves that increases your chances of keeping the player?
A: ‘Absolutely. Nelson Cruz cleared waivers right at the beginning of the season. That’s the toughest time to claim a guy on waivers just because you have your roster set, your big league club’s set, and you’re breaking camp. Unless it’s a slam dunk upgrade, everyone just says ‘hey, let’s go with our own’ rather than taking someone else’s discard. So I think that’s probably the easiest time to slide a guy through waivers. Mathis was a non-tender re-sign. In that situation, it’s basically explaining to the player the options and, if they agree to resign with you at that point, you can give them some things that they might not get as free agents. That’s more of a leverage situation than anything.’
Q: Can you name three Rangers prospects that are not on most people’s radars who have made their way onto your radar?
A: ‘I’ll put (Jurickson) Profar on there. I’ll put Leury Garcia on there, shortstop at Hickory. And I’ll put Tim Murphy on there.’
Other interesting comments from Jon in answer to questions:
· After receiving a huge round of applause when someone thanked him for not trading some of the guys that were rumored to be traded, Jon said ‘I’ll do nothing more often. That was awesome.’
· Jon was asked why he didn’t wait a month or so to promote Elvis so that he could keep control of him for an extra year. He said that they looked at it and talked about it but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. To tell Elvis that he’s the shortstop but that they were going to wait a few weeks because they wanted to exploit his arbitration eligibility didn’t feel right. There are certain times you make business decisions and separate your emotions from those decisions, but they were telling this 20-year old kid that they believed in him and he would be a big part of the club. Plus they were telling the players on the big league club ‘Hey, trust us on this’. He felt it would have been talking out of both sides of their mouth. They would rather deal with the financial consequences than create a potentially divisive situation.
· When asked about the media not giving much coverage to the Rangers, he said that he doesn’t totally buy into it just being because Dallas is a football town. A lot of it is because the Rangers haven’t won to create the fan base and interest. He feels that the media will cover whoever the fans tell them to cover.
· They’re still watching Ben Sheets to see if he’s an option for next year.
· When asked if the starting center fielder for next year is in the organization, he said that candidates internally are Hamilton, Byrd, and Borbon. He feels that one of them will very likely be starting for the Rangers in center field next year.
· When asked why Borbon was brought up earlier this year if he wasn’t going to play, Jon said that he doesn’t completely buy into the philosophy that you shouldn’t call a top prospect up if he isn’t going to play every day. He feels that Borbon got a lot out of the experience.
· He typically goes out to see the A clubs once per year. He sees Frisco and Oklahoma City more often.
· 90% of trade rumors reported are inaccurate.
· When asked who would be called up if Salty or Teagarden were hurt, Jon said that Max Ramirez would be recovered from his injury soon. Manny Pina would also be considered, especially since he’s Rule 5 eligible this year. Richardson and Frostad could also do the job in the short term.
· Main internal candidates for the starting rotation next season are Kevin Millwood (he expects him to vest his option), Scott Feldman, Vicente Padilla (the club has an option on him), Matt Harrison, Brandon McCarthy, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter. Others in the mix are Neftali Feliz, Dustin Nippert, Guillermo Moscoso, and Doug Mathis. The position will be high on the list of priorities during the off season.
· When asked if it bothers him when a player like Halladay doesn’t want to come to Texas, he said that it does a little bit but that it’s sort of like his answer about media coverage. The team needs to win first and then people will be more i
nterested in coming here.
· The cost to put a dome on the ballpark is prohibitive plus the ballpark wasn’t engineered to facilitate something like that. There’s a company that said they can put a screen over the park to lower the temperature 10 degrees. But odds are that there’s really not a realistic option to help with the heat.
· Benoit is throwing. There’s a chance he could be back in September but it’s unlikely.
· People need to keep in mind that Josh Hamilton is still recovering from surgery.
· They’re not trying to preach a philosophy of more pitches per plate appearance. He doesn’t think that it directly correlates to success. Getting a good pitch to hit is directly correlated to success.
· They’ve discussed moving McCarthy to the bullpen to ease the strain on his shoulder. They’re focusing on a starter’s routine during his rehab, which allows them to go either way with it. He’s pitched in the bullpen successfully in the big leagues. It will depend on what their needs are when he’s ready to come back.
· They’re not sure why Blake Beavan’s velocity is down but he’s 20 years old and time is on their side. They’re going to let him keep pitching and see if it improves.
· He would be in favor of moving the deadline for signing draft picks up to June 30th. It would be a challenge to sign them quicker but it would let them have the rest of the summer to focus on other things and also let the players start playing and getting on with their development sooner.
· Chris Davis is still very much in their plans. He will be a strong consideration for a September call-up, if not before then.
· Eric Hurley’s on pace to be 100% for spring training.
· Jurickson Profar will likely be developed as a position player not a pitcher. He thinks he’ll be one of the top shortstop position player prospects in the game.
· He expects that Tanner Scheppers would start out higher than Low-A to start his minor league career.
· Right now, Chris Davis is better defensively than Justin Smoak.
Yay for Chris Davis! At least they haven’t forgotten about him!
Last night’s game summary later. They lost right at the end… boo. BUT… Neftali Feliz awed everybody with a pretty spectacular MLB debut!
I’m getting really nervous about what the Rangers are going to do before the trade deadline. The Rangers have the best farm system in all of Major League Baseball, and we certainly have a lot of diamonds in the rough. Do we trade some of our best prospects for some big-name players that could help us now? I know the Rangers have been doing a great job this year, and I would love for them to make it to the playoffs more than anything in the world. But is it really possible for the Rangers to make it to the post-season this year? Could having one more starting pitcher really vault us to the playoffs? Or should we try to cultivate our current young talent for success in the next few years?
Let’s look at some of our top prospects, shall we? We’ve got a whole lot, but I’ll just list the top ones that I know of from AAA and AA:
Justin Smoak (1B, AAA)
Neftali Feliz (RHP, AAA)
Julio Borbon (OF, AAA)
Kasey Kiker (LHP, AA)
Blake Beavan (RHP, AA)
Max Ramirez (C, AAA)
Guillermo Moscoso (RHP, AAA)
Omar Poveda (RHP, AA)
The thing about prospects is that there’s no way to know if they’ll ever fully develop into quality big-leaguers. Any one of them could sustain a career-ending injury or simply never reach their full potential. Or they could all become stellar players. You never know. Statistically speaking, though, all of the above listed players won’t come through. You’ll maybe end up with 1 or 2 truly great players, 3 or 4 solid-but-not-quite-great players, and 2-4 that either never make it to the majors or have unremarkable careers. So the question becomes: which ones do we hold onto and which do we try to trade in our pursuit of the post-season?
Of the 8 prospects that I listed, 5 are pitchers. Considering the Rangers’ recent history of crappy pitching, I’m hesitant to trade off more than 1 or 2 pitchers. We need to keep as much pitching talent as we can get. Last year we had the offense and the defense, but we didn’t have the pitching AT ALL. This year we have the defense, and the offense and the pitching are both promising but not quite there yet.
I really hope that the Rangers aren’t seriously considering Roy Halliday. Yes, he’s a great pitcher, and yes, he could help our organization. BUT, he apparently isn’t interested in coming to Texas, and we can’t really afford to offer him the ridiculously huge salary that he’s expecting. And we shouldn’t give up the prospects that the Blue Jays will want for him, either. It’s not a smart trade. Flat out.
What about Cliff Lee, you ask? Well, I’ll be honest, I don’t know too much about Cliff Lee. He seems to have a pretty decent record (not stellar, but he’s definitely no slouch). He’s been in the big leagues since 2000. And he’s 31. So will he just continue to get better, or has he reached his peak already? I wish I knew enough about him to give an educated guess to answer this question. Considering the Rangers’ rich farm system, I’m used to seeing very young players. So seeing a guy that’s already been around for nearly 10 years definitely gives me pause.
Well, it certainly is interesting to ponder all of these possibilities, but what it really comes down to is this: Ron Washington and Jon Daniels are NOT going to call me up and ask me my opinion about this. They have their own experts, who I’m sure know much more about it than I do. So whatever they do, they are definitely better informed. I’ll give them my blessing; Go With God!
Justin Smoak (1B, AAA)
Neftali Feliz (RHP, AAA)
Julio Borbon (OF, AAA)
Kasey Kiker (LHP, AA)
Blake Beavan (RHP, AA)
Max Ramirez (C, AAA)
Guillermo Moscoso (RHP, AAA)
Omar Poveda (RHP, AA)