Unkempt.

Because I’m in the final stages of workup for tomorrow night’s Book Release Party, I had no plans to write today.  The queue includes blank-so-far reports on Delino DeShields Jr., Kyle Blanks, and Kyuji Fujikawa, but after writing eight times in the space of five days last week, I needed a break from the keyboard.  I’ll get to those stories soon.

I couldn’t stay quiet this morning, though.

Late in the day Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) reported that the Padres and Rays were “discussing [a] significant trade [involving] a number of players,” with “Wil Myers [the] main piece going to San Diego.”  

Dozens of impassioned media tweets later, Jeff Passan (Yahoo!) dropped this one: “[The] sense among those in the know is that while Padres-Rays deal involving Wil Myers is straight-up, players dealt could be on the move again. . . . Could be a similar situation to what happened with Andrew Heaney: traded to one team, onto another.  GM’s these days [are] always five steps ahead.”

If A.J. Preller is really about to land Myers, his trade for Matt Kemp makes more sense.  I didn’t like the Kemp deal for San Diego, but I love the idea of buying low on Myers (ESPN’s Buster Olney: “For those wondering why the Rays would make Wil Myers available in trade: He’s been much more inconsistent than Tampa Bay thought he would be”), a move that would fit for that club with or without Kemp.  And as long as Kemp isn’t going to be asked to anchor the middle of the Padres’ lineup alone, I dislike that trade for them less, and adding five years of Myers to five years of Kemp — especially if the Myers deal doesn’t force San Diego to move Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner — starts changing the look of that club significantly. 

As for Passan’s suggestion that there could be a third team involved, maybe it’s Texas, maybe it’s not, but I’m not so sure it’s San Diego who would be doing the flipping.  Buying low on Myers, and keeping him, is exactly what that team should be doing.

Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) doesn’t necessarily agree, proposing the concept of one buy-low asset swapped for another: 

So, let’s just speculate a bit.  What the Padres need more than another corner outfielder is a shortstop.  You know who has an extra young shortstop and needs a corner outfielder?  The Texas Rangers.  You know where A.J. Preller just worked, running the international scouting department when Jurickson Profar was signed as a 16-year-old?  Yeah, the Texas Rangers.

Completely speculative, but perhaps the Padres are looking to acquire Myers because Preller knows that Jon Daniels wants him to play right field, and will give up Profar and some other of Preller’s old favorites.  Given the injury problems Profar has suffered, I find it unlikely that there would be a one-for-one trade, but I could see a situation where the Padres are trading prospects to get the guy that gets them Profar.

Maybe.  

Doubt it.

Daniels hasn’t made a Kemp-level move and isn’t rumored to be zeroing in on a Myers-level move, despite having a much deeper farm system than Preller, but as we’ve talked about for years, having players like Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara and Chi Chi Gonzalez and Jake Thompson seems to have the unwanted effect of making it harder to lock other teams in on players like Luis Sardinas and Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson and Luke Jackson and Hanser Alberto, a group that I’d put up against the prospects the White Sox gave up for Jeff Samardzija, for instance, but then again I’m not crazy about trading for one year of a number two starter — especially one who spent lots of time pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Or moving a frontline prospect for Howie Kendrick, or Jimmy Rollins.  

Or prospects on the first tier or the second or the third for Josh Hamilton, a player Rosenthal reported yesterday the Angels have had “exploratory talks” with the Rangers and Padres about, talks that “did not gain traction.”  (MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez: “Sources tell me the Josh Hamilton return to Texas via trade with [the] Angels talk was a two-minute conversation and not something [the] Rangers pursued.”)  

Or Gonzalez and Josh Morgan for one year of Justin Upton, a trade that Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) proposes, and not just because it would seem to be awkward to make Morgan a player to be named later for the entire first half of the season, as he would need to be procedurally.

Those things have as much chance of happening as Jon Heyman’s suggestion that Max Scherzer lands in Texas, which he calls the righthander’s number three “potential landing spot,” behind the Yankees and Cardinals.  The Rangers aren’t going to drop $200 million on anybody.  They’re looking to improve on the trade market instead.

Unfortunately, the way the trade market has developed, prospects don’t appear to be the game’s lead currency at the moment, as two dozen teams appear to be convicted about their chances to compete for at least their league’s second Wild Card spot.  And the Rangers don’t have the depth in young, impact, Major League-ready players to trade (compare what Arizona got from Boston for Wade Miley), unless they’re willing to move Odor.  (They better not be.)  

Texas will have more leverage in July, when the trade market is flooded with 5+ pitchers and bats, and the teams trying to move them will be punting, looking not to October, but to 2016.  The Rangers’ prospects will carry more value then.  Even those on the second tier, and the third.

I’m not sure if it’s fairweather to abandon what had been your second-favorite team, but I’m realizing now that the reason it was Tampa Bay for me the last few years wasn’t Longo or Zobrist or David Price, but instead two other guys who are no longer there, one now running baseball operations in Los Angeles and the other the dugout in Chicago.  

But, hey, maybe the Rays are getting Tyson Ross and three Padres prospects in this Padres deal and are flipping two of the kids plus Zobrist to Joe Maddon’s Cubs for Javier Baez (in spite of Passan’s belief that the Nationals are the third team), and then I’ll keep my seat on the lightly populated Tampa Bay bandwagon.   

Believe me, I’m hoping my first-favorite team is working on another trade, whether it’s for a number three starter or a number five hitter, and I don’t think Texas had the right pieces to get the Dodgers to pay Matt Kemp down as much as they did, though I’ll wonder if the Rangers could have built a package of non-Odor/Gallo/Alfaro/Mazara/Gonzalez/Thompson prospects for Myers that would have interested the Rays — or Nationals — as much as whatever San Diego is apparently parting with out of its weaker system.

I also didn’t think Kemp was the right move for the Padres, until now.  Assuming they aren’t moving Ross or Cashner, my understanding of what they appear to be doing isn’t quite as disheveled anymore.

AJ Myers

Details for Thursday night.

The book release party is this Thursday night (December 18) at Sherlock’s in Arlington, starting at 6:00 pm.  Admission is free.  Here are the details:

*     The party is at the Arlington location of Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub & Grill, at 254 Lincoln Square (817/226-2300), a few blocks west of Globe Life Park.

*     Our autograph guests will be lefthander Derek Holland, bench coach Steve Buechele, righthander Jake Thompson (expecting you Rockwall-Heath and DBat guys to come out and represent), Frisco manager Joe Mikulik, former Ranger outfielder Jason Botts, and Rangers field reporter Emily Jones.  The autograph line will get moving at 6:00 pm, but you can arrive earlier if you’d like.  We’ll plan to be at Sherlock’s until 9:00 pm.

*     Please note that some of our autograph guests may not be able to stay until 9:00.

*     There will be a set-up when you arrive where you can donate toys and books (new and unwrapped, appropriate for ages newborn to 12) to the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive, and another table where you can buy 2015 Newberg Report Bound Editions.  (I’ll also have some of the 2011 and 2012 World Series editions on hand, plus some copies of the 2005 book, which has Botts on the cover.)

 

*     You will receive a raffle ticket for every five toys or books you donate.  You will also receive a raffle ticket for every Bound Edition that you buy at the event.  (If you bring 2015 Bound Editions that you’ve already bought and received, show them and you’ll get a raffle ticket for each of those as well.)

*     We can take cash, checks, and credit cards.  The 2015 book is $25.  The World Series editions are $20.  The 2005 book is $15. 

*     You can bring your own stuff to get autographed, but please limit it to two autographs per baseball guest as you go through the line.

*     At about 7:30, we’ll take a short break from autographs to conduct a quick raffle.  Autographs will resume after that.

The raffle items:

* An 11 x 14 of the photo featured on the book cover, signed by all four players (Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams)

2015 -- Newberg-Report-Bound-Edition-cover_front-small

(that main photo is the one that photographer Walt Barnard got the guys to sign)

* Two Globe Life Park stadium seats from the 2011 World Series season, each mounted and accompanied by a matted photo of the Ballpark (two separate winners)

* Two autographed 2012 Bowman Chrome Rougned Odor rookie cards (two separate winners)

* An autographed Robinson Chirinos 8 x 10

* An autographed Luis Sardinas 8 x 10

* An autographed Gabe Kapler 8 x 10

*     Throughout the evening, Ben Rogers of 105.3 FM The Fan will emcee things, which will include interviews with our guests.

 

*     Once the autograph line subsides, we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A/roundtable discussion.

 

Don’t hesitate to bring the kids — the room will be non-smoking Thursday night.

[A couple unrelated things: (1) If you can’t make it to the party, you can still order immediate delivery of the 2015 Bound Edition by clicking here, or by going to www.NewbergReport.com and clicking the “Order Now” button under the image of the book cover; and (2) if you’re doing any of your holiday shopping at Amazon, there’s a way to help us out a bit at zero cost to you.  Near the top of the front page of www.NewbergReport.com is an Amazon.com button.  If you click it, any purchases of any kind you make on that visit to Amazon will kick a small referral fee to the Newberg Report (at no cost to you), which we’ll use to help upgrade our own product.]

See you Thursday night.

Ups and downs: The Rangers trade for Ross Detwiler.

Going into their historic teardown season of 2007, and as part of the reason Jon Daniels and Thad Levine pushed ownership for it, the Rangers had enviable firepower in the amateur draft, owning five of the first 54 picks, the result of strategically offering arbitration to free agents they knew wouldn’t take it (Carlos Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., and Mark DeRosa).

None of the five players Texas drafted in that first and supplemental first round are still with the organization.  Four were traded in pennant races deals (Blake Beavan to Seattle in the 2010 Cliff Lee trade, Michael Main to San Francisco in the 2010 Bengie Molina trade, Tommy Hunter to Baltimore in the 2011 Koji Uehara trade, Neil Ramirez to the Cubs in the 2013 Matt Garza trade).  In terms of their asset value, each was traded on the way up — with the exception of Hunter, whose effectiveness and role with the Rangers had clearly receded.

The fifth, Julio Borbon, was, like Hunter, lost on the way down.  He reached the big leagues after just 206 minor league games, put up a tremendous .790 OPS as a rookie, and never came close to replicating it.  He made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster in 2013, because Texas couldn’t option him for a fifth season (a fourth in AAA), but when a fifth starter was needed a week into the schedule, the club purchased righthander Nick Tepesch — a 2010 14th-rounder — and designated the 2007 first-rounder Borbon for assignment.  

The Cubs claimed Borbon, designated him for assignment themselves in August, got him through waivers and outrighted him to AAA, and left him not only off the 40-man roster that winter but off their 37-man AAA roster as well, and the Orioles used a pick in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft to bring him over for 2014.  He spent the whole season in AAA, and is now a minor league free agent.  As far as I can tell, he’s still out there, looking for a AAA opportunity somewhere for 2015.

Earlier in that 2007 draft, the Nationals sat at pick number six.  Baseball America predicted hours before the first round got underway that they’d land high school third baseman Mike Moustakas.  At four, the publication had the Pirates taking Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler, who BA suggested would be a consideration for Kansas City at number two after Tampa Bay went with David Price at the top.

The Royals took Moustakas, the Cubs took Josh Vitters, the Pirates took Daniel Moskos, and the Orioles took Matt Wieters, and the Nationals, with players like Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward, Rick Porcello, Devin Mesoraco, and Jarrod Parker still on the board, took Detwiler.

The lefty’s 10th pro appearance came in the big leagues, just three months after he signed for $2.15 million.  After that 2007 season, BA suggested that, “[w]ith a chance for three above-average pitches [a four-seam fastball touching 95-96/two-seamer with darting armside run and power sink, a hard-breaking spike curve, and high-70s change with late fade], Detwiler has a chance to be a legitimate ace.”  In projecting four years ahead, the publication crystal-balled that Detwiler would be Washington’s number one starter — with Jordan Zimmermann slotting at number five. 

After the 2008 season, BA wrote that Detwiler, and not Zimmermann after his own AA season, had “the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system.”

Detwiler would split 2009 between AA, AAA, and Washington; 2010 between High A, AA, AAA, and Washington; and that 2011 season — when he was projected by Baseball America to be the Nationals’ ace — between AAA and Washington on a fourth option.  He finished the season strong, holding opponents to a .252/.297/.358 line (2.88 ERA), and headed into 2012 out of options but firmly in the plans.

He was solid that year and especially good down the stretch, posting a 3.63 ERA and .223/.294/.378 opponents’ slash in August and September as the Nationals earned the franchise’s first playoff berth since the Expos were 24 years away from no longer being the Expos.  He got the ball in Game 4 of the NLDS, in what has been called the biggest start in Nationals playoff history, and he helped Washington stave off elimination as he and Cardinals righthander Kyle Lohse battled head to head in a 1-1 game that Jayson Werth eventually ended on a walkoff homer in the ninth.

Detwiler injured his back two months into the 2013 season.  It cost him some velocity, and a lot of time.

Washington traded for Doug Fister that winter and saw enough in Tanner Roark late the previous summer to insert him into the 2014 rotation.  Those two, Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez made 149 of the club’s 162 starts.  Detwiler worked all year in middle relief.  

Until the playoffs, at least, when the Nationals left him off the roster altogether, even though he’d been much better in the second half than fellow bullpen lefty Jerry Blevins.

And then the Nationals traded the 28-year-old, on the way down.

Read a few articles about Detwiler and you’ll get a sense that he never got comfortable mentally as a reliever, even though his career numbers are better in that role (.672 OPS vs. .749 OPS) and even though his left-on-left split (.607 OPS, compared with .777 against right-handed hitters) certainly supports the concept of using him as a weapon out of the bullpen.  

Maybe the opportunity to start again, which he’s now going to get after the Rangers acquired him on Thursday for two prospects who spent 2014 in High Class A, right-handed reliever Abel De Los Santos and second baseman Chris Bostick, will set the stage for a resurgence out of Detwiler, not to mention the fact that he stands to be a free agent for the first time next winter.  Maybe this change of scenery and change in roles is exactly what Detwiler needs, and maybe Texas will benefit from those things, by design.

For what it’s worth, in this year’s book I have De Los Santos (who was draft-eligible but not selected in yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft) ranked number 31 in the Rangers system (12th among right-handed pitchers), and Bostick — who came over from Oakland a year ago with Michael Choice in exchange for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom — as the organization’s number 39 prospect (seventh among middle infielders, behind Travis Demeritte, Hanser Alberto, Michael De Leon, Odubel Herrera [who was lost to Philadelphia in the draft], Josh Morgan, and Yeyson Yrizarri).  

De Los Santos has a chance to be a bullpen weapon, but there are stacks of righties ahead of him in the Rangers’ pecking order (and others coming behind him as well).  Bostick will be 22 when the AA season gets started — he’s older than Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas and a few weeks younger than Jurickson Profar — and though he has a chance, he hit .251 with Myrtle Beach, struck out 116 times, and is limited defensively to second base.  

That’s a pair of prospects the Rangers could arguably afford to lose (and the absence of whom shouldn’t hinder any other trade opportunities) — though of course the same was certainly said about Roark, when Texas traded him (and fellow righthander Ryan Tatusko, who is now pitching in Korea) to the Nationals for Cristian Guzman in July 2010, a few weeks after trading far more heralded and, now, far less accomplished righthanders Beavan and Main.

When news came down after the draft yesterday that Texas had acquired Detwiler for a minor league second baseman and reliever, I tweeted: “Infielder other than Hanser or De Leon?  Reliever other than [Keone] Kela or [Corey] Knebel?  Hope so.  I like Detwiler, but holding breath a bit.”  

I can live with De Los Santos and Bostick for Detwiler and a roll of the dice.  Maybe he’s the key starting pitcher pickup (along with Colby Lewis) for the off-season, maybe he’s not.

I haven’t seen ESPN/XM’s Jim Bowden, the former Nationals GM who drafted Detwiler, weigh in on the trade, but Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) did — “Thought [the] Rangers did well to get Detwiler.  Got buried with [the] Nationals.  Texas likes [the] idea of left-handed sinkerballer with [Adrian] Beltre [and Elvis] Andrus on [the] left side.” — and so did Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) — “Nice move for [the] Rangers to get Ross Detwiler on the cheap.  They view him as a starter, so he’ll be happy with the deal, too.” 

At somewhere in the $3-4 million range, I know I’m less concerned about this move than I would have been giving $9.5 million to Justin Masterson, or four years and $55 million to Ervin Santana, or two years and $20 million to Jason Hammel.  I would have loved to get Brandon McCarthy back here, but at four years and $48 million that’s a deal nobody figured he was in line for, and with Masterson getting what he got (the deal could be worth as much as $12 million if he hits workload incentives), the market for the remaining free agent starters certainly isn’t coming down.

Anthony DeSclafani-plus for one year of Mat Latos at close to $10 million — would I have wanted that deal if it meant Chi Chi Gonzalez or Jake Thompson or Luke Jackson was going the other way?  Absolutely not. 

Prospects for Alfredo Simon?  No thanks.

Could Texas have competed with Yoenis Cespedes-plus for Porcello?  Don’t see how.

Andrew Heaney from the Marlins?  Sure, but Texas didn’t have a Dee Gordon or a Howie Kendrick to get that done.

I’m not expecting Ross Detwiler to start the biggest playoff game in Rangers franchise history.  But if he gives this club 160 innings, create further depth to do other things, and help Texas get from Point A to Martin Perez, I see no problem in parting with a pair of third- or fourth-tier prospects to get this one done. 

Sometimes trading for a player on the way up doesn’t work out (Beavan, Main).  Sometimes it does (Ramirez).

Sometimes, as with Hunter, trading for a player on the way down can pay off.  And given the level of risk involved in moving what Texas moved in this case, this strikes me as not a bad chance to take on a guy though not long ago to be on his way to a career that promised major impact.   

The buzz of the Winter Meetings, and the whirr.

I was at the University of Texas in 1988, a resident assistant at the Castilian and days from my second year of fall finals when Major League Baseball convened in Atlanta for the Winter Meetings.  I won’t say that the Meetings weren’t front and center on my mind, but (1) the Rangers had just lost 91 games and finished 33.5 games out of first in the West — their worst deficit since the club’s inaugural 1972 and 1973 seasons; (2) there was only so much coverage to be gathered from the day-late Dallas Morning News and the three daily lines devoted to each team in the USA Today, and we were still a couple years away from Frank Deford’s The National and more than that from the Internet (at least as far as my own awareness was concerned), which meant my world wasn’t yet opened up to the cornucopious awesomeness of dial-up Prodigy; and (3) I was in college. 

Maybe if I’d known then what I know now, that a month before those Meetings, Rangers GM Tom Grieve offered the Yankees a package including Pete O’Brien, Jose Guzman, and Mitch Williams for Don Mattingly, or that short-lived New York GM Bob Quinn tried to get Grieve to tack on Steve Buechele, Bob Brower, and two prospects in an expanded deal that would include infielders Mike Pagliarulo and Bobby Meacham from his end, I’d have been a lot more fired up in the days leading up to December 3, having lost some amount of sleep over the thought of the Topps artists getting their airbrushes primed, but alas, my Twitter follows amounted then to zero.

We weren’t aware then of the Mattingly possibility (or news of it hadn’t traveled to Austin, at least), and so my dormant 19-year-old baseball brain was blindsided by the most awesome Winter Meetings ever, as Grieve, frustrated by Quinn’s constant waffling, turned his attention elsewhere and traded Williams, Curtis Wilkerson, Paul Kilgus, Steve Wilson, Luis Benitez, and Pablo Delgado to the Cubs for Rafael Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer, and Drew Hall (December 5); traded O’Brien, Oddibe McDowell, and Jerry Browne to the Indians for Julio Franco (December 6); and signed free agent Nolan Ryan, who was being chased by the Astros, Angels, and Giants (December 7).

If there were a Newberg Report then, it would have imploded without me ever getting around to the note that Grieve threw Quinn a bone by sending him Brower (who would get 69 more big league at-bats) for Meacham (who would get none), or that the Rangers believed they came close — almost immediately after acquiring Palmeiro and Franco and Ryan — to picking up Reds first baseman Nick Esasky for reliever Dwayne Henry (who had fanned nearly 12 batters per nine AAA innings that season, though for the fifth straight year he’d appeared in the big leagues without success).  (Cincinnati would trade Esasky days later to Boston in a three-for-three deal — and he went on to have his career year, hitting 30 homers and driving in 108 runs with an .855 OPS, earning a top 20 MVP finish.)

The flip side of anticipating nothing and getting your doors blown off is when your team is perennially in contention, your front office is perennially aggressive, Twitter exists, and the baseball media tags your team as “running the Winter Meetings” . . . and then very little happens.

Of course, “winning the Winter Meetings” is even less meaningful than winning the winter, and so while a Mason Tobin pickup might headline your official Meetings activity (December 2010), signing Adrian Beltre four weeks later and trading Frankie Francisco for Mike Napoli three weeks after that doesn’t make those two pickups any less awesome just because they didn’t come down in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The year after that, Jon Daniels wasn’t invited to take the podium on his home turf at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas when Baltimore conveyed unprotected infielder Greg Miclat to Texas after he slid through the Rule 5 Draft, to complete the trade that sent catcher Taylor Teagarden to the Orioles for minor league reliever Randy Henry.  The key work Daniels and his crew did that week, while the Angels were winning the Winter Meetings by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson (en route to what would be a third of four straight seasons missing the playoffs), was selling Ray Davis in Dallas and Bob Simpson in Fort Worth on the idea of going very large on a blind bid for the rights to negotiate with a Japanese righthander they believed could break the mold as far as Asian pitchers coming to the States were concerned.

(They were right.)

Truthfully, Daniels typically doesn’t make a huge splash during his four-day hotel stay.  Here’s what he’s done in his nine Winter Meetings (excluding the minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft, except where notable):

  • Dec. 5-8, 2005: Traded Alfonso Soriano to Washington for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga, and Terrmel Sledge; traded Esteban German to Kansas City for Rule 5 Draft pick used on lefthander Fabio Castro (White Sox); selected outfielders Alexi Ogando (Oakland) and Jayce Tingler (Toronto) in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 Draft
  • Dec. 4-7, 2006: Re-signed free agent Vicente Padilla
  • Dec. 3-6, 2007: Traded Freddy Guzman to Detroit for Chris Shelton
  • Dec. 8-11, 2008: Selected infielder Guilder Rodriguez (Milwaukee) in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 Draft
  • Dec. 7-10, 2009: Signed free agent Rich Harden and acquired Clay Rapada from Detroit for future considerations; traded Kevin Millwood and cash to Baltimore for reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named later — identified as minor league left-handed reliever Ben Snyder at the completion of the Rule 5 Draft, after Baltimore selected him from San Francisco
  • Dec. 6-9, 2010: Sent cash to Cubs for Rule 5-drafted righthander Mason Tobin (Angels)
  • Dec. 5-8, 2011: Received Miclat from Baltimore to complete the Teagarden trade
  • Dec. 3-6, 2012: Signed rehabbing free agent reliever Joakim Soria, and acquired righthander Coty Woods and lost first baseman Chris McGuiness in the Rule 5 Draft
  • Dec. 9-12, 2013: No action (other than acquiring quarterback/second baseman Russell Wilson in the AA phase of the Rule 5 Draft)

The bulk of the Rangers’ winter work during the Daniels Era has come before the Winter Meetings (Joe Nathan, Prince Fielder, Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom for Michael Choice and Chris Bostick, J.P. Arencibia) or afterwards (Beltre, Napoli, Yu Darvish, Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis, Shin-Soo Choo, Vladimir Guerrero, John Danks-plus for Brandon McCarthy-plus, lots more).

But I’m no less stoked for the Winter Meetings, which get underway this morning, in spite of the evidence and of the common omission (this year) of the Rangers from everyone’s list of clubs expected to rock the world.

The Padres, this year’s hosts, are said to be in heavy on Matt Kemp or perhaps Yoenis Cespedes, and yet Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) suggests “[o]ne possible match” that would send that club in a different direction altogether: “[The] Padres need [a] shortstop.  [The] Rangers have [a] surplus — and San Diego’s [A.J.] Preller knows their players well.  [Jurickson] Profar [a] possibility?”

And that’s not nearly all we’ve heard in the last half a news cycle.

*  Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) shares a comment from Daniels that not only reinforces the unlikelihood that he goes big during the Meetings themselves but also suggests the club’s big splash may not happen this season until July, if at all: “It’s something we’ve talked about a lot.  Before we jump out and add a ‘finishing’ type piece, I’d like to see where we are with our core players.  Is it prudent to be a little more conservative right now and add some pieces to the core and still maintain our flexibility?”  Grant’s interpretation is that unless Fielder, Choo, and Tanner Scheppers bounce back in 2015, perhaps loading prospects up now for a one-year piece like righthander Jordan Zimmermann or outfielder Justin Upton “would be short- and long-term wastes.”

*  Grant believes the Rangers’ primary target could be Padres righthander Andrew Cashner, who has two years of club control remaining and is primed to earn $3-4 million through the arbitration process in 2015.  As Grant points out, the Rangers’ desire for an established, controllable starter (and perhaps a tandem catcher) and depth in frontline prospects, the Padres’ extreme familiarity with those young players, and Cashner’s apparent interest in playing in his home state of Texas could line the two teams up on a deal — but you would think that assumes San Diego doesn’t instead go big on someone like Kemp (the club already loaded up for Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas, falling short), in which case it would seem less likely that the Padres would trade Cashner at all.

*  Rosenthal hears that the Nationals are renewing efforts to lock Zimmermann up long-term.  A failure to reach a deal could lead Washington to trade the 28-year-old and pursue free agent Max Scherzer.

*  Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM), who predicts Texas will be a “7” (out of 10) on the “aggressiveness scale,” lists outfielders Kemp (whose contract, according to Jim Duquette [MLB Network Radio], is not insured), Cespedes, and Upton, righthander Jeff Samardzija, and catchers Miguel Montero and Jason Castro as possible trade targets for Texas, not to mention free agents Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Delmon Young, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Geovany Soto, Gerald Laird, and McCarthy.

*  Bob Nightengale (USA Today) thinks Kemp will “definitely be traded,” and said on MLB Network last night, flatly: “I think Kemp goes to Texas.”  Nightengale considers a Kemp-for-Profar deal a “perfect fit.”  (I’d suggest the pesky financial side of that deal would be not-so-perfect).

*  Nightengale suggests the White Sox are the frontrunners to trade for Samardzija.  Oakland, having traded Addison Russell in its July deal to acquire Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, would seem very likely to target White Sox shortstop prospect Tim Anderson.

*  Rosenthal believes Seattle is “serious about Melky” Cabrera even though Nelson Cruz is already in the fold for a lot of years.

*  According to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports), the Yankees and Rangers discussed Elvis Andrus before New York completed its trade last week to acquire shortstop Didi Gregorius from Arizona.

*  Will Carroll (Bleacher Report) tweets that the “Angels seem to be the team everyone is saying is active early at the Meetings.  Early buzz for them and [the] Marlins.”

*  Heyman reports that the Angels are making C.J. Wilson available on the trade market, perhaps to set themselves up to jump in on one of the big free agent starting pitchers.  Mike DiGiovanna (Los Angeles Times) notes that Wilson can block trades to eight clubs.  According to multiple local reports, Texas isn’t interested in reacquiring the 34-year-old, who is due $18 million in 2015 and $20 million in 2016.

There’s a lot more where all that came from, and thanks to Twitter and MLB Network (TV and radio), the rumors will be flying faster than any of us can track, and that’s a pretty great thing about the off-season in The Great Game, especially these next four days, even though 95 percent of what we hear will never get closer to actually happening than Don Mattingly to the Texas Rangers, 26 years and a month ago.

It’s all good, because sometimes it’s the less flashy things that ultimately do come together, and even if we don’t see them coming — and even if they may not seem like it at the time — it can be those moves that we end up talking about decades later.

Almost makes me want to go fire up the beep-buzz-hiss-scratch-whirr of the dial-up so I can pull up the Prodigy bulletin board and see what’s gone down or, more likely, been trial-ballooned in the last few hours.

Almost.

 

 

Winning by losing.

So as rumors swirled Tuesday morning that Texas was the favorite to sign Torii Hunter on a one-year, career-finishing deal — which ultimately didn’t happen — and I began to accept the apparent reality that the 39-year-old was going to be the one big off-season addition to the offense, what had previously been an elusive feel for what I was hoping to see the Rangers do this winter suddenly came into focus.  

I felt with conviction that Hunter would fill an important role in the clubhouse, but less so between the lines, and when it looked yesterday like he and the Rangers were at the altar, I wasn’t feeling better about 2015.  

That doesn’t mean I would have been right about it, but a Rangers team with Hunter as the added bat seemed like one that could absolutely return to contention — with so many impact players returning to health — but not one all that easy to envision getting to the ALCS.  And success for this franchise is now measured in pennants, not playoff appearances.  

Of course, add a number two starter to the mix, and I would have reserved the right to feel much better about this season even without a major offensive upgrade, especially considering the fact that Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo and Jurickson Profar should give the club a boost at the plate just by being ready to go.  That would be true, for me, even without bringing in another everyday bat — and chances are there still will be a hitter brought aboard, though it won’t be Hunter.

But still needing that frontline pitcher to join Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, here’s where I am: 

I don’t want to trade for a one-year rotation piece unless the deal fits one of two categories: (1) it involves prospects (or big leaguers) who wouldn’t project to be core guys here; or (2) the pitcher would likely have large July trade value in case the season goes south.

Nomar Mazara in a deal for Ian Kennedy?  No, thanks.  

Jake Thompson-plus for Mike Leake?  Pass.  

Alec Asher, Hanser Alberto, and Tomas Telis for Johnny Cueto?  No chance the Reds play ball on that one, obviously.

You want to talk about Mazara or Thompson, or Chi Chi Gonzalez or Jorge Alfaro — or Profar — for a one-year pitcher, it better be Cueto or David Price or Jordan Zimmermann or Hisashi Iwakuma or Zack Greinke (who can opt out halfway through his six-year deal, a year from now) you’re bringing to the table.  (And it’s unlikely any of those pitchers would be available in the first place.)

No to Bud Norris or Rick Porcello or Tim Hudson or Scott Kazmir or Kyle Lohse or Mark Buehrle or J.A. Happ or Jhoulys Chacin or Kennedy or Leake, at least not for that top tier of prospects.

I go back and forth on guys like Jeff Samardzija, Doug Fister, Mat Latos, and Yovani Gallardo.  I could conceivably be talked into category one, but it would take some work.  

Give me Cueto or Price or Zimmermann, and the opportunity to extend them here before they ever reach free agency — or to trade them in July if 2015 doesn’t break right — then I’ll discuss just about any young player outside of Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo.  Otherwise, we can talk about Nick Martinez and Nick Williams and Jerad Eickhoff and Luis Sardinas and Lewis Brinson and Odubel Herrera and Jairo Beras and Asher and Alberto and Telis and maybe even Luke Jackson and Corey Knebel, but now that I think about it, you can stay away not only from the players listed three paragraphs above but Keone Kela, too, because when he arrives it’s not going to be normal, and I’m inclined to be difficult to deal with if you think Ryan Rua is just a fungible piece, and know I value Ryan Cordell more than you’ll expect me to.

I’m not sure how big I want Texas to go on the bat (Matt Kemp or Michael Saunders?  And is Mike Napoli really on the table?), and I would much rather have a starting pitcher with more than a year of control (Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, maybe even Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee depending on how much Philadelphia is willing to pay them down) than a one-year guy because, at least for now, I feel better about 2016 than I do about 2015.

Yes, I understand that Colby Lewis is evidently a lot closer to returning to the Rangers than Torii Hunter ever was to joining the club.  And that Texas could be the club that gives Alexi Ogando the opportunity he seeks to be a starting pitcher in 2015, even though he’s now a free agent along with more than 30 others who were non-tendered around the league yesterday (a largely uninspiring group that includes a handful of interesting players like rehabbing starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, relievers Wesley Wright and Logan Ondrusek, pitching prospect Jose Campos, infielders Everth Cabrera, Daniel Descalso, Justin Smoak, Adam Rosales, and Gordon Beckham, outfielder Slade Heathcott, and the guy I want the Rangers to sign, lefty-mashing LF/1B Kyle Blanks).   

But even if they were to bring both Lewis and Ogando back, the Rangers will still add another starting pitcher, probably via trade, and they’re going to aim higher than those two in terms of what the expectations will be.

It’s early.  The off-season isn’t a race.  And 2015 is far from etched.

I’m not here to say that it worked out for the best when the Mavs failed to sign Dwight Howard a year and a half ago and “settled” for Monta Ellis as a fallback, even after last night, and I’m far from comparing Torii Hunter to Dwight Howard, but it may end up working out just fine for Texas that Hunter decided, after all the talk of wanting to finally get to a World Series before he calls it quits, to take the biggest payday, back where his career started, at or near the bottom of the division.  

Maybe “losing” Hunter and Hyeon-jong Yang, in an off-season that apparently hasn’t delivered Rangers news fast enough for some folks, will ultimately turn out to be the best developments of the winter.

Stuff.

A couple quick things:

Baseball America ranks the Rangers’ top 10 prospects as follows:

  1. Joey Gallo
  2. Jake Thompson
  3. Jorge Alfaro
  4. Nomar Mazara
  5. Nick Williams
  6. Chi Chi Gonzalez
  7. Luis Sardinas
  8. Ryan Rua
  9. Luis Ortiz
  10. Josh Morgan

For what it’s worth, I didn’t include Sardinas on my own top 72 list since he exhausted his rookie status in 2014 (by spending 60 pre-September days in the big leagues — the threshold is 45 days), and I have Morgan much further down on my own list, but the other eight on BA’s list are in my top 10, though not in the same order.

The one that stands out the most is Thompson, half of the return from the Joakim Soria trade in July, checking in at number two, ahead of Alfaro and Mazara, not to mention Gonzalez.  The Rangers were able to pick up a young pitcher of Thompson’s stature and upside for a veteran reliever, a prospect who at age 20 dominated AA competition after the trade, and in a system that BA’s Ben Badler says boasts a “[s]trong combo of upside and depth,” he sits today, at least in that publication’s estimation, as the Rangers’ best pitching prospect and second-best prospect overall.

After talking to some folks about Thompson, who played for Rockwall-Heath High School, I included this in my Bound Edition writeup on the big righthander: “There are some in the organization who believe that if Texas had waited another week before making the July 23 trade with the Tigers, Detroit might have pulled him off the table given how his stuff began ticking up right after the deal did go down.”

I can also tell you that Thompson will be among our autograph guests at the Thursday, December 18 Book Release Party at Sherlock’s in Arlington.

And so will Joe Mikulik, who managed Gallo and Alfaro and Williams and Gonzalez last year at Myrtle Beach, and is responsible for some of the most epic manager meltdowns in minor league history (like this one, and this one, and this one last summer with the Pelicans).

And so will new Rangers bench coach Steve Buechele, one of the great defensive players in Rangers history.

Jake and Joe and Steve will join Derek Holland, Jason Botts, and Emily Jones at the party, which will be emceed by Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show (105.3 The Fan).  We’ll also collect toys that night to support the Rangers’ Cowboy Santa effort, and might have a memorabilia raffle as well.  The event will probably start at 6:00 and go until 9:00.

If you order your books now, you’ll have them well in advance of the party — orders will ship this week.

And that’s this morning’s edition of Today in Stuff.

Bang.

November 20 is one of those days on the baseball calendar when the ratio that’s most appropriate to focus on isn’t strikeout-to-walk or groundball-to-flyball, but instead bang-to-hype.  

Teams spend hours and days evaluating which draft-eligible prospects to place on their 40-man rosters, a layered analysis that weighs not only which players are on the right path to the big leagues and most likely to be lost in the Rule 5 Draft if not protected but also which of them are least likely to stick with a new club if chosen.

And writers and bloggers spend hours and column inches predicting those decisions and breaking them down . . . in spite of the reality that the December draft historically offers marginally more impact than scouting the independent leagues.  A quick review of Rule 5’s history reveals that, in the last five years, the drafted players who have played for the Rangers are Seth Rosin, Chris McGuiness, Coty Woods, Nate Adcock, and Mason Tobin, which doesn’t count Ben Snyder, who never made it to the big leagues.  So, uh . . . yeah.

But we dig it because the first month of the year with no baseball to watch feels like it’s been six months since ball, and because November 20 is a day to celebrate prospects and that’s fun, and because it’s a signpost of sorts to see your team and the other 29 all drop a handful of players from the bottom of their 40-man rosters and reinvigorate things with young players to dream on.  

November 20 is a day of baseball hope.

The Rangers’ decision to draft righthander Luke Jackson in the supplemental first round out of a Florida high school in 2010 carried an expectation that he’d be rostered on November 20, 2014, just like fellow high school picks Jake Skole and Kellin Deglan, who were taken 30 and 23 picks earlier, but player development in baseball isn’t like most sports.  Player development is hard.  

Righthander Jerad Eickhoff (15th round) was the seventh college player Texas selected in the 2011 draft (from a community college that’s hardly more recognizable than Jackson’s high school), but the only one the club added to the roster yesterday — although the ninth (Ryan Rua: 17th round), 10th (Nick Martinez: 18th round), and 18th (Phil Klein: 30th round) beat him by a few months.  Outfielder Zach Cone (supplemental first round) and lefthander Will Lamb (second round) weren’t rostered on Thursday, with only one of them a real risk to lose in the draft — and it’s not the one the Rangers’ ranked higher in June 2011.

With regard to the players the Rangers signed in the 2009-10 J2 class, it wasn’t long before catcher Jorge Alfaro — signed at age 16 for $1.3 million, the most any team had ever paid an amateur player from Colombia — was considered a lock for November 2014 addition to the roster along with fellow class members Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas (both of whom arrived sooner, of course), while a far less heralded member of that summer’s J2 crop, shortstop Hanser Alberto, carried no such expectations when he signed for $65,000 out of the Dominican Republic, even if senior director of minor league operations Mike Daly secretly held out hope since Alberto was the first player he ever signed (then as director of international scouting).  

Alfaro, Jackson, Eickhoff, and Alberto all played at least part of their 2014 seasons with AA Frisco, and all four were rewarded last night with the validation, the pay bump, and the spring training nameplate that addition to the 40-man roster provides.  There’s nothing unique about the fact that all wore the RoughRiders uniform last summer — that’s the level where you often see your first-time draft-eligibles stating their case for roster protection — but it does lead to another point I’d like to make here, which is less about the decision about whom to shield from the draft or whom the Rangers, faced with a tremendous roster crunch, opted to risk losing.

On Frisco’s 2014 roster were not only those four, each of whom will be on his first option when camp breaks this March, but also the following players who weren’t added to the roster because they didn’t yet need to be:

Joey Gallo.  Chi Chi Gonzalez.  Nomar Mazara.  Jake Thompson.  Nick Williams.  Andrew Faulkner.  Keone Kela.  Alec Asher.  Michael De Leon.  Pat Cantwell.  Josh McElwee.  

Plus a few who could have been protected but weren’t and who, if the Rangers are fortunate enough to slide them through the December 11 draft, are legitimate candidates to get to the big leagues:  Lamb.  Odubel Herrera.  Trever Adams.  Martire Garcia. 

If you think the purpose of this morning’s report is solely to share the Kool-Aid, consider these two Thursday tweets from Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who’s far from a Rangers homer:

Keep hearing great things from scouts about Jake Thompson.  Stuff is there for a potential frontline starter.  Strong trade by the Rangers.

Going over our AL West Top 30s.  Significant talent gap between the Astros/Rangers and every other farm system in the division.

Love that.

To make room on the roster for Alfaro, Jackson, Eickhoff, and Alberto, the Rangers dropped righthander Miles Mikolas, lefthander Aaron Poreda, and outfielders Jim Adduci and Daniel Robertson, releasing the first two so they could pursue opportunities in Japan, designating Adduci for assignment with the same possible outcome, and trading Robertson to the Angels, where special assistant to the GM Tim Bogar likely put in a good word.

Dropping both Adduci and Robertson leaves Texas with an outfield group of Shin-Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Rua, Jake Smolinski, and Michael Choice (and possibly Mitch Moreland), a pretty clear signal that the club will add an everyday outfield bat this winter — not that keeping Adduci or Robertson would have meaningfully changed that — but that’s a discussion for another time.

As is the near-certainty that the roster trimming isn’t finished, even if Texas doesn’t pull off a trade of multiple rostered players for one in return before the Winter Meetings, because you can bet the Rangers’ roster will have fewer than 40 players on it when the Rule 5 Draft gets underway.  Players like Adam Rosales, Michael Kirkman, and Ben Rowen are likely in some amount of roster jeopardy, for three very different reasons.

Another time on that, too.

For now the talk is about the window that’s open and isn’t going to start shutting anytime soon, which is not to say the Rangers aren’t going to prioritize winning while Yu Darvish is guaranteed to be around, but the bigger point is that you look at Alfaro, Jackson, Eickhoff, and Alberto, ages 21, 23, 24, and 22, and then at the four players dropped from the roster, ages 26, 28, 29, and 29 — none of whom other than Poreda ever had the upside the four newest roster members are thought to have — and couple that with the idea that Darvish and Choo and Moreland and Profar and Prince Fielder and Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando should be ready to roll when Pitchers & Catchers Report, and that Martin Perez is looking at a mid-season return, and tack on the likelihood, by all accounts, that Texas will add a frontline starting pitcher and an impact bat and a 1 or 1A catcher before we get to Surprise, and those little Ben Badler tweets about the Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle farm systems serve to simply pile onto what’s already a big and awesome heap of hype.

And that’s what 40-man roster decisions and trade rumors and prospect rankings amount to — a bunch of off-season hype.  The bang comes later, if it comes at all, and maybe in six years we’re talking about Hanser Alberto being dropped from someone’s roster so he can hook on with a club in Korea.  

But we do feed on the hype, and the hope, because sports, and while yesterday’s news amounted to fairly routine procedural steps that would have landed in the agate type back in the days of agate type, the implications give us plenty to dream on, and some baseball teams are in a much better position than others to give their fans reason to believe the bang-to-hype barometer stands to swing decisively in the good direction in the near term, the long term, or both.

Old school, new rules.

Mid-Monday morning, national writer Scott Miller reported that the Blue Jays were hiring Rangers assistant minor league hitting coordinator Brook Jacoby to take over as their new big league hitting coach, a position he had held with the Reds from 2007 through 2013.  In Gerry Fraley’s note on the Dallas Morning News site about the loss of Jacoby, he added that the Rangers decided after the season not to bring Tony Fernandez back as a special assistant to the GM, after he’d served in that role for three years.

About a half-hour later, I thought about Fernandez for the second time over the same cup of coffee, after having not given a moment’s thought to his name in a long time.  Word broke that new Braves GM John Hart had pulled off a trade reminiscent of the Fernandez/Fred McGriff-for-Roberto Alomar/Joe Carter deal two dozen years later — a good, old-fashioned talent-for-talent swap that wasn’t necessarily driven by dollars or rebuilds, one objective of which accounts for nearly every trade made these days in baseball — by sending outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to St. Louis for righthanders Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. 

It was an old-school trade involving four valuable players who haven’t reached their ceiling but are young enough to still dream on the possibility that they will.  Three big righthanders (all from Texas) and an even bigger outfielder, a prototype right fielder who was an everyday big leaguer at age 20 and an All-Star the same year.  One of those deals that, you could easily suggest, could make both teams better right away — especially coming early enough in the winter that it could lead both to deal further from new strengths.

Because of the pre-peak status of the players involved, it’s a deal that’s more dynamic than Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder was a year ago.  Because of the success that Heyward, Miller, and Walden have already had, it’s more of an impact deal that Yankees bat Jesus Montero for Mariners righthander Michael Pineda three winters ago was supposed (or turned out) to be — or that the heavily spitballed (and never-would-have-happened) exchange in 2013 of Rangers shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar for late Cardinals outfielder prospect Oscar Taveras might have been, and you can’t really count Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes in July because Lester was clearly nothing more than a two-month rent horse.

Seven years ago, Minnesota and Tampa Bay got together on a six-player deal that looked a little then like Monday’s Atlanta-St. Louis trade.  Two days after his 24th birthday, the Twins sent a package headed by righthander Matt Garza — like Miller (a few weeks after his own 24th birthday) a former first-round pick with two years in the big leagues – to the Rays for a group including outfielder Delmon Young — like Heyward a former first-rounder himself and a runner-up in the Rookie of the Year vote.  

At the time, Tampa Bay’s outfield, which had been divested a year earlier of the repeatedly dashed anticipation of Josh Hamilton’s arrival, was still loaded.  Aside from the 22-year-old Young, the Rays had 26-year-old Carl Crawford (with one year and two club options left on his multi-year contract), 23-year-old star B.J. Upton, 26-year-old tease Rocco Baldelli, 23-year-old enigma Elijah Dukes, and 21-year-old Desmond Jennings, whom Baseball Prospectus had judged that off-season to be baseball’s number 18 prospect.  

The decision to reallocate a position of abundance worked out well for the Rays, who got solid work over three seasons and two post-seasons out of Garza, while Young was largely a disappointment in Minnesota.  

Tampa Bay chose correctly, making out better than the Braves did when five months earlier they sent Elvis Andrus to Texas, banking on the depth of having Edgar Renteria in the big leagues and rookie Yunel Escobar arriving, plus AAA shortstop Brent Lillibridge as another Top 100 Prospect in the game.

And better than the Rangers did a year later with what was widely judge to be enviable depth behind the plate, with 28-year-old Gerald Laird, 23-year-old Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who had come over with Andrus in the Mark Teixeira trade with the Braves), 24-year-old Taylor Teagarden, and 23-year-old Max Ramirez, all four of whom had seen time in the big leagues in 2008.  Publications all over the industry were convinced that the Rangers, with their avalanche of catching depth, lined up perfectly with the Red Sox, who could arguably match a similarly positioned pitcher up with each Texas catcher from an inventory that was headed then by Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden, Daniel Bard, and Nick Hagadone.

The Rangers made no such 2008 deal with Boston (which assumes one was ever really available), instead shipping Laird and Teagarden and eventually Saltalamacchia off unceremoniously (for minor leaguers Guillermo Moscoso, Carlos Melo, Roman Mendez, Chris McGuiness, Michael Thomas, Randy Henry, and Greg Miclat) and losing Ramirez on a waiver claim after designating him for assignment.  The Red Sox ended up with both Saltalamacchia and Ramirez, though they had the latter for only five January days before losing him to the Cubs on their own attempt to get him through waivers.

Toronto had its own catcher surfeit in 2009, and didn’t really capitalize on it.  J.P. Arencibia was MVP of the AAA Pacific Coast League.  The Jays had Travis d’Arnaud at High Class A and A.J. Jimenez at Low Class A, each ranked as his league’s best defensive catcher in Baseball America surveys of league managers.  Splitting the season at Low A and Short-Season A was Yan Gomes, and he shared time at the lower of the two levels with Carlos Perez, who some felt would be the best of all of them.

They ended up losing Jimenez temporarily to Tommy John surgery (in May 2012), moving Perez along with other prospects in a large deal that netted them J.A. Happ (in July 2012), overtrading d’Arnaud (after the 2012 season), trading Gomes brutally (after 2012), and non-tendering Arencibia (after 2013).  They had acquired Mike Napoli in January 2011 (from the Angels with Frosty Rivera for Vernon Wells) — but, prepared to turn catcher over to Arencibia with caddy Jose Molina already on board, four days later flipped Napoli to Texas for Frankie Francisco.

The Rangers were thrilled to add Napoli because that ballyhooed catching surplus of theirs hadn’t panned out.

The Blue Jays, because theirs hadn’t either (Jimenez is still around, splitting 2014 between AA and AAA), gave $82 million yesterday to Russell Martin for his age 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36 seasons.

This time of year, anytime there’s a big player move you have to step back and ask how it might affect your own team’s plans, and whether it could create new opportunities.  

If there was some thought that Hart and Jon Daniels might connect on a trade of C/LF/DH type Evan Gattis, on the one hand the Braves’ trade of Heyward would seem to reduce the possibility, with Justin Upton theoretically now sliding over to right field in Heyward’s place and opening left field up for Gattis.

On the other hand, writers like Buster Olney (ESPN), Bob Nightengale (USA Today), Joel Sherman (New York Post), and Mark Bowman (MLB.com) believe Upton could still be moved, with Seattle (not on Upton’s no-trade list) a candidate (possibly for righthander Taijuan Walker, Olney suggests).  According to Sherman, Atlanta won’t stop looking for opportunities to dump Upton’s brother B.J.’s contract on someone, and Bowman believes Gattis could still be on the move.  

In St. Louis, Heyward joins an outfield that now has no role for Randal Grichuk, who might have been useful as a relief option for the lefty Taveras if he were still with us.  Not sure Grichuk makes sense here (Ryan Rua and Jake Smolinski deserve a shot), and while Peter Bourjos might, Grichuk isn’t a good enough center fielder for the Cardinals to part with Bourjos for what his trade value would bring.

Miller joining Atlanta’s rotation probably doesn’t free anyone up that would fit the Rangers’ objective of finding a controllable starter they could plug into the middle of the rotation.

As for Martin signing with Toronto — he’s not going to catch 140 games, but do the Jays really want to spend more than $20 million behind the plate this year, with $5 million going to Dioner Navarro for fewer than 50 defensive games?  The switch-hitter could be a solid fit for Texas as Robinson Chirinos’s partner behind the plate, and though I suspect that’s probably more than the Rangers would want to spend on a part-time catcher, Chirinos will make marginally more than the $500,000 minimum . . . and probably shouldn’t be counted on as a lock to repeat his breakout 2014.  

And the Blue Jays still have Josh Thole, who caught every one of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s starts in 2014 (and not many more).  Doesn’t Toronto need to hang onto Thole and move Navarro?

Navarro will be 31 when the 2015 starts, coming off his first season as a frontline catcher since 2009.  In a market where a number of teams are looking for a catcher — including at least a couple who had been intent on signing Martin — Navarro is going to have some trade value over the next few weeks.  

Daniels told MLB Network Radio on Sunday that his “clear focus has been on the trade front” rather than the free agent market, as were “most of the teams [he] spoke with” at last week’s GM Meetings in Phoenix.  Tops on the list for Texas are a starting pitcher and a run-producing bat, but catcher fits in there as well, and after Martin there’s just not a lot at the position on the free agent market, prompting players like Navarro, Alex Avila, Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Yasmani Grandal, and Rene Rivera to pop up in off-season trade rumors.  The free agent options just don’t move the needle as much.

Maybe it’s the TV money geyser.  Maybe it’s Kansas City and Baltimore and Pittsburgh turning the clock back 30 years and winning again, emboldening more small market teams to make a financial effort to compete.  Maybe it’s just a fluke year.  But more and more players are getting locked up internally and kept off the open market — I haven’t even mentioned yesterday’s news of the record-setting commitment the Marlins are making to Giancarlo Stanton — and as a result Monday’s huge Atlanta-St. Louis trade feels like it might be a precursor, rather than an aberration. 

The Rangers aren’t going to be party to a Heyward-Miller throwback type of deal this winter in which a young player with star upside at something close to peak value is traded for another.  They’re not trading Yu Darvish or Derek Holland or Rougned Odor, and beyond that they all come with bad money or health questions.  

But that doesn’t mean the Rangers won’t deal this winter — they will — and it doesn’t mean they aren’t in a position to win in 2015.  Fewer things have to go right next year than went wrong last year in order for Texas to be playing for something with a week to go.  

It was easy to imagine Jason Heyward, drafted and developed by his hometown Braves, playing an entire career in an Atlanta uniform.  But it rarely happens.  Even Tony Fernandez, after eight seasons with Toronto that included four Gold Gloves and three All-Star appearances, was traded in that huge four-player deal in 1990, traded again in a less noteworthy deal two years later, and traded once more in an even smaller deal in 1993.  After his lengthy run with the Jays, he went to San Diego and then New York (NL) and then Toronto again and then Cincinnati and then New York (AL) and then Cleveland and then Toronto a third time and then the Seibu Lions and then Milwaukee and then Toronto one last time.  Whether Heyward has another swim through Atlanta (or two or three more), the odds are that he won’t finish his career without changing teams again.

Same goes for Darvish.  And Holland.  And Odor.

It’s the modern reality of the game, the kind of thing that didn’t stop John Hart or John Mozeliak from making yesterday’s blockbuster trade, and that won’t stop Daniels from listening on Andrus and Luis Sardinas and Luke Jackson and Nick Williams and anyone else he thinks could have more ultimate value to this organization as a trade piece, an analysis fully dependent on how the GM on the other end of the smartphone assesses the Rangers’ assets, and his own.  

The process of lining up needs and evaluating windows is a complicated one, with a finite number of teams and a basically finite pool of baseball players capable of filling perceived needs, and when the demand exceeds the supply, as it usually does since most clubs are (properly) never satisfied, to get to the finish line on an impact trade it often takes a good amount of imagination, almost always takes a heavy measure of guts and conviction, and it doesn’t hurt when you have a 25-year-old outfielder with five-tool ability or a 24-year-old starting pitcher flashing signs that he might be ready, in at least one of the four years you’ll control him, to pitch at the very top of your rotation, and are willing to discuss the idea of putting that player in someone else’s uniform.

I’m not sure yet whether we’re witnessing a paradigm shift, or if this is just the level that this winter’s market has necessarily found, but there’s a reason we still talk about Fernandez/McGriff for Alomar/Carter 24 years later, and you get the sense that Heyward/Walden for Miller/Jenkins is just the first of a handful of trades this winter that we’ll be talking about when those guys are all done playing, maybe staying in the game as the special assistant to somebody’s GM.  

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2015 Covers side by side 800 

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We are now taking orders for the 2015 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report, my 16th annual book on the Texas Rangers.  It’s over 300 pages commemorating the 2014 season and the significant events after season’s end designed to reshape the club’s immediate future, all chronicled in the book in daily, exhaustive, emotional detail.  For any Rangers fan, this book will be one to look back on for years and years.

The 2015 Bound Edition, with forewords written by Rangers Director of Pro Scouting Josh Boyd and Rangers Field Reporter Emily Jones, not only looks back on 2014 but also serves as a primer on what you can expect from this organization for years to come.  Nowhere can you find more information and analysis on the players that the Rangers are developing as future members of the major league team and, in some scenarios, as ammunition for trades that could dramatically alter the roster this off-season. 

More than 3,000 of you on this mailing list are past customers of the Bound Edition, but for those of you who are relatively new to the Newberg Report, here is what you can expect from the book:

 

THE FEATURES

 

The book picks up right where the 2014 eEdition left off, taking you from late December 2013 through the early October 2014 and containing every report I wrote in that span (including every “Trot Coffey” rumor dump).  The Bound Edition is the most thorough account you’ll find of the many twists and turns that the 2014 season took, and of the implications of the personnel moves that highlighted it. 

Not just a complete record of the Rangers’ season, the book includes a feature section comprised of an entire section of new material that won’t ever appear on the website or in any e-mail deliveries.  Included in that section are rankings and analysis of more than 70 Rangers prospects throughout the club’s highly ranked farm system, making the Bound Edition a primer on the players who should help keep this organization in contention for years to come.  There’s also the annual “40-Man Roster Conundrum” chapter, breaking down the organization’s decisions headed toward the Rule 5 Draft, which this year stands to be as critical as any for Texas in recent memory, as the club could very well suffer losses in the draft due to an overcrowded roster and a large number of legitimate prospects whose service time makes them draft-eligible.

The photographs that appear on the glossy front and back covers (both shown above) feature some of the organization’s top young players.  As always, the covers are perfect for autographs.

 

THE PRICE

The 2015 Bound Edition is $24.95 per book, plus shipping.

Because I have to front the printing costs, if you plan to buy copies of the book, preorders are appreciated.  The plan is to have the books ready for delivery in time for the holidays.

I also have all the previous editions of the Bound Edition for sale.  The price breakdown is as follows:

  • 2015 Bound Edition – $24.95 (plus shipping)
  • 2014 eEdition – $9.99
  • 2013 Bound Edition – $20.00 
  • 2012 Bound Edition (2011 World Series edition) – $20.00 
  • 2011 Bound Edition (2010 World Series edition) – $20.00 
  • 1999/2000 through 2010 Bound Editions – $15.00 each 

Previous editions will be shipped separately from the 2015 book (in most cases right away).  As far as previous editions are concerned, shipping is $3.00 for the first book, and $2.00 for each additional book.

 

SPECIALS

 

  • Buy two or more copies of the 2015 Bound Edition, and I’ll throw in a free copy of last year’s eEdition
  • A gift set of all 16 books (15 Bound Editions plus last year’s eEdition) is available for $225, which is a $35 discount

 

 

ORDERING

 

To order the 2015 Bound Edition, click here, or go to www.NewbergReport.com and click the “Order Now” button under the image of the book cover. 

You can also order by check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” at:

Jamey Newberg

Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.

Thanksgiving Tower

1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100

Dallas, TX 75201

If you are paying by check or money order, please make sure to include your mailing address, and specify how many of each book you want. 

I’m extremely biased but, trying to pretend to be slightly objective, I think this is the kind of book that any Rangers fan’s library should include.  I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

Thanks.

Jamey

The cap fits – Jayce Tingler is in the big leagues.

There were a couple places where I’ve seen Jeff Banister’s story compared to Guilder Rodriguez’s, based on the long and in some ways incredible journey each took as a player, against the odds, to get that one big league shot.

They’re probably the two people in the organization that Jayce Tingler has most in common with.  

When the Rangers acquired the 5’8”, 155-pound outfielder in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December 2005 — the same draft in which they took Oakland outfielder Alexi Ogando — they were picking up a 25-year-old who had never played above Class A and had a .263 batting average and .320 slug in three seasons on the Toronto farm.  It would stand to reason that Texas was adding Tingler to the organization with visions that went well beyond fortifying the Bakersfield Blaze outfield situation with a BB/K machine, even if it wasn’t evident then to us as fans.

Tingler fared well for the 2006 Blaze, hitting a career-high .330 (with exponentially more walks than strikeouts, as he’d done at every level) and earning both Cal League All-Star recognition and a mid-June promotion to Frisco.  

But a month later, after hitting .227/.306/.227 as a RoughRider and having a couple eye-opening conversations with Rangers director of player development Scott Servais and minor league field coordinator Mike Brumley, he was released, with a specific transition in mind.  

That fall the Rangers put Tingler work in the Dominican Republic — but not before he went home to Missouri in August to study up on his Spanish — and by time spring training rolled around, he was on the coaching staff of the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League team, which he would manage in 2008 and 2009, leading the club to first-place finishes each season, just as he did when he skippered the Rangers’ Arizona League club in 2010.

The Rangers probably had something bigger in mind than Tingler’s elite ability to draw walks when they acquired him from the Blue Jays (who had drafted him as a University of Missouri senior, seven rounds before the Rangers took his teammate Ian Kinsler) — or at least realized they had something special once he arrived.  

Just as Texas didn’t draft Rodriguez from Milwaukee in the minor league phase of 2008’s Rule 5 Draft because of his stalwart .254/.345/.273 slash line in eight seasons at Class AA or lower on the Brewers farm.  There could be bigger plans for him, too, and if so his six seasons in AA and AAA with the Rangers will have driven that home.

Tingler’s playing career didn’t last a third as long as Rodriguez’s, and he didn’t get that one big league at-bat like Banister, but he did coach on the farm like Banister (for one year), manage on the farm like Banister (three years), serve as minor league field coordinator like Banister (three years, not counting one as coordinator of Arizona and Dominican instruction), and, now, will take on the role of big league field coordinator like Banister did under Pirates managers Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon, in what will be a newly created position as far as the Rangers go.  It’s a role Banister brings with him from Pittsburgh, and he’s chosen Tingler, a baseball operations beast with a background and a mindset that resonated with him, to fill it.

Banister told local reporters yesterday, after it was announced that pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Dave Magadan, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, and assistant hitting coach Bobby Jones would remain on the coaching staff, and that he was staying internal with three of the four remaining spots — promoting bench coach Steve Buechele, first base coach/catching instructor Hector Ortiz, and Tingler from positions on the Texas farm (Banister says he’d like for the open third base coach position to go to “someone he’s familiar with”) — that “it’s extremely important to me that these coaches have gained traction with the players in the organization.  They will aid me in getting up to speed with our guys.  I wanted guys who had that kind of knowledge and those kinds of relationships, and I wanted guys who would work together as a group.”   

Tingler, according to local reports defining the scope of his new position, will “organize spring training, organize workouts, and act almost as a secondary bench coach during games,” and will also be involved with big league baserunning and outfield instruction, two areas that Gary Pettis was responsible for before he left to take a job on Houston’s coaching staff.  

Banister talked about wanting his coaches bringing ideas to each other — “iron sharpens iron,” he said — and if you know Jayce Tingler at all, you know he’s going to bring plenty of vision and energy and feel to the table.  According to Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News), Jon Daniels wanted to promote Tingler to director of player development (from his Arizona/Dominican role) after the 2011 season (when Servais left to become the Angels’ Assistant GM), but Nolan Ryan instead brought former Astros GM Tim Purpura* in to fill that role — the same position that San Diego GM A.J. Preller, according to Dennis Lin (San Diego Union-Tribune), wanted to consider Tingler for in the last couple weeks in spite of his agreement with Texas not to hire Rangers personnel for a specified length of time.  

(* I’m not sure if Purpura remains with the organization, but he’s no longer listed on the Rangers’ front office webpage, and his LinkedIn page indicates that his 2014 position with Texas as special assistant in business operations ended in October.)

At least for the foreseeable future and hopefully for a very long time, this is going to be a franchise that develops players well and gives itself solid options from the farm system to impact the club in Arlington without severely impacting the payroll.  It’s going to be a very good thing to have a guy like Tingler here to help acclimate those young players when they arrive — as a guy who understands what makes every one of them tick without having to rely on filed reports — and to use some of that “gained traction” from nearly a decade with this franchise to help Banister recognize right away how they might be able to help this team win.

None of this is to diminish how cool it is that Buechele (who crossed paths in Pittsburgh with Banister in 1993, in the spring training following Banister’s one big league appearance) and Ortiz, who have paid 15 combined years of dues on the Rangers farm, are getting the opportunity to impact this franchise on the big league level again, 20 years (in Buechele’s case) and 13 years (in Ortiz’s case) since they made their final Major League appearances as players, both with Texas.  If I wasn’t slammed right now trying to finish this year’s book, I’d have spent a good amount of time on the meaning of the Buechele promotion, on several interesting levels — including that Banister has just done for Buechele what Clint Hurdle had done for Banister four years ago — and on all the different hats Ortiz has worn with the Rangers, and how this newest hat is not only such a huge thing for Ortiz himself but also could be for the young Rangers catchers who have already arrived . . . or could soon.

Instead, I gave myself the time to crank out a little bit about Jayce Tingler, who has filled so many roles for this franchise and has always been considered capable of more, and the very cool new hat Jeff Banister just put on his head.  

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