November 2006

2007 BOUND EDITION OF THE NEWBERG REPORT

Printing of the 2007 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report is underway. Here’s a sneak peek at the front and back covers (the images are much sharper on the finished product, and there are some subtle framing lines below that aren’t visible on the real thing).

Let me take this opportunity to thank the genius Marty Yawnick and Jason Rutherford for the amazing work each of them did on executing the vision for the cover and then some…to Craig Spivey, who came up with the title banner last year that will remain a constant from this point forward…and to the photographers who provided the shots that we used – foremost among them the great Brad Newton, team photographer for the Rangers.

Details on ordering the book can be found here.

Newbergcover

Newbergback

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 30, 2006

It’ll be a cold day in **** before Barry Zito visits Texas as a free agent.

An evil “wintry mix” will render road conditions “treacherous,” less than 24 hours removed from 80 degree temperatures.

We’ve seen this act before. From Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens, and some others of less consequence. But maybe – maybe – there’s one reason to hope that T.R. Sullivan’s story this evening that Zito and his agent, Scott Boras (ahem), were in this paralyzed town today to meet with Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels isn’t just another tale of a top-tier free agent pitcher creating the appearance of getting Texas involved just so he can leverage negotiations with the team(s) he really wants to pitch for. Maybe.

Ron Washington.

We’ll see.

But ask yourself this: Would you rather Zito not have made the visit?

Off to make the kids another cup of hot chocolate.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 28, 2006

Sixteen free agents have signed big league contracts with new teams.

The top three outfielder contracts have gone to Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Gary Matthews Jr.

The top second baseman contract went to Mark DeRosa.

The top starting pitcher contract, pending a physical, belongs to Adam Eaton, who will be number seventeen to switch teams.

And the top catcher contract appeared to be a signature away from belonging to Rod Barajas, though that deal (with Toronto) was reportedly falling apart last night.

Now, Eaton isn’t going to end up making more per year than Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt or half a dozen others — including Vicente Padilla (whether he changes teams or not) — but it’s still bizarre to see how Texas players are, so far, dominating the early stages of free agency this winter.

Eaton and Philadelphia (the team that drafted him in the first round in 1996) reportedly agreed to terms yesterday on a three-year deal worth approximately $24 million, with a mutual option year that would make the total package worth more than $33 million.

The Rangers get no draft pick compensation for the loss of Eaton, who was neither a Type A free agent nor a Type B.

The Phillies hired Steve Smith to serve as their third base coach and infield instructor, the dual role that Art Howe was slated to serve in Philly before the Rangers hired him to be Ron Washington’s bench coach.

So that makes it Eaton, Ricardo Rodriguez, David Dellucci, Fabio Castro, Charley Kerfeld, and Smith for Padilla, Robinson Tejeda, Jake Blalock, Daniel Haigwood, Don Welke, and Howe. Sort of.

Kerfeld, in the last couple years, has moved from the Seattle organization to San Diego to Texas to Philadelphia. Eaton, a Seattle native, has gone from San Diego to Texas to Philadelphia in the last year.

The Barajas situation is bizarre. Hours after reports indicated that Toronto had agreed to pay him nearly $6 million for two years, pending a physical, came word that the deal was off, that Barajas was changing agents, and that the Jays had pulled the offer from the table and were possibly planning on re-offering a similar package to Gregg Zaun, even though he’d recently declined a Toronto offer at the same level.

This isn’t a particularly good development for Texas, which plans to go forward with Gerald Laird as the starter behind the plate and has no intentions of bringing Barajas back. While Barajas’s value may be no more than $3 million per year on the open market, he’d possibly command 50 percent more than that through arbitration, and as a result Texas probably can’t risk offering him arbitration (by December 1) just to get the supplemental first-rounder as compensation if he signs elsewhere — because he just might accept the arbitration offer . . . especially if there’s a physical issue that caused the Jays deal to fall apart.

As it stands, the Rangers have surrendered pick number 16 in the first round in June (for the signing of Frank Catalanotto), but have added two first-rounders (17th and 24th overall, subject to other signings by Anaheim and Houston), as well as supplemental picks between rounds one and two for the losses of Lee, Matthews, and DeRosa. It appeared that Texas was about to land another supplemental first due to the Jays’ signing of Barajas, but that pick is now up in the air. If Padilla leaves, he’ll generate yet another supplemental first.

All of that bodes well for June. But that’s June. Padilla is the one remaining Rangers free agent that the club wants to keep. To pay him what it’s going to take to prevent him from going somewhere else, it’s going to take some blind faith, a nervous trust that he’ll perform with the security of a long-term contract as well as he performed in 2006, when he was pitching for his first free agency deal. Frankly, you’ll have to overpay Padilla and summon up a heaping helping of that blind faith that the Cubs (Soriano), Astros (Lee), Angels (Matthews, Justin Speier), Phillies (Eaton), Dodgers (Juan Pierre) have mustered.

This winter, not unlike most in this era, it’s more than just cash that teams have to commit in order to compete for the top tier of free agents. And even the next tier. And the next. But you have to do it, unless you’re willing to empty your farm system and overpay via trade.

I’m glad the Rangers (who couldn’t offer DeRosa a starting job) didn’t agree to the contracts that Lee and Matthews got, the one that Eaton’s about to get, or the one that Barajas seemed poised to get. But for me, Padilla’s a different story, unless his price gets to be something like $12 million a year or more, for more than three years. And who knows? At this rate, it might.

With the Winter Meetings six days away, and especially with starting pitchers now beginning to choose their teams, it’s time for Rangers news to start bearing less on their increasing firepower in the amateur draft and more on the 40 players they will take to camp in 11 weeks.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

NEWBERG REPORT — BOUND EDITION SPECIAL

New special: If you buy at least two copies of the 2007 Bound Edition, you will get a free Bound Edition from any previous year (except 2003, which is currently out of stock), your choice, as long as my supply of those respective books lasts.

For those of you who have already ordered two or more 2007 books, let me know which prior edition you’d like.

The other specials remain in place as well:

* A gift set of all seven available Bound Editions (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007) is available for $100, which is a $15 discount.

* Everyone who orders the 2007 Bound Edition gets a coupon good for one complimentary Rangers ticket for each ticket you purchase at regular price for a regular season Rangers game in 2007 (Sunday through Thursday, excluding April 8, May 1-3, June 24, and July 4). You can make this a buy one/get one free, a buy two/get two, whatever. Offer is valid for tickets valued up to $25 and is subject, of course, to availability.

Jamey

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — NOVEMBER 24, 2006

The Astros are expected to announce in an hour that they have signed outfielder Carlos Lee to a six-year contract, and as a result Texas should get Houston’s number one pick, 17th overall (after having surrendered pick number 16 by signing Frank Catalanotto).

I’m pretty sure Houston would have to sign Barry Zito or J.D. Drew at this point for the Rangers not to get the Astros’ first-rounder. Texas will also get a supplemental pick for the loss of Lee, following Round One.

So as it stands, the Rangers have forfeited pick number 16 but have added pick number 17 and pick number 24, plus supplemental firsts for the loss of Gary Matthews, Carlos Lee, and Mark DeRosa.

The Rangers will also get supplemental firsts if they lose Vicente Padilla and/or Rod Barajas.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 23, 2006

Frank Catalanotto said during his Tuesday press conference, regarding the opportunity to sign with Texas: “It was more attractive because I’ve been here before. I knew the situation . . . . Money being equal, I’d rather be here.”

That last remark, to me, is key. And I don’t think Catalanotto said it only because he’d been here earlier in his career.

One reason the Kevin Millwood signing last December was so extraordinary was that a top-tier starting pitcher, in a position to land the largest contract of his career, chose Texas. That’s been a rarity, probably because of the reputation, if not the tendencies, of Ameriquest Field to favor hitters.

The flip side is that Arlington has been proven to be a place where good hitters can become great hitters, and non-roster invites can become wealthy. Mark DeRosa came to Texas on a minor league contract. Two years later, he landed a $13 million deal. Gary Matthews signed a minor league deal with the Rangers as well. Two and a half years later, he had multiple $50 million offers to choose from. Whether it’s Ameriquest Field or Rudy Jaramillo or the super-turbo-high-tech center field light signal system that Mark Buehrle is sure that the Rangers have devised, hitters come here and often get better, sometimes dramatically so.

Hope there’s a couple free agent hitters out there that are thinking along those lines. Sounds like Catalanotto was.

Should Texas have paid Matthews $50 million over five years to stay? Absolutely not. I love the player and couldn’t be happier that he’s earned the opportunities he got this winter, but let’s face it: he’s 32 years old and was a lifetime .249/.327/.397 hitter before his .313/.371/.495 line in 2006. Is that a player who is worth $10 million in 2007? He’s certainly a good risk to be. But at age 35? Age 36?

Any five-year, $50 million deals that Texas has to give this winter need to go to starting pitchers. Millwood got five years and $60 million last winter. Do you want another Millwood type? Or do you want Matthews?

Give me another Millwood (Jason Schmidt?) plus someone like Kenny Lofton for a year, rather than Matthews and a Jose Lima type.

Especially when center field could be readdressed in a big way 12 months from now. Vernon Wells is an Arlington native and is Michael Young’s best friend. Torii Hunter is a Metroplex resident and is president of the Ron Washington Fan Club. Both will be free agents after the 2007 season. And despite the fact that both were stars in center field years before Matthews was considered anything more than a candidate for a roster spot, both are younger than Matthews, Hunter by a year and Wells by more than four.

I’m really happy for Matthews (whose seven-year-old son lives in Santa Monica). But I’m happy Texas didn’t commit at that level.

And I’m happy that the Angels signed him. Will he torment the Rangers for a couple years? Maybe. But this should take Los Angeles out of the mix for Wells, which is a very good thing. (November 16 Newberg Report: “I don’t want Toronto to trade Wells. To anyone. I want them to win 88 games this year, staying in the hunt all summer so that Wells stays in a Blue Jays uniform. Until this time next year.”) The Angels wanted to make a splash this winter, and they still may not be through, but they won’t go after Wells at this point, not with the five-year commitment to Matthews.

Of the teams rumored to be interested in Wells, Los Angeles was probably in the best position to give the Blue Jays what they wanted (Ervin Santana, Brandon Wood, and either Jeff Mathis or a reliever?). The Angels have some serious trading firepower, more so than most teams have.

Texas also strips the Angels of their first-round pick, at number 24. Should Los Angeles end up signing a Type A free agent this off-season with a higher Elias ranking than Matthews (Barry Zito?), then the Rangers would get the Angels’ second-rounder rather than their first, but regardless, Los Angeles has surrendered its first-round pick — to someone.

As it stands, the Rangers get pick number 24 and a supplemental pick between rounds one and two for the loss of Matthews (plus a supplemental pick for the loss of DeRosa, and more to come if Carlos Lee, Vicente Padilla, and Rod Barajas sign elsewhere). The Blue Jays will get the Angels’ second-rounder for the loss of Justin Speier, whom the Angels signed on Sunday, because Speier’s Elias ranking — 74.027 — is lower than the Matthews ranking — 75.556.

As far as starting pitching is concerned, the dominoes haven’t begun to fall yet, and keep this in mind: a year ago at this time, the Rangers rotation was less settled than it is now. Texas needs to fill three spots to complement Millwood and Robinson Tejeda; a year ago the club also had just two rotation certainties — Chris Young and Kameron Loe (who had nine big league starts). Patience.

Some additional details on the Catalanotto contract: He gets $3.5 million in 2007 and $4 million in 2008 and in 2009. The Rangers have a $5 million option for 2010 with a $2 million buyout, but if he amasses 500 plate appearances in 2009, or 1000 combined in 2008 and 2009, the option jumps to $5.5 million and the buyout to $2.25 million.

According to Catalanotto, incidentally, he was close to signing with Cleveland before Texas jumped in with the prevailing offer.

Peter Gammons writes that the Rangers were set to trade Matthews in spring training last year for Boston utility infielder Tony Graffanino but backed off because of concerns about Brad Wilkerson’s shoulder. Wow.

(I should add that I have my doubts about that supposed deal, since Matthews had a strained ribcage muscle prevented him from playing at all in spring training and forced him to begin the year on the disabled list.)

Matthews and Michael Young each got a 10th-place vote in the American League MVP voting.

Lee is apparently poised to sign with Houston, Baltimore, or Philadelphia.

Again: Go Astros.

The Rangers signed lefthander Scott Rice to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. The 25-year-old went 3-4, 3.86 with one save for AAA Ottawa in the Orioles system last season (his first work at the AAA level), all in relief. The 6’6″ southpaw posted a phenomenal groundout-to-flyout ratio of 4.06 and held left-handed hitters to a .193 average.

In 65.1 innings, Rice walked 28 hitters and fanned 38, permitting four homers. He was a Baltimore supplemental first-rounder in 1999, chosen 44th with a pick the Orioles were awarded when Texas signed Rafael Palmeiro. Baltimore took Rice six spots after the Rangers chose Colby Lewis and six spots before the Orioles came back with another pick that they would use on Brian Roberts.

Final Arizona Fall League statistics: third baseman Travis Metcalf hit .258/.283/.419 with 23 RBI (sixth in the league) in 26 games — including .324/.350/.486 in November, with just one strikeout in 37 at-bats; catcher Kevin Richardson went 4 for 11; outfielder Anthony Webster hit .286/.355/.339; lefthander A.J. Murray went 3-2, 5.30 in nine appearances (but posted a 1.56 ERA when you toss out one miserable outing), and started the league’s championship game, giving up three unearned runs on one hit and no walks in three innings, fanning three; righthander Jesse Ingram went 0-0, 12.41 in 13 relief appearances, getting hit at a .358 clip; and righthander Danny Touchet went 2-0, 6.06 in 12 relief outings.

Final Hawaii Winter Baseball League numbers: outfielder John Mayberry Jr. hit .318/.388/.545, leading the league in slugging and finishing near the top in just about every other production category; catcher Emerson Frostad hit .215/.300/.342 with 24 strikeouts in 79 at-bats, throwing out just three of 24 would-be basestealers; third baseman Johnny Whittleman hit .189/.257/.358 but was one home run short of the league lead with four bombs and won the league’s Player of the Week honors for the season’s final week (three homers and 10 RBI); and second baseman-shortstop Jose Vallejo hit .197/.264/.318 with 21 strikeouts in 66 at-bats.

Dodgers prospect Zach Hammes won the HWBL ERA title and was elevated to Los Angeles’s 40-man roster. The Dodgers drafted Hammes in the second round in 2002, with a pick they received from the Rangers as compensation for the signing of Chan Ho Park . . . which doesn’t hurt as much as the Cubs having drafted lefthander Rich Hill in the fourth round that same year with a pick that Texas forfeited by signing Todd Van Poppel. (For the sake of completion: Cleveland took outfielder Jason Cooper in the third round with the Juan Gonzalez pick, and Colorado took righthander Doug Johnson in the fifth round with the Jay Powell pick.)

Boston signed righthander Chris Jaile and Philadelphia signed outfielder Ryan Fleming to minor league deals.

The Fort Worth Cats have signed catcher Kelley Gulledge, son of Rangers vice president Chuck Morgan.

Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s to being where you want to be.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 21, 2006

Last off-season, Texas signed two major league free agents and made seven trades. The most significant move the club made in November? Signing righthander Rick Bauer to a minor league deal.

Jon Daniels spent his first November as Rangers general manager laying the groundwork for what would be a frenzied December. He’s off to a quicker start this year.

With more roster holes to fill this winter, and positioned to add a potentially large number of compensatory draft picks, Daniels didn’t wait for the market to sort out or for clubs to make their arbitration decisions before signing his first big league free agent, former Rangers hitter Frank Catalanotto.

Texas agreed to terms with the 32-year-old Catalanotto, who hit .305/.380/.470 during his 2000-02 stint with the Rangers and is a lifetime .315/.382/.486 hitter at Ameriquest Field, to a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth, worth approximately $13.5 million in guaranteed money.

A few answers:

Why sign Catalanotto rather than Mark DeRosa, who got a similar deal from the Cubs? Regardless of which hitter you believe will perform better over the next three years, it’s because DeRosa wouldn’t have taken the same deal here — Chicago offered him an everyday role, something Texas couldn’t promise.

Why sign Catalanotto now, rather than wait for Toronto to decide whether to offer him arbitration? It’s a valid question — with the Jays signing Frank Thomas, there’s a chance they might not have risked an arbitration offer, fearing that Catalanotto might have accepted it. If Toronto didn’t offer him arbitration, the Rangers would have been able to sign him without forfeiting what, at this point, is its first-round pick in June, 16th overall.

But a couple things. First, the Blue Jays probably would have offered him arbitration anyway, knowing he’d decline it in order to take a multi-year deal and a more defined role somewhere else (not unlike what Texas faces with Rod Barajas). Second, the Rangers obviously made the determination that Catalanotto was a fit that they didn’t want to see slip away by waiting too long. Third, chances are that Texas is going to lose Gary Matthews Jr. and Carlos Lee, which will net the club four extra picks in the first two rounds, on top of the supplemental first already received due to the loss of DeRosa and potentially two more supplemental firsts if Barajas and Vicente Padilla leave. If Houston, for instance, signs Lee, Texas will receive the 17th pick in round one, which makes the loss of the 16th pick to Toronto more palatable.

Fourth, it’s a good bet that Catalanotto won’t be the highest-ranked free agent the Rangers sign this winter — in fact, if they sign another Type A that’s offered arbitration (or before the deadline to offer arbitration), Catalanotto will almost have to be ranked lower. His ranking of 63.611, based on Elias’s formula, was the lowest of any Type A in baseball (the next score among outfielders, first basemen, and DH’s — the 63.333 that belonged to Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp, and Frank Thomas — qualified as the top Type B ranking). If I’m reading the rankings correctly, the only Type A’s ranked lower than Catalanotto are relievers Rudy Seanez, Russ Springer, and Chad Bradford.

So when and if Texas signs another Type A, Toronto will end up not with the Rangers’ first-round pick, but instead their own second-rounder, which stands to be around 65 or 70, or even lower — and which, maybe more significantly, could be as far down as the eighth pick in the Rangers’ draft quiver in June.

The point is that if Daniels decided Catalanotto was his man, the downside of waiting to see if the Blue Jays were going to offer arbitration was much too great for it to have factored into the decision at all. It might have been the difference between losing Catalanotto to another team and forfeiting a pick no higher than 70th in the draft, with seven higher picks already in the bag.

Stated another way: the Rangers were going to lose that first-round pick at some point this winter. If they went through the off-season without signing a Type A free agent, under any circumstances other than re-signing all of their own key free agents, there would be some far more serious questions worth asking.

So is Catalanotto the right fit? Hard to say until we see what Daniels has planned for the rest of the winter, but he’s a solid left-handed hitter who punishes right-handed pitching, can still turn around anyone’s fastball, isn’t much of a basestealer but runs well, isn’t a plus defender but is versatile, and maybe most importantly, is capable of leading off. If Matthews signs elsewhere, which seems inevitable given the way the market is developing (are the Angels really going to give Matthews five years and $55 million?), Catalanotto is a good bet to step in atop the lineup.

At least against righties. Catalanotto is a lifetime .248/.331/.348 hitter against southpaws (.303/.365/.465 against righthanders), and even worse since leaving Texas for Toronto (.221/.287/.331). Does this mean Jason Botts — who punished Pacific Coast League lefthanders this year to the tune of .375/.408/.688 — now stands as good a chance of making the Rangers’ active roster as he ever has? The outfield picture is completely unsettled right now, but if Nelson Cruz and Brad Wilkerson go into the season as key figures, Catalanotto could end up seeing time on both outfield corners and at DH, spelling Cruz, Wilkerson, and Botts.

Brian Hayes made a fantastic point on the Newberg Report message board yesterday: With Jamie Moyer gone and Barry Zito poised to follow, the only reliable left-handed starter remaining in the American League West, at the moment, is Jarrod Washburn. That makes the underside of Catalanotto’s game less of a problem.

In his .300/.376/.439 season for Toronto in 2006, Catalanotto drew a career-high 52 walks, striking out only 37 times in 437 at-bats. It was the first time he’d amassed more walks than strikeouts, a rare feat for anyone in the big leagues.

Like DeRosa, and David Dellucci before that, Catalanotto has the type of makeup that won’t disrupt a good thing here, and he’s the type who could emerge in more of a leadership role than he had early in the decade.

The comparison between DeRosa and Catalanotto (who would have been Team Italy teammates in the World Baseball Classic last March had DeRosa not declined the invitation) is sort of inevitable, given the contracts they signed and the similar stage their careers are at, plus their versatility. DeRosa is a better defender but Catalanotto’s track record as a hitter is stronger. DeRosa’s career year in 2006 (.296/.357/.456), while dramatically better than his lifetime numbers coming into the season (.263/.319/.380), was almost identical to Catalanotto’s career line (.297/.362/.454). While I hope DeRosa sustains what he did in 2006, chances are probably better that Catalanotto will perform at that level.

A month ago, I wrote the following, on the heels of the announced modifications to the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “And to drive home the obvious point — the fact that [John] Danks and [Thomas] Diamond and [Ben] Harrison and a couple others don’t have to be protected this year gives players like [A.J.] Murray, [Nate] Gold, [Anthony] Webster, [Alexi] Ogando, and (I think) [Emerson] Frostad a much greater chance of landing a roster spot this winter.”

Given a one-year reprieve from having to add Danks and Diamond and to make tough decisions on a few others, the Rangers added Murray and Ogando to the 40-man roster yesterday, and as a result they are protected from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Murray, a left-handed control freak, missed the 2006 season due to a shoulder injury (he missed 2004 after shoulder surgery as well) but pitched well in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. His 3-2, 5.30 mark in nine AFL appearances was marred by a miserable outing on November 7, when he permitted eight runs in an inning and a third. Aside from that game, he posted a 1.56 ERA, scattering 17 hits and five walks in 17.1 frames, fanning 17, which doesn’t include his start in the league’s championship game over the weekend, when he gave up three runs — all unearned — on one hit and no walks in three innings, setting three hitters down on strikes. Murray features a plus change and had a strong 1.53 groundout-to-flyout ratio in the AFL, including a sick 13-to-1 against left-handed hitters.

Murray, who was a draft-and-follow sign in 2001, advanced to Frisco by the age of 21, spending the whole 2003 season with the RoughRiders and posting an impressive 10-4, 3.63 record, followed by an 0.77 ERA in two playoff starts and a berth on the Texas League Post-Season All-Star Team. “Pirate” split the 2005 season between Bakersfield, Frisco, and Oklahoma (7-9, 4.43 combined, with 30 walks and 124 strikeouts in 128 innings), combining with Steve Karsay and Scott Feldman on a RoughRiders perfect game on July 28, fanning eight in six spotless frames. He stands to pitch in rotation for the RedHawks in April.

Texas drafted Ogando in the AAA league phase of the Rule 5 Draft a year ago, paying Oakland $12,000 to acquire the 22-year-old outfielder who had drawn comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero with his raw power at the plate and his howitzer in right field. Visa issues kept Ogando out of the States in 2005 and remained going into 2006, but you would think that the A’s might have devoted one of the 78 spots on their 40-man roster and wintertime AAA roster to the five-tool talent to ensure he wouldn’t be lost.

But Texas drafted him, kept him in his Dominican homeland because of the visa situation, and decided to try him on the mound. He hit triple digits on the radar gun, but more impressive was the fact that he had command of his fastball despite never pitching before. The righthander went 5-0, 0.52 with two saves in 16 Dominican Summer League relief appearances, scattering 24 hits (.198 opponents’ average, no home runs) and issuing only four walks in 34.2 innings while punching out 48. He also induced an outstanding ratio of 2.25 groundouts for every flyout.

I have no idea whether Ogando’s visa issues will be cleared up in 2007, but here’s the thing: Texas added righthander Omar Beltre to the roster a year ago, and was able to keep him on the restricted list all season (which took him off of the 40-man roster) due to his own visa problems. The organization can presumably do the same with Ogando if necessary this year, and by adding him to the roster Texas made sure that another club couldn’t draft him via Rule 5 and take advantage of the same opportunity.

Incidentally, I learned yesterday that Beltre didn’t need to be reinstated from the restricted list in order to be shielded from the Rule 5 Draft, so the fact that he wasn’t identified along with Murray and Ogando doesn’t mean he’s now exposed to the draft. After the DSL season he had — 2-3, 1.23 with one save, scattering 42 hits (.174 opponents’ average, one homer) and seven walks in 66 innings while punching out 80 with reports that his fastball was touching 98 — leaving the 25-year-old Beltre unprotected probably wouldn’t have been a very good idea.

The additions of Murray and Ogando bring the Rangers’ 40-man roster to 35 members. With several holes remaining to be filled, and with Wilkerson needing to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list (assuming Texas plans to keep him), it’s pretty clear that the Rangers had no more room than those two spots for minor league additions. Had the CBA changes not moved the timetable for protecting prospects back a year, Danks and Diamond certainly would have earned spots, and Murray and Ogando would have been draft-eligible.

(Then again, maybe Daniels knew what the modified CBA was going to look like when he claimed Francisco Cruceta and Mike Wood off waivers, and if the rules were not poised to change, maybe he wouldn’t have claimed both righthanders.)

As it stands, the Rangers’ top candidates to be considered by other clubs at the December draft might include catcher Emerson Frostad, first baseman Nate Gold, outfielder Anthony Webster, and righthander Jose Marte.

Speaking of the modified CBA, while Texas now gets a supplemental first-rounder for the loss of DeRosa to the Cubs, under the old rules the Rangers would have initially been awarded Chicago’s second-rounder, but it would have then been downgraded to the Cubs’ third on the heels of their signing of Alfonso Soriano. And maybe downgraded further later on, as Chicago apparently isn’t finished.

And speaking of Soriano, who landed an eight-year, $136 million from Chicago, a question: If Alex Rodriguez hit the open market today, how much more would he get than the eight years and $17 million annually that Soriano (who is six months younger) is getting? Is it a sure thing that he’d get significantly more?

Houston and Baltimore are reportedly engaged in a bidding war over Lee. Go Astros.

Other 40-man roster additions: former Rangers righthander Jonathan Johnson (Atlanta), former Rangers draft pick righthander Virgil Vasquez (Detroit), and righthander Blake Hawksworth (St. Louis), whose sister Erin is a reporter for Channel 8 in Dallas.

Texas hired former Rangers outfielder Gary Pettis as first base coach and outfield and baserunning instructor on manager Ron Washington’s coaching staff. Pettis, who was the hitting instructor for AAA Nashville in the Brewers system the last two years, joins bench coach Art Howe as additions since Washington was hired. The remainder of the staff returns from last season, including Rudy Jaramillo (hitting), Mark Connor (pitching), Dom Chiti (bullpen), and Don Wakamatsu, who moves from bench coach to third base coach, catching instructor, and spring training coordinator.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that if Texas and the White Sox continue to discuss a trade involving one of Chicago’s starting pitchers, Nick Masset could end up being a key component should the Rangers refuse to part with Danks.

We might be moving the Book Release Party for the 2007 Bound Edition one evening earlier, to Wednesday, December 13. I’ll update you as soon as we finalize plans.

There will be a lot more Jon Daniels work to talk about by then.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — NOVEMBER 19, 2006

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have added lefthander A.J. Murray and righthander Alexi Ogando to the 40-man roster, preventing each from being stolen next month in the Rule 5 Draft.

Both are fascinating cases, Murray because he missed the whole season due to injury (before pitching well in the Arizona Fall League) and Ogando because he was an outfielder in the A’s system swiped by Texas for $12,000 last December and converted to the mound, where his Dominican Summer League stats (and his radar gun readings) were beyond belief. He was unable to come stateside in 2005 and 2006 due to visa issues, and it’s unclear whether those have been resolved for 2007.

If the new CBA didn’t change the provisions of Rule 5, there’s a very good chance neither Murray nor Ogando would have been protected, but both have a real chance to help Texas – though one a lot sooner than the other.

I’ll have more on both pitchers in the next Newberg Report, but for now, here’s a sneak peek at my piece in the 2007 Bound Edition on Ogando, one of 50 player features that appear in the book:

ALEXI OGANDO, RHP

I’d love to know whether Texas had this planned all along when they spent $12,000 to steal Ogando from Oakland in the minor league phase of the 2005 Rule 5 Draft…the A’s thought they could get away with leaving him off their AAA roster (which means they thought they had 78 Rule 5 eligibles more worthy of protecting), presumably because he was dealing with visa issues that were likely to keep him quarantined in the Dominican Republic for the foreseeable future…if the Rangers, without having had the benefit of working with Ogando, drafted him knowing they would make a pitcher out of him, it could make a great story one day…it’s a pretty good story as it is.

Ogando signed with Oakland in 2002, at age 18, reminding scouts of Vladimir Guerrero with his tall, lanky frame, his majestic power to all fields, and his impossibly strong right field arm…in 2003, his first season stateside, he hit .342/.379/.532 in the rookie-level Arizona League, finishing second in the circuit with seven home runs…in the same league in 2004, his percentages dipped to .267/.340/.450 but he again was the number two home run hitter in the league, going deep six times in 47 games.

Oakland was unable to get Ogando a work visa in 2005, and as a result he stayed home and played in the Dominican Summer League…hit just .246/.375/.406 but added a new dimension to his game, drawing 42 walks in 68 games (striking out 41 times).

When Texas drafted Ogando after the 2005 season, the club knew it would likely have as much trouble getting him stateside as the A’s had the year before…he joined the Rangers’ DSL roster and, when that club’s season began on June 3, he appeared in the opener – on the mound, finishing a 2-1 loss to the Astros by fanning two in a scoreless, two-hit ninth…he next pitched five days later, blanking the Astros again in three frames, permitting two hits and striking out three…three day later and several times thereafter, Ogando was in the lineup as a hitter, but soon it became clear that the pitching experiment was becoming much more than that…Ogando went 4 for 16 with a double and two RBI, drawing three walks and fanning four times, but his days on offense were numbered.

Ogando pitched six times in June, going 2-0, 0.00 with a save and scattering eight hits (.222 opponents’ average) and no walks in 9.2 innings, punching out 14…this was a man who had never pitched and he was not only getting half his outs on strikeouts – he was reportedly hitting 100 mph on the gun and wasn’t walking anyone.

Ogando became even less hittable in July, when he went 2-0, 0.53 in six outings spanning 17 frames, yielding 13 hits (.217 opponents’ average) and two walks while fanning 25…he was almost untouchable in August, giving up one run on three hits (.120 opponents’ average) and two walks in eight innings, striking out nine…all told, the righthander went 5-0, 0.52 with two saves in 16 relief appearances, walking only four batters in 34.2 innings while setting 48 down on strikes, and scattering 24 hits (.198 opponents’ average, no home runs)…left-handed hitters were as inept against Ogando as righthanders, and combined they grounded out 2.25 times more often than they flew out…but they struck out almost as many times as they were retired in play.

Guess what? As a hitter and outfielder, Ogando was a true five-tool player, running the 60 in 6.5 seconds…birthdate changed by a year and his name was changed from Argenis Benitez as a result of the AgeGate crackdown in 2003.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — NOVEMBER 19, 2006

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that, pending a physical, Texas will sign outfielder-DH Frank Catalanotto to a three-year contract worth more than $13 million, a deal very similar to the one Mark DeRosa got from the Cubs. The Rangers also have a club option for a fourth year.

One of the best fastball hitters around, Catalanotto could figure in as a starting left fielder, a fourth outfielder, or a designated hitter, and maybe more importantly, a strong candidate to lead off should Gary Matthews Jr. not return. Catalanotto, 31, has a lifetime on-base percentage of .364.

Catalanotto is a Type A free agent (by the slimmest of margins), meaning Texas forfeits the number 16 pick in next June’s draft to Toronto. If the Rangers sign a higher-ranked free agent that’s offered arbitration (or prior to the deadline to offer arb), Toronto will get the Rangers’ second-rounder, but in any event, the Rangers’ first has now been surrendered.

Also, Ken Rosenthal reports that talks between Texas and the White Sox involving Jon Garland and John Danks have cooled, I’m pleased to say.

More in the next Newberg Report.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 19, 2006

In an effort to distract myself, I thought I’d mention that tomorrow is when teams must finalize their 40-man rosters as far as the protection of minor leaguers from December’s Rule 5 Draft is concerned.

I’ll predict, in what’s probably the strangest Rule 5 winter ever because of the changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement less than a month ago, that Texas will add two players to the roster tomorrow: righthander Omar Beltre (who was on the roster last winter but transferred to the restricted list during the season) and lefthander A.J. Murray. There are several other solid candidates, but I’ll stick with those two.

For a discussion on how the process works and why I chose Beltre and Murray, there’s a nine-page analysis (“The 40-Man Conundrum”) in the 2007 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers