THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 2, 2006

The Rangers aren’t commenting on the managerial search (as they shouldn’t), but here’s what we know based on what the press is reporting.

Trey Hillman met with the Rangers for nearly 10 hours on Tuesday, interviewing with Jon Daniels and Thad Levine during the afternoon, meeting with Daniels, Levine, Tom Hicks, and Tom Hicks Jr. in the evening, and getting a late dinner with Daniels and Levine, before flying out yesterday morning to Oakland (after several hours of delay due to mechanical issues with the plane, according to USA Today) for an interview with the A’s. Hillman will interview with San Diego today and fly back to Japan tomorrow.

Don Wakamatsu had his formal interview with the Rangers yesterday, becoming the fifth and final candidate (following Ron Washington, John Russell, Manny Acta, and Hillman) to visit with club officials about the position. Wakamatsu spent five hours with Daniels and another two with Hicks.

New senior director of baseball operations Don Welke traveled last Thursday to Washington’s hometown of New Orleans for a follow-up visit, suggesting the Oakland third base coach may be in line for a second-round interview. Washington met with the A’s on Tuesday to interview for their own managerial opening, and Acta will interview with Oakland after he returns from MLB’s Japan tour on November 12. Orel Hershiser will interview with Oakland on November 8, and if Wakamatsu hasn’t been hired by Texas, he is expected to visit with the A’s at some point as well.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson, who gave A’s GM Billy Beane (and obviously his own boss, San Diego GM Kevin Towers) a glowing recommendation of Hillman, said of the Rangers’ 2002 director of player development, whom he hired four weeks after arriving in Texas himself: “That was a key hire for me, and Trey was the whole package. The minute I interviewed him, it was a done deal — and for me to hire someone I didn’t know in that job was a big deal. But Trey’s personality, people skills, planning ability, attention to detail — it would be hard to find better. He’s someone who makes sure things get done.”

Hillman himself added, with regard to Fuson, whom he hadn’t met before joining the Rangers: “He was like my brother, not like my boss, we bonded so quickly.”

As it turns out, Hillman is interviewing with the three organizations that Fuson has worked for. It’s probably not a coincidence.

Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka held a press conference yesterday, announcing that his club, the Seibu Lions, has agreed to post the 26-year-old, permitting all 30 Major League clubs to submit blind bids for the right to negotiate with him.

The first day on which a Japanese club could post one of its players was yesterday. At some point Seibu will notify the MLB Commissioner’s Office that it wishes to post Matsuzaka — that could take place today. MLB will then distribute official notice to the 30 big league clubs announcing the post date. As of the post date, clubs will have 72 hours to submit a blind bid for the righthander. After the 72-hour window expires, the club that submitted the highest bid will be awarded the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka.

That club will then have 30 days to make a deal with Matsuzaka and his agent, Scott Boras. If an agreement is reached, the bid money goes to Seibu as a transfer fee. If talks break down and the club doesn’t sign Matsuzaka, the Lions must return the bid money to the MLB club, and Matsuzaka won’t be able to be reposted for another year.

If the Boras part scares you, think about this: the leverage won’t belong to him and his client. The MLB club that secures the posting rights won’t be bidding against any other MLB club, and since Seibu decided to enter this process, you can guess that when presented with a bid, say, in the $20-25 million range, the Lions won’t be in a mood to forfeit that fee back to the MLB club and end up with a disappointed Matsuzaka back on their hands instead. Given the likelihood that he’d leave Seibu when he’s a Japanese free agent a year and a half from now (three weeks into the 2008 season), yielding no compensation for the Lions, it’s safe to assume that Seibu is counting on the posting fee at this point, and not the player.

But leverage or no leverage, that doesn’t mean Boras won’t land for Matsuzaka the largest contract that any free agent pitcher gets this winter.

The highest posting bid ever made was the $13.1 million that Seattle put up in order to negotiate with Ichiro Suzuki before the 2001 season. Almost all reports suggest it will take a significantly higher bid to land the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka.

Interestingly, the Mariners have publicly confirmed that they don’t plan to get in on the Matsuzaka bidding, and there are reports that the Angels are also staying out of it. There’s even a story suggesting the Yankees won’t bid more than $20 million, but that sounds like something New York might be planting in an attempt to suppress bids from their competition.

Texas is reportedly interested in two Japanese pitchers other than Matsuzaka as well: 27-year-old Hanshin Tigers lefthander Kei Igawa, who led the Central League with 193 strikeouts (his third whiff title), and 31-year-old free agent righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who led the league with a 1.85 ERA while with the Hiroshima Carp.

Major league free agents can’t negotiate on the open market before November 12, but don’t expect Gary Matthews Jr., Vicente Padilla, or Mark DeRosa to re-sign with Texas before then.

It’s far more likely that the Rangers will have a new manager by the 12th.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com suggests that Mike Piazza, whose 2007 option was not picked up by the Padres, might be a good fit for the Rangers, who could have him DH most days and catch once or twice a week (though Texas would presumably have a third catcher on the roster as well).

Piazza is a Type A free agent, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, but it’s doubtful that San Diego would offer him arbitration.

Among the pitchers classified as Type B’s are Ted Lilly, Jeff Weaver, Mark Mulder, and Gil Meche. Under the modified CBA, if the Rangers were to sign any of them, they wouldn’t forfeit a pick; instead, the 2006 club for the player in question will get a sandwich pick between rounds one and two if the club offers arbitration and the player signs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Padilla and DeRosa are Type B’s as well, meaning there will similarly be no compensation disincentive for any team to negotiate with them. Same with Rod Barajas. Carlos Lee, like Matthews, is a Type A.

Adam Eaton is a Type C, meaning there’s no compensation tied to him. His equivalent in the National League is lefthander Randy Wolf, who missed the first two-thirds of the season after elbow surgery but has some upside.

There are reports that Texas is interested in outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who is a Type A. David Dellucci is a Type A as well, as is Barry Bonds, in whom the Rangers might have some interest, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that the White Sox “could take a shot at All-Star shortstop Michael Young as part of a major deal.” That’s not happening. Of more interest in the story is the comment that Chicago has “thoroughly scouted Texas pitching prospects Edison [sic] Volquez, John Danks, Thomas Diamond, Nick Masset and Eric Hurley, and preliminary talks last November broke down when the Rangers were unwilling to part with Danks or Diamond in a multiplayer trade.”

Fascinating. I went back to see what I’d written about the White Sox last November, and all I could find that would conceivably fit was this: “Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the White Sox are shopping righthander Freddy Garcia, with plans to replace him in the rotation with righthander Brandon McCarthy.”

Baseball America has put together a 2006 Draft All-Star Team, based on pro performance and level of competition, featuring a lineup of nine, plus five pitchers. Three of the 14 players are Rangers: Spokane catcher Chad Tracy (third round) and first baseman Chris Davis (fifth round) were considered to have had the best rookie seasons of any 2006 draft pick at their positions, and lefthander Danny Ray Herrera (45th round) was one of the five hurlers.

In the category of best pro debuts among junior college players drafted in 2006, BA determined that nobody in baseball was better than Davis, and that no Day Two pick (rounds 21 and later) had a better debut than Herrera. Shortstop Marcus Lemon (fourth round) was judged to be the number four defensive player to come out of the draft.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz has heated up for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, lifting his numbers to .303/.425/.545 in 33 at-bats. Outfielder Ben Harrison is hitting .383/.486/.633 in 60 at-bats for Caribes de Oriente in the Venezuelan Winter League. Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. sits at .318/.388/.545 in 44 West Oahu CaneFires at-bats in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League. Lefthander A.J. Murray, unquestionably making an impression after missing the entire 2006 season, is 3-1, 1.88 in seven Arizona Fall League appearances, allowing 15 hits and five walks in 14.1 innings while fanning 12. No prospect has taken him deep.

And maybe most significantly, righthander Nick Masset continues to flourish in the closer’s role for Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League, with seven saves — and seven scoreless appearances — in eight trips to the mound. In eight innings, the 24-year-old has scattered seven hits and one walk while punching out 10.

Don Mattingly, who was both Michael Young’s and Mark Teixeira’s favorite player growing up, was elevated by the Yankees from hitting coach to bench coach, adding further punch to his candidacy to be Joe Torre’s eventual successor.

Tucker Matthew Rupe was born to April and Josh yesterday, weighing in at seven pounds, four ounces, and measuring 20 inches.

Vote for Mark Holtz — or Eric Nadel, Tom Grieve, John Lewin, Norm Hitzges, Steve Busby, or anyone else — for the 2007 Ford C. Frick Award, recognizing excellence in baseball broadcasting. And vote often.

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

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