THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 12, 2006

It’s November 12. The doors are unlocked, the signs have been flipped from “Closed” to “Open,” and the window shopping is over. Free agents and the teams they didn’t finish the 2006 season with can start officially selling themselves to one another, and the mystery now becomes not which baseball writers had the best run of prognostication in the last month but instead which agents will allow their players to set the market and which will sit back, waiting to dive in once the relevant market gets marginally defined.

And then there’s one agent who, as always, will do plenty of both, as he gets set to peddle his Japanese trophy, the equivalent of the one-of-a-kind grand prize in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, leveraging his client as only he can with the one team he can talk to (on the surface, that is), meanwhile sitting pretty with some of the high-end merchandise that all 30 teams can haggle over. (“Do you have that in a Barry Zito?” “Why yes, it turns out I do. And might I interest you in a Jeff Weaver, or a Greg Maddux? And don’t let me forget to take you over to see my J.D. Drew and my refurbished Eric Gagne.”)

By tomorrow at this time, according to baseball’s best winter prognosticators, we should know which team gets to sit down with Scott Boras and haggle over Daisuke Matsuzaka for a month. By tomorrow at this time, I’ll know if the next month of Newberg Reports will be dominated by Matsuzaka talk – and all its ramifications – or if instead the focus will be squarely on Gary Matthews Jr., Vicente Padilla, Mark DeRosa, Carlos Lee, and the players that Jon Daniels will target to fill the vacancies that the departure of any of them would leave.

(According to baseball’s not-so-great winter prognosticators, hey, the White Sox still covet Michael Young!)

Just hope, along with me, that the Angels didn’t place the high bid to negotiate with Matsuzaka. For two reasons.

Nagging thought: Why hasn’t anyone pointed out that the Rangers can safely offer arbitration to Rod Barajas under the new collective bargaining agreement, which will give them an extra sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the June draft? It was risky under the old CBA, because any team signing a Type B (which Barajas is) that has been offered arbitration would have had to surrender its first- or second-rounder or to do so, a major disincentive for a player at Barajas’s age and production level. But now, a team signing a Type B forfeits nothing; instead, the player’s old team gets the supplemental pick, but it’s not one taken away from the player’s new team.

In other words, if Boston or Colorado or whoever decides it wants Barajas, whether or not he’s offered arbitration will make absolutely no difference to them. And surely Barajas will attract a multi-year deal for more guaranteed money on the open market than the one-year deal he would get by accepting an arbitration offer. His primary market competition is the trio of Mike Lieberthal, Bengie Molina, and Gregg Zaun, unless you want a guy who plays with his hair on fire. Someone will pay Barajas.

Anyway, there’s a tangential ramble from a guy whose college football season ended last night and whose heavy lifting on his next book on the Rangers has now been finished, a guy who is ready to play ball with zero distractions.

Not that there was a whole lot of ball to be played before the calendar landed on November 12.

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

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