December 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 30, 2006

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the agent for Mark Mulder is confirming that the 29-year-old will sign with either St. Louis, Cleveland, or Texas, each of which have reportedly offered Mulder a two-year contract. The lefthander has returned from his honeymoon and could meet with the Indians in the next few days, after which he could make his decision.

Because Mulder is a Type B free agent, he won’t cost the Rangers or Indians a draft pick if they sign him.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 29, 2006

Scott Boras is a magician. Barry Zito is going to pull down a guaranteed $126 million, which is exactly half of what Boras secured six years ago for Alex Rodriguez, but considering that Zito plays only every fifth day and the contract covers seven seasons rather than 10, there’s this staggering fact:

If Zito doesn’t miss a single start over the next seven years, at the end of which he’ll be 35 years old, he’ll earn more than half a million dollars every game he plays.

Half a million dollars a game.

Good grief.

The Rangers’ offer of $88 million over six years (which includes a $4 million buyout if Texas opted not to pick up a $15 million option for a seventh year, which would have vested if Zito pitched 200 innings in the sixth season of the deal), while not close to the $18 million AAV that the Giants committed, was in line with the Mets’ reported offer of five years at $75 million. Seattle apparently never made a formal offer but was rumored to be willing to match New York’s proposal. The Yankees, having not yet moved Randy Johnson, never jumped in.

For that much more guaranteed money, Zito would have been crazy to go anywhere else, and of course he basically gets to stay home. But considering that the Giants won 76 games in a weak National League last season and, if anything, have gotten older this winter, I’m not sure it was the brightest baseball move. No player in the starting lineup will be under 32 this season, and their farm system is thin. Will Zito, Matt Cain, Noah Lowry, Jonathan Sanchez, and Tim Lincecum get it done alone over the next few years?

The Rangers’ focus at this point, as far as free agents are concerned, would seem to be on Mark Mulder alone. He’s reportedly weighing three or four offers, including a two-year proposal from Texas, and could make his decision soon (he’s on his honeymoon right now).

Texas did sign three players yesterday, one to a big league contract (catcher Guillermo Quiroz) and two righthanders (Mike Wood and Willie Eyre) to minor league deals with invites to big league camp. Quiroz is the most interesting pickup.

Three years ago, there were several catchers, all American Leaguers, among the top prospects in baseball. Most lists of the 50 best prospects in the game included four backstops: Joe Mauer, then Jeff Mathis, then, interchangeably, Dioner Navarro and Quiroz.

Gerald Laird was in the next tier. Quiroz now has an opportunity to win a job as Laird’s backup.

Quiroz’s rise in stature came after a breakthrough 2003 season in which the right-handed hitter, at age 21, hit a robust .282/.372/.518 against AA pitching, blasting 20 homers and adding 27 doubles in just 369 at-bats. And this was a player who, when he signed out of Venezuela at age 16 for $1.2 million — with Boras as his agent — was considered a potential star defensively. With plus pop times to second, a strong arm, and good agility, that 2003 season at the plate — even when a collapsed lung ended his season early — made Quiroz (who was the World Team’s starter at catcher in that summer’s Futures Game) an absolute lock to move in as Toronto’s starter within a couple years.

But Quiroz has had nothing but adversity on the field since then. He missed nearly two months early in 2004 with a broken glove hand, hitting .227/.309/.404 before getting a brief big league look in September. He strained his throwing shoulder and suffered a second collapsed lung in 2005, getting just 121 at-bats between High A and AAA, in addition to 36 at-bats with the Blue Jays over the season’s final six weeks.

Toronto tried to sneak Quiroz through waivers at the end of spring training in 2006, as he was out of options and failed to beat out Jason Phillips to serve as the backup to Gregg Zaun, who actually had to start the season on the disabled list with a pulled calf muscle. Seattle put in a waiver claim, however, and Quiroz was suddenly the Mariners’ backup catcher. He got a start for Seattle on April 9, striking out in each of two trips to the plate before being lifted in the eighth inning for a pinch hitter.

It would be the only appearance Quiroz made with the Mariners, who were able to slide him through waivers and outright him to AAA Tacoma on April 16. He hit well for the Rainiers (.304/.359/.428) in 138 at-bats but was reassigned in July (largely because the Mariners promoted uberprospect Jeff Clement to Tacoma) to AA San Antonio, where he hit just .188/.235/.375 in 64 at-bats.

Off of the Mariners’ 40-man roster as the season came to an end, Quiroz (who just turned 25 a month ago) exercised six-year free agent rights to shop himself on the open market, and there was obviously enough interest in him around the league that Texas had to offer him a 40-man roster spot to get him to sign. He’ll battle Miguel Ojeda for the backup catcher job, but since he’s out of options, there’s a good chance he won’t remain with the organization if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. Even if Texas designates him for assignment and is able to get him through waivers, since he’s been outrighted before he’ll have the right to decline any subsequent outrights and trigger immediate free agency.

Quiroz (whose hometown of Maracaibo is where the Rangers used to base their Venezuelan Academy) has been catching for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting .200/.280/.311 in 45 at-bats. Among the other catchers on the Lara roster is Einar Diaz.

Pretty intriguing, low-risk acquisition. Considering the tools Quiroz brings to the catcher position, not to mention his potential to hit with power, the upside is that he develops into a Rod Barajas-type backup, which is exactly what Texas had three years ago when Laird last went into a season as the starter.

The Quiroz signing brings the Rangers’ roster to a full 40 players (not including Omar Beltre, who is on the restricted list), which means that if Texas were to sign Mulder or someone else to a big league contract, the club will need to concomitantly drop someone from the roster, which currently includes Francisco Cruceta, Drew Meyer, and Victor Diaz. (Surely Armando Galarraga, Daniel Haigwood, and A.J. Murray are safe, as is Alexi Ogando, though he might end up on the restricted list himself.)

Texas had claimed Wood off waivers from Kansas City in October, but non-tendered him just over two weeks ago at the deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players. The 26-year-old Wood, originally drafted by Oakland in 2001, was traded to the Royals with Mark Teahen in the three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston. He’s a 13-20, 5.52 pitcher in parts of four big league seasons but has been brilliant in the minor leagues, going 40-17, 3.11 over six seasons.

Eyre, whose brother Scott was originally Rangers property (traded for Esteban Beltre days before the 1994 season) and now makes a lot of money pitching in middle relief for the Cubs, made his big league debut last season at age 27, when he pitched all year in middle relief for Minnesota. Eyre went 1-0, 5.31 in 42 games for the Twins, allowing opponents to hit .309/.376/.494 and fanning only 26 batters in 59.1 innings while walking 22. He finished 20 games but never had a save opportunity (and only the one decision), and was left off Minnesota’s playoff roster and ultimately non-tendered.

The Twins drafted Eyre in the 23rd round of the 1999 draft, the same draft in which Texas drafted his Junior College of Eastern Utah teammate Richard Gilbert in the 38th round. In 2005, Eyre had a AAA mark of 10-3, 2.72 in 56 relief appearances, saving seven games and punching out 74 International Leaguers in 82.2 frames.

Willie’s middle name is Mays.

A little background on David Paisano, the 19-year-old outfielder whom Texas received from the White Sox in the weekend deal that sent John Danks, Nick Masset, and Jake Rasner to Chicago for Brandon McCarthy. The Venezuelan hit .338/.430/.477 for Chicago’s Venezuelan Summer League squad in 2006, playing all three outfield spots (primarily center field) while leading off most of the time. In 195 homerless at-bats, the league All-Star struck out 37 times while drawing 22 walks, and among his 66 hits were an eye-opening seven triples. A right-handed hitter, Paisano was equally effective against right-handed pitchers (.338) and lefties (.340).

In 2005, Paisano’s debut season, he played for Chicago’s Dominican Summer League entry, hitting .272/.321/.377 with three home runs in 151 at-bats.

Years away from threatening to break into the big leagues, Paisano goes into the Rangers’ mix of internal candidates to develop into a leadoff-hitting center fielder. He’s gone 2 for 12 for Tiburones de La Guaria in the Venezuelan Winter League, which is impressive not so much in terms of the numbers as from the standpoint that he’s competing in that league as a teenager.

Here’s something you shouldn’t miss. It’s Lorrie Masset’s message to Rangers fans in the aftermath of the trade that sent her son Nick to Chicago, after five and a half years of growth in the Rangers system.

My brief segment on KRLD’s Sports Central talk show last night, mostly regarding the McCarthy trade, can be found here.

Texas signed outfielder Todd Donovan and infielder Jared Sandberg to minor league deals last week. Neither was invited to major league camp.

Donovan, age 28, is a .268/.350/.369 hitter in eight minor league seasons, with very little power but significant speed. Sandberg, also 28, was a .221/.297/.406 hitter in parts of three big league seasons with Tampa Bay, hitting 25 homers and driving in 92 runs in 630 at-bats, and is a lifetime .247/.333/.433 hitter in 11 minor league seasons. He split the 2006 season between AA Corpus Christi in the Houston system, AA Akron in the Cleveland system, and Somerset of the independent Atlantic League.

Sandberg’s uncle is Ryne.

And Barry Zito’s uncle is Patrick Duffy. Which is about as close to Dallas as the lefthander is gonna get, having landed the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, eight years after he was a reported $62,500 short of signing with the Rangers out of Los Angeles Pierce Junior College.

Half a freakin’ million Bay Area bucks a start.

Stunning.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — DECEMBER 28, 2006

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers’ standing offer to lefthander Barry Zito, made nearly 10 days ago, is for six years and “a little more than $80 million.” Multiple published reports indicate that Texas has advised Zito and his agent Scott Boras that the offer will expire this weekend.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 27, 2006

When I got out of law school in 1994, I went in on two Mavericks seats at Reunion Arena with a couple UT Law classmates. The seats weren’t great, but that was in deference to the chunk that our law school tuition loans were taking out of our first-year salaries — it certainly wasn’t because the Mavs were a tough ticket. Dallas was coming off of historically awful 11-win and 13-win seasons.

The idea was to get in the door so we’d be there, in better seats, when things got better. The Mavs drafted Jason Kidd a few weeks after our last law school finals and a few weeks before the bar exam, and there was the rumor that the team would have a new arena to play in before long. We were long-term investors.

Then Dallas traded Kidd in December of 1996 (in fact, 10 years ago last night), and I gave up my stake in the seats.

Stupid.

I learned a little lesson there. I’m not really sure I’ve had the chance to apply that lesson since. Maybe this is that chance. Investing in the Mavs and Kidd felt smart, smarter every year — folding when he was traded was, in retrospect, short-sighted and overly emotional.

Investing not money but faith in John Danks and Nick Masset, which felt smarter every year, made Saturday’s trade for Brandon McCarthy, when I first heard about it, seem less like the strategic decision that it was and more like a slug to the gut.

But this time I’m not folding.

Now that’s not to say I’m going to sit here and tell you the Rangers just pulled off their Herschel Trade, or made up for The Hafner Deal. Instead, I’m going to remind you where these reports that I write come from: a deep, often stubborn passion for the Texas Rangers, a sometimes blind faith that the best is yet to come, and a complete confidence in Jon Daniels, which includes the recognition of Daniels’ confidence in his pro scouts.

It will be impossible for me to believe Danks and Masset aren’t going to fulfill expectations unless and until they fall short on the big league mound. The emotional attachment that develops when you see a kid become a professional ballplayer as a teenager and get better and get better and get better is hard to sever, and I don’t really feel like trying to sever it.

The thing I’d like to do would be to look back at the Herschel Trade and say, “Hey, look how a trade like this can reshape your future.” Or refer to that trade of a draft pick that was used on Shawn Marion, and how the backup point guard we got back — Steve Nash — was in fact ready to explode. Or point to the fact that trading 18-year-old Jarome Iginla wasn’t the worst thing in the world since adding Joe Nieuwendyk might very well have been the difference between bringing a Stanley Cup to Dallas and falling short.

But precedent is failing me. I can’t think of the last time — any time in my life of following baseball — that top-tier young pitchers were traded for each other, basically alone. No veterans. No contract issues or pending free agents.

This was a baseball card trade. I’ll give you a Strawberry and a Joe Carter for your Mattingly.

There have been plenty of trades keyed by top prospects or young players on both sides. Taubensee for Lofton. Konerko for Cameron. Barfield for Kouzmanoff. But those weren’t pitchers.

Jon Garland for Matt Karchner? Garland, 18 years old at the time, was a disappointing year into his pro career. Karchner was 31. Not nearly the same.

Dustin Hermanson for Quilvio Veras? Nope. Just one pitcher.

Kirk Saarloos for Chad Harville? Umm, no.

You know what trading John Danks and Nick Masset feels like? Like trading Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr. for six-year veteran Pedro Martinez, like Boston did nine years ago.

And Chicago trading McCarthy? Like Atlanta trading Jason Schmidt to key a deal for Denny Neagle.

What you don’t find is precedent for a team taking its Pavano and Armas and trading them for another team’s Schmidt.

And that’s probably because those types of trades are incredibly risky. If Pavano or Armas or Schmidt or A.J. Burnett or Dontrelle Willis or Scott Kazmir hit it big, you can justify it to yourself and your team’s fans by pointing out that you were selling future for present (Martinez, Neagle, Al Leiter, Matt Clement, and, um, Victor Zambrano).

Trade those 1984 Donruss cards, Strawberry and Carter for Mattingly, and if it doesn’t work out for you, you just tell the other guy he owes you one.

Not so easy when it’s young pitching for young pitching, with real-life accountability, setting up a relatively easy scoreboard on which the trade will be able to be measured.

Two questions I can’t shake:

1. What veteran pitcher could Texas have gotten for Danks and Masset (and righthander Jake Rasner)?

2. What veteran pitcher could Chicago have gotten for McCarthy (and outfielder David Paisano)?

But here’s the thing: the Rangers didn’t want a veteran pitcher when they could instead get McCarthy, whom they will control for five years. And the Sox didn’t really want another veteran for their rotation, which already boasts Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, and Javier Vazquez (with Danks joining a mix for the fifth spot that includes Charlie Haeger and Gavin Floyd). That’s why neither team traded its prized young pitching for expensive veteran help in this case, and probably resisted any real opportunity to do so.

General managers aren’t supposed to get unreasonably attached to their own players (it’s that whole “trading a guy a year too late” thing). But you and I aren’t so enjoined, and that’s probably why, on Saturday, there was so much fan dissent about this trade — on both sides. While McCarthy is more of a known quantity than Danks or Masset, he isn’t in North Texas, because of talk radio and three-letter acronyms and Mike Hindman. We’re all attached to Danks and Masset, me included, because those two have grown up in the Rangers system, a system that has had so much difficulty in its 35 years developing young arms.

That’s understandable. Nobody feels more of an attachment than I do to Danks, who made the three-hour drive up from Round Rock with his mother two weeks ago to spend more than three hours with us at the Bound Edition Book Release Party (before driving back that same night), or to Masset, who flew to Arlington on his own dime in 2003 just to experience the Rangers’ Winter Banquet and Winter Warmup, sitting with us for the duration at both. They are great kids with great families and great futures playing a great game at a level a lot of us wanted to play it, and from that standpoint I’ll pull for both of those guys to accomplish everything possible on the baseball field, except when it’s at the expense of the Rangers.

Which brings me back, though not easily, to focusing less on Danks and Masset as a fan of theirs and more, for now and going forward, on how this deal could make Texas a better team.

First, would I rather have McCarthy than Garland or Javier Vazquez, two pitchers that Chicago was reportedly shopping for Danks and Masset before talks shifted to McCarthy about a week before the deal went down? Without question. Jason Jennings? Another tough call, but if the question is whether I’d rather have five years of McCarthy or one of Jennings, then that’s a simple answer as well.

Would I rather have McCarthy than Josh Beckett, whom Texas nearly traded Danks for a year ago (with an added exchange of Hank Blalock and Mike Lowell)? Tougher question for me, but if the Rangers are able to sign Barry Zito (which will or won’t happen by this weekend, reportedly) or — more realistically — get Michael Young or Mark Teixeira extended by virtue of having McCarthy rather than Beckett on the payroll, then the answer is obvious.

The fascinating thing about the acquisition of McCarthy is that it ensures that the club’s top four starters are all guaranteed to be here past the expiration of Young’s and Teixeira’s current obligations. The fact that Texas can keep Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla here another four years under their contracts, and that McCarthy and Robinson Tejeda are under control for another five, puts the Rangers in a position that I’m not sure they’ve ever been in. For the next few years, they won’t have to be in the market for overpaid free agent starting pitchers, merely to field a rotation, nor will they have to tap into their top tier of prospects to bring decent one-year veterans like Adam Eaton in.

It also means that that fifth spot in the rotation no longer has to go to a journeyman or a kid who isn’t ready. This year it might go to Josh Rupe or Kameron Loe or John Koronka, Edinson Volquez or John Rheinecker. A year from now, more candidates could arrive: maybe Eric Hurley will be ready, or Thomas Diamond or Kea Kometani. Maybe Armando Galarraga or Daniel Haigwood will assert himself. And how long will it be before Fabio Castillo or Kasey Kiker or Omar Poveda or Michael Schlact or Zach Phillips factors in?

A few years, sure. But Millwood and Padilla and McCarthy and Tejeda will still be here when all of those guys are ready or close to it, as long as the Rangers want them to be.

Plus, if you don’t think that, a year from now, there will be additional names at the front of those lists from the five first-round and supplemental first-round picks Texas has this June, or from the organization’s intensified efforts in Latin America, think again.

But, you say, all the above would still be the case if this trade hadn’t gone down. Danks wouldn’t be part of the front four — yet — but he’d be as close as anyone among the doorstep group. And the problem I see with this deal is if both McCarthy and Danks develop into dependable, middle-to-top-of-the-rotation guys and, meanwhile, even if McCarthy proves to be more effective, Masset steps in and pitches big innings for the Sox in relief.

But here’s how I resolve that in my mind, admitting to you and to myself that I badly want this trade to work out well for my team:

1. McCarthy’s minor league track record is even more impressive than the one Danks has put together. More on that in a bit.

2. McCarthy’s extreme effectiveness against left-handed hitters (due to a wicked changeup) helps to erase the issue of his being right-handed in a ballpark that favors southpaw pitchers. In his two years in the big leagues, McCarthy has held lefties to an anemic .201/.274/.356 clip, striking out one hitter for every four at-bats. Danks was far tougher on left-handed hitters than righties in AAA, but had reverse splits in AA, where lefties hit .300 and slugged .525 against him in 80 trips.

3. The way the bullpen sets up right now, Texas almost certainly would have used an option (its last) on Masset this spring. And if, pitching behind Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne, the bullpen is going to consist of young arms like Wes Littleton and a healthy Frankie Francisco from the right side, possibly Rupe as well (depending on how the rotation competition works out), and C.J. Wilson as one of the better young left-handed relievers in the league, there’s a question as to how Masset would eventually fit.

On that last one, I admit it’s just one way to look at it. I do think Masset is going to be an effective reliever (not to foreclose the possibility that he could start one day), but I also think this: Masset’s trade value has never been higher, and it’s not close. With the depth that the Rangers have begun to build to address the seventh and eighth inning and the last couple spots in the rotation over the next two or three years, it made sense for Daniels to exploit this winter’s crazy middle relief market and see what he could get for one of those arms. And aside from Rupe and Wilson, who should fill key roles in Texas right away, there’s not a reliever Daniels could have gotten more for than Masset, who stands a very good chance of playing a big role in a Chicago bullpen full of good arms but very few fixtures.

Let’s face it: if Sox GM Kenny Williams really did trade Freddy Garcia to once and for all make rotation room for McCarthy just three weeks ago, then the fact that he then turned around and moved McCarthy for a pitcher who isn’t ready for the major league ball 35 times surely means this deal doesn’t get done without Chicago getting Masset as well. There is no doubt: Masset has the chance to be this trade’s Edwin Encarnacion.

McCarthy is two years older than Danks and, though he was drafted just one year earlier than Danks, he’d basically about two years ahead of him developmentally. Chicago’s 17th-round pick in 2002 (in a draft in which the Sox took Rupe in the third round and Haigwood in the 16th), McCarthy pitched in the Arizona League in his first summer, just as Danks did before finishing his first season in the Northwest League. In McCarthy’s second season, he pitched all summer in the rookie-level Pioneer League after remaining in extended during the spring, while Danks split his second year between Low A and High A.

McCarthy’s third season was his breakthrough campaign, as he went 17-6, 3.14 between Low A, High A, and AA, fanning 202 (tops in all of minor league baseball) and walking only 30 in 172 combined innings. Danks split his third year between High A Bakersfield (where he dominated) and AA Frisco (where he struggled).

In 2005, his fourth year as a pro, McCarthy went 7-7, 3.92 for AAA Charlotte, earning 10 starts and two relief appearances for Chicago in its championship season, going 3-2, 4.03 in those 12 games. Danks went 9-9, 4.24 between Frisco and Oklahoma in 2006 (his fourth season), and he finished strong. Danks’s 2007 stands to be like McCarthy’s 2005, as he probably won’t break camp with the Sox but could figure in by mid-season.

(Chicago, incidentally, ignored Danks’s brother Jordan’s insistence seven months ago that he was headed for the University of Texas and went ahead and drafted the high school outfielder in the 19th round. Don’t rule out the possibility that the Sox will draft Jordan again when he’s next eligible in 2008.)

The elder Danks has punched out 9.27 batters per nine innings as a minor leaguer. McCarthy, in his minor league time, fanned 10.25. Danks has walked 3.31 per nine, McCarthy 1.76. Danks has permitted 1.01 home runs per nine innings, McCarthy 0.84. Danks has held opponents to a .261 batting average, McCarthy has limited minor leaguers to a .238 clip.

But those numbers aren’t there to suggest that McCarthy is the better pitcher. They’re there to point out that as exciting as Danks’s numbers have been, McCarthy’s stats on the farm were extraordinary.

Much has been made of McCarthy’s proneness to the long ball in the big leagues and his relegation to middle relief in his sophomore season after pitching mainly in the rotation as a rookie. But both of those things happen to young pitchers, and we certainly can’t assume that they won’t happen to Danks when he reaches the majors. But here’s a few things you might find interesting.

As far as the home runs are concerned, there have been more bombs hit in U.S. Cellular Field the past four years (909) than in Ameriquest Field (904), and considering the starting pitching has been far more established in Chicago over that time, maybe that’s significant. (It should be pointed out, however, that McCarthy has been almost as homer-prone on the road as at home.)

In 2005, when McCarthy first arrived, his ERA stood at 8.14 after five appearances, three of which were bad (including one in Arlington, his first big league loss). Thereafter, starting with a spectacular August 30 effort against Volquez in the latter’s big league debut, McCarthy finished the season by going 3-1, 1.69 in five starts and two relief appearances, holding opponents to a .201 average. The August 30 gem (7.2 shutout innings, two hits and one walk) was McCarthy’s first big league win.

In 2006, McCarthy pitched 53 times for Chicago but started only twice: a crummy effort in Tampa on May 16 (three runs on five hits [two homers] and a walk in four innings, fanning four) and a brilliant game to finish his season in Cleveland on September 27 (one run on two hits and a walk in 5.1 frames, punching out eight).

Situationally speaking: 21 of the 30 homers McCarthy has allowed as a big leaguer have come with the bases empty. With runners on, the opposition has hit only .220/.289/.381 against the 6’7″ righty, as opposed to .256/.314/.490 with the bases clear. As a starting pitcher, McCarthy has a 4.12 big league ERA and, able to work with his full repertoire and more effectively set hitters up, holds opponents to a line of .237/.287/.455. In relief, his ERA is 4.61 with an opponents’ line of .247/.318/.443. His strikeout rate is similar between the two roles, but he walks more as a reliever (3.64 per nine innings) than as a starter (2.13 per nine).

Do we throw those relief numbers out, since McCarthy was probably forced to be more fine in most situations and since he probably reduced his arsenal to his fastball and change when coming in from the pen? No. But it does seem clear that he’s more suited to start, which of course is what he’ll do here.

All told, McCarthy has fewer allowed hits (139) than innings pitched (151.2) in his two big league seasons, seven strikeouts per nine innings, three walks per nine, and an opponents’ line of .243/.305/.449. If Danks had put together anything close to that sort of performance over his first two seasons in Texas, then forget Kenny Rogers: we’d be dialing back to Kevin Brown when trying to come up with the last young Rangers pitcher with as much promise.

And that’s sort of the point. It’s easy not to be as fired up about Brandon McCarthy, despite those numbers, because (1) he’s not homegrown (and thus familiar to us) like John Danks and (2) we had to give Danks up to get him. I’m really, really excited about McCarthy. But I expect Danks to be outstanding, too.

You can flip their names in those last two sentences and it would apply equally to White Sox fans, who appear almost exclusively to be enraged by this trade.

Was I smart to hang onto all those Juan Gonzalez rookie cards in 1990 when I might have had an opportunity to trade them for a bunch of Frank Thomas rookies? Depends on what the measure is. Emotionally, sentimentally, I did the right thing. Collecting cards is all about being a fan (at least, it should be) and getting fired up about your own players.

Building a baseball team, as opposed to a baseball card collection, is measured differently. Emotion and sentimentality have to be tossed aside. That’s not to say that replacing your Michael Young or Mark Teixeira with an equivalent player from another club carries no negative upshot — I would submit that the core guys on the big club do more than hit with runners in scoring position and catch the ball. They help create an identity and a mindset that define a team.

With prospects, it’s different. Being “homegrown” matters to the extent that the player can play, but doesn’t impact whether the player stays. Texas fans can be bitter about Travis Hafner just like Toronto fans can resent the loss of Michael Young, but it’s because of what their teams got in return. The memory of John Smoltz isn’t as unpleasant in Detroit. Though Texas fans might regret the trade of Adrian Gonzalez, Florida fans can’t. Most Stars fans probably don’t even realize that Dallas traded Iginla.

And with that, I bring this report back to where it began, a concession that what I am is not an objective reporter but a passionate fan. And in that vein, the transition that I’m making, one that I need to make in order to satisfy my intense desire for this trade to work out for Texas, is from an emotional attachment to John Danks and Nick Masset and a belief in their upsides, to an excitement about the potential results and potential stability that Brandon McCarthy brings to the Texas rotation.

And above all, a sincere hope that my team’s pro scouts did a better job of evaluating and projecting young, seemingly untouchable pitchers than the other team’s did.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 24, 2006

There are some sports moments you don’t forget, not the moments that return to you for days and weeks and sometimes years because of televised highlights or radio soundbites but the type that bookmark themselves forever because they blindside you, less because of their impact than because of the sense that there’s almost no chance you could have ever imagined something like it happening.

What follows is not an analysis of the Rangers’ Saturday trade of John Danks, Nick Masset, and Jake Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano, but a rehashing (to the best of my ability) of my initial thoughts about the deal. My very initial thoughts.

1. First thought: Get a News Flash out. I don’t like this trade.

2. Next: Two years ago, when he was 21, McCarthy might have been the most heralded pitching prospect in baseball. OK, maybe I like it.

3. The deal obviously means both teams agreed McCarthy was worth more in trade than Danks, today. But to account for that difference, whatever it was perceived to be, did the even-up have to be Masset? Not happy.

4. That unforgettable game McCarthy pitched on August 30, 2005 in Arlington, matched up against Edinson Volquez in the back end of a twinbill . . . a game that was supposed to be all about Volquez’s big league debut but was instead remarkable because of the manner in which McCarthy logged his first big league win, blanking the Rangers in their own house on two hits and a walk over 7.2 innings. Happy.

5. McCarthy is right-handed. Danks is left-handed. In and of itself, troubling.

6. Maybe this indication that Jon Daniels wanted the guy who he thinks has the better chance to help Texas win now helps on the Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Barry Zito fronts. I like that.

7. I’ve known Danks and Masset and their families since each pitcher was 20 years old, have seen them grow on the field and off of it, and that makes this extra tough. That part *****.

8. Though it’s not right to judge a deal before it plays out on the field for a while, we all of course develop an immediate assessment, and my gut reaction is generally based on who got the best player. That’s not easy to say here – we could all make a case for three of the five players involved being that guy – but objectively speaking, most would say McCarthy is that guy right now. Believe in this.

9. But since eight or nine pitchers out of 10 don’t ever become what they’re touted to be capable of, the Sox’s odds of coming out ahead are greater, because they’re not betting on just one guy. Stomach ache sets in.

10. But McCarthy is the one guy who’s really done it, at least intermittently, in the major leagues. Stomach ache becomes ice cream headache.

And that all hit me in the first five minutes. Seriously.

Here’s the thing: It’s almost impossible to imagine a Tony Romo for Vince Young trade. Because neither team would ever give up its guy.

And if it actually did happen, the fans of both teams would hate it. We’re all territorial about our own players, especially the ones who grew up in our team’s uniform. General managers and scouts surely tend to be territorial, too, and that’s why trades like this one seem to never happen. I racked my brain last night trying to think of the last trade that involved top-tier pitching prospects for top-tier pitching prospects, with no contract or free agency issues involved on either side. Still coming up empty.

The reaction of hundreds of Rangers fans whose opinions I read in emails or on the message board yesterday provided nothing close to a consensus about this trade. Most liked it for Texas or thought it was a win-win, though the meter was decidedly more against the deal early in the day than later on. Almost every White Sox fan whose opinion I read hated the trade.

But every fan who shared his or her opinion was passionate about it. This is clearly a trade that, one way or another, will be talked about for years and years.

I have a thousand thoughts and a hundred questions. What it comes down to for me is simple, and yet impossible to answer: Which organization has the more shrewd corps of pro scouts, the grinders whose names for the most part you wouldn’t recognize but whose impact in decisions like the one Daniels and Kenny Williams made on Saturday can’t be overstated?

Whether it’s Texas’s scouting crew or Chicago’s that turns out to be more correct about what McCarthy and Danks and Masset will be, not to mention Rasner and Paisano, that’s where the correctness, and the wisdom, of this trade gets defined.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this trade in a couple days. Doubt I’ll be any more certain about how smart a trade it is, but I’ll at least get a lot deeper into the analysis of the exchange.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 22, 2006

Half the time my drive home from work, assuming there’s no Rangers pregame show to listen to, is spent with the Ticket on. If the segment doesn’t grab me, I’ll flip between NPR, Galloway, and KRLD looking for something interesting. If that fails, it’s usually a CD or a hop around the FM presets.

During the winter there’s a lot of NPR and CD action. Love the Cowboys, but by Thursday I’ve had three times my fill of talk show banter about last week’s game and the upcoming matchup. But yesterday, having worn out my L.E.O. CD lately, I went right to FM radio and struck gold.

I heard four straight songs (on three or four different stations) that gave me a second wind as I headed to meet my family to go to a roller-skating birthday party that the kids were invited to. It was strange. No longer victims of oversaturation, all four songs sounded better than ever:

* “Start Me Up” (Stones) (I don’t think I’d ever given any thought to how great a rock song that really is)
* “Losing My Religion” (R.E.M.) (the mandolin underneath “I thought that I heard you laughing” . . . )
* “Somebody Told Me” (Killers) (great first 30 seconds)
* “Where the Streets Have No Name” (U2) (the greatest final 45 seconds of a song ever, in the history of ever)

I generally feel lucky to get one stop-down song out of 10 on the radio, but here were four in a row. I’m also halfway through “Hannibal Rising,” with every page of it worth the seven-year wait. And friends of ours just bought our kids the “Electric Company” DVD set. All this intense creativity around me. Energizing.

About halfway through the U2 song, I started to think about baseball (which might not surprise you). I thought about Barry Zito (not because Bono reminds me oddly of Scott Boras [see the August 28, 2001 Newberg Report]). It occurred to me that all this talk about Zito not being the pitcher he once was, the thought that he’s no longer a pure “Number One,” doesn’t make one bit of difference to me. “Where the Streets Have No Name” still stands up, and it probably always will.

Randomly hear two great songs back to back, and you might get pumped. Three in a row, you’re in a groove. Four straight? Their greatness seems illuminated, which, stated another way, slams you in the face with a whole that crushes the sum of its parts.

And Barry Zito in a rotation alongside Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla would mean that on most nights, you have as good a chance to win as the team in the other dugout, no matter what. That is, no matter who the other team sends to the mound. No matter how our offense is going. And no matter whether you can call Zito a “Number One” these days. Put a Rangers cap on that guy’s head, and let him decide every fifth day what uniform the team will wear.

The idea of Robinson Tejeda and C.J. Wilson and Josh Rupe and Kameron Loe and John Danks and Eric Hurley and Nick Masset and Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond and A.J. Murray learning from Zito and Millwood and Eric Gagne over the next few years, and the thought of Zito, Millwood, and Padilla being here for the two seasons that Michael Young and Mark Teixeira are guaranteed to still be around, fires me up.

My gut still tells me that there’s less than a 50-50 shot that Zito chooses to pitch in Texas. But hey, as the holidays settled in a year ago, I wasn’t confident that Millwood would sign with the Rangers.

And by the way, as for this campaign by the New York writers to convince Zito to make himself a Met because of the flood of endorsement opportunities he’s sure to get, let’s be honest: he’d be about number 12 in line among New York athletes to get those deals. Right?

Not much else going on locally, at least that we know about. Aside from efforts to improve the rotation, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels hasn’t ruled out the possibility of seeking external candidates to upgrade the backup catcher and utility player roles, and there’s also the chance that Texas could add a right-handed bat to compete for time in the outfield or at DH.

Mark Loretta’s name has surfaced as someone the Rangers could target for the role that Mark DeRosa was brought in to fill two years ago. No, Loretta doesn’t have much pro outfield experience (one game, in 1998), but neither did DeRosa, who had played 13 games in the outfield in nine pro seasons before signing with Texas.

The Rangers and Mark Mulder (who is currently on a two-week honeymoon in Tahiti) have reportedly exchanged contract proposals. Some reports suggest he’s narrowed his decision down to remaining with St. Louis or signing with Texas, probably for two years.

Ron Washington gave up jersey number 38 for Gagne. The skipper will instead wear number 37. I thought that was pretty cool.

Rod Barajas signed with Philadelphia for one season at $2.5 million and a club option for a second year. Not quite a Jody Reed disaster, but pretty bad. Because the signing occurred after the deadline for clubs to offer arbitration to their free agents, the Rangers get no draft pick compensation since they didn’t make such an offer to Barajas. They would have gotten an extra pick between rounds one and two had the Blue Jays deal gone through (as it was poised to become official before the arbitration offer deadline).

Adam Eaton, David Dellucci, Fabio Castro, Barajas, Ricardo Rodriguez, Alfredo Simon, Randall Simon, Charley Kerfeld, Steve Smith, and Scott Franzke for Padilla, Tejeda, Jake Blalock, Daniel Haigwood, Don Welke, and Art Howe. Sort of.

According to Baseball America, Texas has released Joe Kemp, the 2004 42nd-rounder who was converted from the Clinton outfield to the mound in July, before landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury after just two pitching appearances.

Baltimore signed righthanders Jon Leicester and Rob Bell; Boston signed righthander Travis Hughes; the White Sox signed righthander Ryan Bukvich; Cincinnati signed infielder Enrique Cruz; Florida signed catcher Nick Trzesniak; Houston signed infielder Cody Ransom; the Dodgers signed catcher Ken Huckaby and righthander Spike Lundberg; Oakland signed Erubiel Durazo (and released outfielder Cameron Coughlan); Pittsburgh signed righthander John Wasdin and catcher Einar Diaz; St. Louis signed outfielder Ryan Ludwick and righthander Kelvin Jimenez; San Diego signed infielder Manny Alexander; Seattle signed catcher Jamie Burke; Tampa Bay signed outfielder Jason Grabowski; and Washington signed D’Angelo Jimenez.

Rusty Greer will manage the Euless LoneStars in the Texas Collegiate League next summer.

Gabe Kapler will manage Low A Greenville in the Boston system, and Arnie Beyeler will manage the organization’s AA Portland club.

The Yankees named Greg Colbrunn hitting coach for their Low A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs.

The Yokohama BayStars signed righthander Joselo Diaz.

No matter what the Cubs’ level of interest in Diamond has been, you might expect that it has now increased. Chicago named Diamond’s University of New Orleans coach, former big league outfielder Randy Bush, as its assistant general manager.

Eleanor Czajka has loaded a couple dozen photos from last week’s Bound Edition Release Party at Tin Star. Go to the “Minor Details” page to check them out.

Happy Holidays.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 20, 2006

Howdy.

I hear there’s this thing called the Inner Net, some cider-space place where you can read newspapers and some such from other outposts. I don’t know what’s wrong with the good ol’ Pony Express, but whatever. T’each his own, ya know?

So there’s this feller named Zito, or somethin’ or other, who says he might want to hitch his wagon here in Texas. Sposeta be a pretty salty baseball pitcher. I done got my hopes up (’cause I likes me some baseball), but I was sittin’ around the Pace Picante campfire the other night, and my buddies Bum Phillips, the Marlboro Man, Big Ross Perot, J.R. Ewing, and one of them dudes from ZZ Top was tellin’ me they’d heard that some people who write and talk about baseball and live up yonder in New York and other spots north and east of here caught wind of this Zito feller’s interest in Texas and were plumb fit to be tied about it.

Zito’s too smart and good looking and dad-gum interesting to pitch in Texas, says those writers and talk show folk . . . shoot, maybe they’re right! Hey, as a Rangers fan I’ve finally come around to understand that my team will probably have to trade Michael Young to the White Sox or Red Sox simply because those teams want him! Maybe I also need to accept the idea that Zito needs to be in a market where those writers and talking heads can hang out with him for 15 minutes every day, and make their stories more colorful — where are my priorities? Whether I can cotton to it or not ain’t the question. They live in places that have culture, and city life, and flair! I reckon I just need to tip my ten-gallon hat to them and be thankful that I’m alive at a time when I can experience their wisdom, and learn from it.

I’m fixin’ ta tell you somethin’ you need to understand, just like I’ve come to understand it: Those writers and talkers know best. Whether they think the sun comes up just to hear them crow is not what I’m sayin’. Zito would do well to stop thinking about what he wants and listen to the press, especially those who work in New York or for some national paper or one of them radio satellite thingies. If he’s not plannin’ on puttin’ a pinch between his cheek and gum and going to work on a mechanical bull, he probably don’t belong here. Sure would like to see him try pitching in boots, but c’mon. I didn’t wake up yesterday.

How would Zito survive here without a six-shooter, a few dozen head of cattle, and some really big belt buckles? The Mets want him, dag nab it. The big city! This ain’t my first rodeo; I know what movin’ on up is all about — you leave Oakland, you want to go to a place that’s more metropolitan, more dynamic, more diverse. That’s New York City, y’all. It’s a whole nuther thing. Us Texans are still trying to figure out what to do with them gasoline cars, and where to hitch ‘em up outside the saloon.

If you think about it, those writers and talkers didn’t get no burr under their saddle when we had Nolan, or Will, or Tettleton, or Dennis Cook. They weren’t all Texan but at least they looked and acted the part. That Zito dude is a lot more Rodeo Drive than Mesquite Rodeo. And the way baseball salaries are going, think of all the oil wells we’d have to run dry just to pay him to play ball here.

Friend, I did get excited there for a bit thinking about how my Texas Rangers could fill the ballpark on days Zito was pitching, pulling in crowds like it was Franks ‘N’ Beans Night or Half-Price Copenhagen Sunday (for all kids 12 and under). But I’ve seen the error in my way of thinkin’. We don’t deserve Zito. He’s sposeta go to the Mets, if he’ll just get ta thinkin’ about it. It’s not at all about where Zito wants to be, the pundits have taught me — it’s purely a function of where Zito should be.

I’m ashamed that I ever gave a moment’s thought to the idea of Zito pitching here. How dare we think for a minute that Zito might want to be a Texas Ranger. How dare Zito even consider it himself.

Would hate to disappoint those sophisticated media folks up East.

I gotta go now. My butt’s sore from sittin’ on my chaps in front of this computing machine. If you wanna talk about this Zito thing, join us at the campfire after supper, or just bring me up on this new CB radio thingy Monday week.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 17, 2006

THE NOUVEAU-BERGERON REPORT

That clown Newberg doesn’t seem to write these days unless it’s to hawk his book.  Lame.  He sent reports out on December 11, 12, and 13, but c’mon — let’s have some more baseball content.  Hey, I check those DFW papers out from time to time — there’s been a column or two this week that pretty much had nothing to say.  Fill some space, Newberg.  No news is no excuse.

Why don’t you write about Vernon Wells and how my guys just made him a $126 million Blue Jay for life?  (Yeah, he can opt out after 2011, but with three years remaining at that point at $21 million each, c’mon.  He’s not going anywhere.)  Newberg likes to write about Wells eventually coming home to Arlington, about how he and Michael Young will play together in Texas someday, just as they did with St. Catharines and Hagerstown and Dunedin.   

Only way that’s going to happen, my Rangers friends, is if Wells opts out at age 33, leaving $63 million on the table, and Young has locked up with Texas for life himself.  Because Young’s own deal will have expired three years before that.  Like Mark Teixeira, Young can hit free agency after the 2008 season.  (Can the Rangers really let either of those guys go?)

Newberg was probably getting ready to write something about how Wells was on the guest list for Teixeira’s charity poker tournament in Arlington on Friday.  Maybe one of those corny "vision" pieces of his, with Teixeira and Wells and Young wearing Ranger red together.  But Wells signed his lifetime deal that same night.  Sorry about that, Newberg.  Boo hoo.

So what’s it gonna be, Texas?  A year from now, Young will be a year away from free agency, just as Wells was a week ago.  Will you pay him market value, whatever that is?  Would Young even take market value unless the Rangers are winning and built to stay that way?

Or do I get to start thinking about which of Wells and Young is going to give up number 10 on his Blue Jays jersey?   

Knowing how solid those guys are, wouldn’t surprise me to see them both relinquish number 10, out of respect for each other.

Know what?  Wells can go back to Texas when his playing days are over, just like his dad did after a stint as a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League.

Just do me a favor, Rangers fans.  You stole Young from us six years and four straight 200-hit seasons ago.  You thought you were gonna steal Wells from us, too.  Just lay off this time.  No grassroots campaign to get your team to sign Young long-term.  No bumper stickers.  No talk show segments.  Apathy is your friend!

Royce Clayton is our shortstop, for crying out loud.  And there’s not a middle infielder anywhere in sight on our top prospects list.  Let Michael Young come "home."   

Now THAT would give Newberg something to write about, huh!

In the meantime, thanks a lot for signing Eric Gagne.  He belongs in Toronto, too.  You guys are allowed to develop Canadian closers (Jeff Zimmerman, Ryan Dempster) (Baltimore gets to raise Canadian starters [Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen]), but could you give us a break and get out of the way when they’re free agents?  Gagne, pitching for another mega-contract, could have come here and pitched in the eighth inning for a team that probably won’t finish higher than third in the division, but dude — there’s one Canadian team, and he belongs here.  Bah.

They’re not quite Canadian, but (1) MBIII, a Minnesota native, was every bit the find that Tony Romo was; and (2) third baseman Steve Marquardt, the Rangers’ 2005 23rd-rounder and a Washington native, got a look behind the plate at Instructs a couple months ago.

Onetime Montreal lefthander (and Blue Jays farmhand) Bruce Chen has an ERA of 0.63 in 43 Puerto Rico Winter League innings, scattering a ridiculous 16 hits and five walks while punching out 51.  Bet he’s headed for his ninth big league club.  Which will still be two behind Kenny Lofton.

Someone named Grant Schiller is going to write a report next week on his blog about something called the Newberg Report Bound Edition Release Party.  Says C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, Ian Kinsler, John Danks, and Taylor Teagarden were there.  But that jerk Newberg will probably write about it three times before Grant ever gets the chance to.

Watch Out For Balbino Fuenmayor.

 

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 13, 2006

There’s not a lot of analysis to be done on this one. Signing Eric Gagne makes an apparent Rangers strength even stronger, potentially exponentially stronger, and gives Texas considerable flexibility as the winter effort to shape the 2007 club continues.

Word broke Tuesday morning that the Rangers had emerged as victors in the competition among several teams to land the 30-year-old reliever, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal worth a reported $6 million, with an extra $5 million in appearance incentives that, if reached, will probably mean Gagne seized the ninth inning role in Texas and earned every bit of his salary.

The deal, naturally, is subject to Gagne passing a physical, but the Rangers are apparently confident that his elbow and back issues are behind him. The righthander had elbow surgery in June 2005 (after he pitched only 14 times that year) and again in April 2006, returning to action in early June but pitching only two times before needing low back surgery (to repair a herniated disc) that cost him the rest of the season.

The Dodgers had a $12 million option on Gagne for 2007 but declined it in October, making him a free agent. At least half a dozen teams were reported as being seriously interested — including clubs with question marks (if not vacancies) at closer like Boston — but he chose the Rangers, likely to close games since his agent Scott Boras had suggested through the press that he would only sign with a team that planned to make him its closer (a stance that makes sense since Gagne will be pitching for a mega-contract in 2007).

That of course raises the question as to whether Akinori Otsuka’s immediate future is in the eighth inning (the role he was acquired to fill a year ago), or with another club. More on that in a bit.

Prior to his injury-marred 2005 and 2006 seasons, there was no better closer in baseball than Gagne, and maybe none who’d put together a better three-year stretch saving games in the history of the game. Between 2002 and 2004, Gagne nailed down 152 saves in 158 opportunities — including a spotless 55 saves in 2003 (his Cy Young season) and a record 84 straight overall — with these ridiculous secondary numbers in 247 innings: 145 hits, 58 walks, and 365 strikeouts (so about half his outs on strikes). His ERA was 1.79 and opponents hit a sickly .168/.228/.248, putting up no fight against his 98 mph fastball and perhaps the most devastating changeup in baseball.

Will Gagne ever be that guy again? Anybody’s guess. Can he be an impact pitcher, even if he doesn’t regain the same level of dominance? Absolutely.

Here’s the thing: Danys Baez landed three years and $19 million this winter to pitch in a set-up role. Justin Speier got four years and $18 million to set up, if not pitch the seventh. Jamie Walker — Jamie Walker! — got three years and $12 million. Among the relievers who remain available on the market are Danny Kolb, David Riske, Scott Schoeneweis, and another dozen or so guys just like them. Lots of mediocrity, and given the way the relief market has been set, none of them will come inexpensively.

Octavio Dotel got $5 million from Kansas City. Want him more than Gagne?

The next question might be why would Texas sign a reliever at all. A few answers come to mind.

Remember how the Rangers teams of a decade ago got to the playoffs: deep bullpens backing up a decent, unspectacular rotation. There’s a lot of depth in relief right now, but mostly unproven arms. Adding a veteran like Gagne, assuming he’s healthy (he’s expected to be ready to pitch by spring training), prevents Texas from having to push any of its young relievers into roles they may not be quite ready for. It also adds another veteran presence to the unit, a guy who has consistently made critical pitches in pennant races. From a leadership and mentoring standpoint, Gagne could be huge.

Adding Gagne makes it easier to consider trading Otsuka, or Nick Masset or Josh Rupe or C.J. Wilson or Wes Littleton or Frankie Francisco. And again, in this bizarre relief market, pre-arbitration arms like those have a ton of trade value.

As for the idea of moving Otsuka, whose trade value ought to be as high as it will ever get, consider also that by signing Gagne, Texas took what might be the last legitimate closer candidate off the market. Otsuka’s value might go up simply by virtue of more teams getting interested in him now. He’s not only a healthy closer, but one who can’t be a free agent for another three years. The 34-year-old will be under team control as long as his club offers him arbitration for the 2008 and 2009 seasons, as Texas did last night for the 2007 season (along with Brad Wilkerson, Rick Bauer, and Joaquin Benoit).

At $6 million, the addition of Gagne shouldn’t take Texas out of the mix for Barry Zito or Mark Mulder or any starting pitcher they might be looking to trade for.

Maybe most importantly, the Rangers have a chance to hit a grand slam here, without a tremendous amount of risk, relatively speaking. The Dodgers not only declined his option but also declined to offer him arbitration (which may or may not have been contractually stipulated by Boras), meaning the Rangers don’t give up a draft pick by signing the Type A free agent.

How can there be any dissent over this move?

If the addition of Gagne and Kenny Lofton conjures up thoughts for you of Caminiti/Galarraga/Velarde/Petkovsek/Brantley (six winters ago) or Park/Powell/Van Poppel/Gonzalez (five), it shouldn’t. First, the Rangers haven’t compromised future drafts by signing Gagne and Lofton. Second, both come in on one-year commitments, which doesn’t affect the long-term plan and, theoretically, enhances the odds of the two veterans playing at peak intensity this year. Third, Lofton’s game hasn’t really fallen off (despite his 39 years of age), and Gagne is just 30.

If you’re ready to start imagining what the ninth inning is going to feel like in Ameriquest Field this spring, might as well go ahead and load “Welcome to the Jungle” on your iPod. The only question, for me, that the Gagne signing raises is whether you need to remove “****’s Bells.” It should be a win-win: either Otsuka sets Gagne up in a lights-out tandem in the eighth and ninth, or Texas moves Otsuka to the team willing to be the highest bidder in terms of the rotation help it has to offer.

The Jon Daniels game of chess continues to unfold.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PARTY: UPDATE

I’ll send one more blast out in the morning, but here’s your next-to-last reminder of the details for tomorrow’s Newberg Report Book Release Party, with one new addition to the lineup:

What: Book release party for the 2007 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report

When: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 6pm – 9pm (but consider arriving closer to 5:00)

Where: Tin Star restaurant, 2626 Howell Street in the Uptown area, a few minutes north of downtown Dallas

What else: Ranger players Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, John Danks, and Taylor Teagarden will sign autographs and will conduct a Q&A session as well — the cost of autographs is simply the purchase of the 2007 Bound Edition ($25)

What else: Your purchase also gets you a voucher good for one complimentary Rangers ticket for each ticket you purchase at regular price for a regular season Rangers game in 2007 (with a few date restrictions); you may use it to buy one and get one free, buy two and get two free, and so on

What else: Tin Star will take 10% off your food and drink order (discount does not apply to alcoholic beverages) when you tell them you’re there for the Newberg Report event

What else: If you buy a $25 Tin Star gift card while you are there, you will get a free $5 gift certificate for yourself

What else: We will raffle off two baseballs signed by Michael Young during the event

What else [NEW]: We will also raffle off an unframed, 12” x 12” Babe Ruth Hand Embellished giclee print courtesy of renowned local artist Grant Smith (http://www.grant9smith.com), the original of which is in the Orlando home of Johnny Damon…Grant creates unique baseball paintings that deal with life, death, greed, ego, and racism, using baseball as a metaphor for American innocence.

Important: Attached is the purchase form that you’ll need to turn in at the front table in order to get your book(s) and to get autographs from the players (limit of three autographs for player, for a total of 15). To speed the process up, we’re asking that you please print the attached form and fill it out BEFORE YOU ARRIVE (whether you’ve prepaid for your book or won’t pay for it until tomorrow night). Otherwise, you’ll need to fill one out at the party. Bringing a completed form will get you into the autograph line more quickly and will help us make everything go more efficiently.

Even if you already have the book and are bringing it to the event as your “admission” to get autographs, please complete a form – it will also serve as your raffle ticket for the two Michael Young baseballs and the Babe Ruth print.

Let me know if you have any questions. See you tomorrow.

Jamey

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