December 2006

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — DECEMBER 12, 2006

This is not from the Nouveau-Bergeron Report…there are two French-Canadian outlets (http://www.corusnouvelles.com/rss-eric_gagne_texas-41989-5.html and http://lcn.canoe.com/lcn/sports/nouvelles/archives/2006/12/20061212-073110.html) that — I think — are reporting that Montreal native Eric Gagne may have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Rangers for $8 million (U.S.), and since my seventh grade French didn’t stick, I have no idea whether that’s a base of $8 million with added contract incentives or an $8 million package that includes incentives.

More as details (that I can read) develop.

Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 12, 2006

Gary Matthews Jr. had his career year in 2006, and parlayed it into a five-year, $50 million deal. Kenny Lofton had another solid season in 2006, and will play in 2007 on his fourth one-year contract in six seasons.

Give me a choice between the two, money and years aside? I’ll take Matthews, who was one of the best center fielders in baseball last year. But guaranteeing the 32-year-old, coming off his first strong season in eight big league campaigns, a sum of $50 million over five years doesn’t seem like a wise allocation of payroll. Paying Lofton a reported $6 million for one season (pending a physical) is better business, particularly with the crop of potential free agent center fielders a year from now (Vernon Wells, Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter) being what it is.

Away from hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field in 2006, Matthews hit .303/.347/.480, striking out 51 times in 293 at-bats and walking 24 times. Away from pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium in 2006, Lofton hit .322/.388/.445, fanning 16 times in 236 at-bats while drawing 26 walks. Yes, Lofton is 39, but he stole 32 bases in 37 trips (Matthews was 10 of 17) and tripled a dozen times. The speed is still there for Lofton, who is more of a prototype lineup catalyst than Matthews (a power threat) was.

Let me repeat: this is not meant to disparage Matthews or diminish the incredible season he gave Texas in 2006. But given the Rangers’ pitching needs (and what the 2007 center field market shapes up to be), bringing Lofton in for one year is a better fit, assuming this isn’t the year that his physical tools drop off.

Defense? Truthfully, both Matthews and Lofton probably have better reputations than results, but certainly neither is a liability as a defender. Lofton, a four-time Gold Glove winner, doesn’t throw nearly as well as Matthews, though.

Lofton had severe splits in 2006, hitting .319/.379/.431 against righthanders but only .214/.275/.274 against southpaws — but as we’ve discussed before, the A’s and Angels (unlike recent years) now feature righthanders in spots one through four of their rotations. And I thought this was interesting: before 2006, Lofton’s career splits weren’t nearly as acute. From 1991 through 20005, the left-handed hitter put up a .290/.368/.383 line against southpaws, .302/.374/.440 against righties. Nothing wrong with that first set of numbers.

Still, Lofton is probably going to need a platoon partner in center, and it might be that Marlon Byrd — Lofton’s Phillies teammate very briefly in 2005 — fills that role. Freddy Guzman has a chance as well.

There have been suggestions that Brad Wilkerson and Nelson Cruz could move in from a corner from time to time, but Byrd and Guzman probably go into camp competing for a roster spot as the lead Lofton understudy. Jon Daniels told reporters over the weekend that he was intrigued by the possibility of pairing a veteran up with a young center fielder who could learn from him.

One thing about Lofton’s resume that I love — aside from a lifetime .299 batting average and .372 on-base clip — is that he’s played for playoff teams 10 of the last 12 years. You want guys like that (and like Ron Washington) around in August. And that’s even if August wasn’t historically Lofton’s most productive month.

No active player has more than Lofton’s 599 stolen bases, and only one (Steve Finley) has more than his 110 triples. He’s a lifetime .311/.362/.472 hitter at Ameriquest Field. He rakes in Anaheim (.347/.419/.503), not so much in Oakland (.279/.350/.433) or Seattle (.271/.366/.343).

The $6 million that Texas reportedly agreed to pay Lofton will be his highest salary since 2001, his final season in Cleveland, when he earned $8 million.

Lofton has spent only half a season in the American League since July 2002, but that’s not as significant as it once would have been, given interleague play and how prevalent free agency is these days.

Lofton is another example of why it’s a great idea to stockpile catchers in the minor leagues, as Texas is now doing. Just as Minnesota was able to turn A.J. Pierzynski into Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser, and Philadelphia was able to get Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada, and Einar Diaz keyed deals for Travis Hafner and Chris Young, the Indians made one of the best trades of the early 1990s when they were able to flip Eddie Taubensee (and journeyman pitcher Willie Blair) to Houston for Lofton (and utility infielder Dave Rohde). It was one of John Hart’s first trades as Cleveland GM, and maybe his best.

As I wrote yesterday, the Dodgers didn’t offer Lofton arbitration, but even if they did, Lofton is a Type B free agent (by the slimmest of margins — he was the highest-ranked Type B among National League outfielders and first basemen), meaning the Rangers forfeit no draft pick. At the same time, Texas nets the 24th pick (which was the Angels’ first-rounder) and a supplemental first that, for the moment, sits at number 50, by virtue of losing Matthews, a Type A.

Lofton was the sixth man on the University of Arizona’s 1988 Final Four basketball team, backing up Steve Kerr on a squad that also featured Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert. So maybe Lofton’s next job will be doing TV analysis for the NBA.

Texas has reportedly made a formal offer to lefthander Barry Zito, hosts Mark Mulder in town today, and is in serious negotiations to try and land closer Eric Gagne. Zito and Gagne are both Scott Boras clients, so don’t expect any breaking news right away, but Mulder is getting married this weekend and thus might prefer to get something done soon.

The Rangers are expected to tender contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players under control: Wilkerson, Akinori Otsuka, Rick Bauer, and Joaquin Benoit. Should Texas decide not to offer a contract to any of them by today’s deadline to do so, they would become free agents.

Milwaukee is expected to tender Kevin Mench after all, despite reports earlier in the winter that the club was considering cutting him loose. The thought is that the Brewers will retain Mench primarily so that they can continue an effort to trade him.

There’s some talk that if Boston and Daisuke Matsuzaka don’t come to terms by tomorrow’s deadline, Bud Selig could invoke his “best interests” powers and put the team that made the second-highest posting bid on the negotiating clock. I believe that’s the Mets, and if that’s the case and Selig does make that bold move, you’d think it would take New York out of the Zito hunt.

Next time we’ll talk about Baseball America’s ranking of the top 10 Rangers prospects and the publication’s analysis of the Rangers system.

Hope to see you at tomorrow night’s Newberg Report book release party for the 2007 Bound Edition, at Tin Star’s Uptown location.

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

BOUND EDITION PARTY: UPDATE

Just added to the lineup for the Book Release Party on Wednesday evening: we will raffle off two baseballs autographed by Michael Young, courtesy of the Rangers.

Your entry for the raffle will be your 2007 Bound Edition order form. If you haven’t already done so, print the form I emailed out last week and fill it out before arriving on Wednesday. We’ll draw the two winners at some point during the party.

You must be present to enter and win.

Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 11, 2006

In 2003, 28-year-old Gary Matthews Jr. hit a combined .248/.314/.361 for Baltimore and San Diego, the third straight season he appeared for two different big league clubs and the fifth and sixth teams he’d been with as a pro (seven, actually, if you count his two Padres stints separately). The pedestrian season brought Matthews’s five-year career line to .242/.324/.371.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old Marlon Byrd hit .303/.366/.418 for Philadelphia in 2003, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year vote.

A year later, Matthews found himself released by yet another organization (Atlanta) as the season began, sitting unemployed for a week before getting a job with the Rangers’ AAA affiliate in Oklahoma City. And Byrd was back in AAA himself, before the All-Star Break.

Now this isn’t to say that Byrd — who signed with Texas on Friday at the same age (29) that Matthews was when he signed here — is three years away from hitting a $50 million jackpot on the open market, but the parallels are too easy to overlook. Byrd is more likely to be Adrian Brown or Ryan Christenson or Jason Conti here than he is to follow in Matthews’s footsteps, but when Byrd was coming up, it’s also true that he was considered far closer to a sure thing than anyone else in this sentence.

Byrd’s career has been a disappointment since that rookie season, as he’s hit an anemic .238/.306/.345 in the three ensuing years, the middle of which included a trade from the Phillies to Washington for journeyman outfielder Endy Chavez (can you imagine Baltimore trading Jeff Francoeur a year and a half from now, for Nook Logan?). Byrd did very little for the Nationals in the second half in 2005 (.264/.318/.380) or the first half of 2006 (.223/.317/.350), and since he was out of options the club designated him for assignment in July and got him through waivers, outrighting him to AAA New Orleans. He hit .271/.363/.465 for the Zephyrs in 155 at-bats.

Byrd is young enough and obviously generated enough interest around the league that he was able to land a big league contract, but that doesn’t mean he’s a lock for an Opening Day roster spot. It just means that if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he’ll have to clear waivers for the Rangers to have a chance to keep him — and having been outrighted before, even if he does clear he’ll have the right to decline an outright assignment to the farm and take immediate free agency.

Built like Kirby Puckett was but, like Puckett, capable of playing center field, Byrd will get a good look but should absolutely not be considered the answer to the Rangers’ hunt for Matthews’s replacement. The hunt continues, and veteran Kenny Lofton (.301/.360/.403 in 2006 for the Dodgers — including a stout .322/.388/.445 away from Chavez Ravine — with more walks [45] than strikeouts [42], 32 steals in 37 tries, and a 10th playoff appearance in his last 12 seasons) remains the primary target (and could get done today, according to multiple reports). Jason Repko, a plus defender who split time with Lofton in center field for Los Angeles early in the 2006 season, has been reported as a possible trade target. He’s been murder on left-handed pitching.

Incidentally, Lofton was the highest-ranked Type B among National League outfielders and first basemen according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and as a result the Rangers wouldn’t have forfeited a draft pick by signing him — even if Los Angeles had offered him arbitration, which the club didn’t do.

As it stands, the Rangers tentatively own the following picks before the second round in June: number 17, 24, 38, 50, 55.

Lofton, at age 39, is probably at the stage of his career where he can only command a one-year deal, which would allow Texas to plug in the proven center fielder without hindering an effort a year from now to sign Vernon Wells or Torii Hunter.

The asking price in trade for Rocco Baldelli or Jeremy Reed has been prohibitively ridiculous, apparently.

The Boston Globe suggests that Boston and Texas aren’t close to a deal but have at least discussed righthander Kameron Loe and Sox center field prospect David Murphy, a Baylor product whose offensive production hasn’t yet matched his standout defense.

Texas lost one player in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft, as Baltimore chose righthander Alfredo Simon off the Rangers’ AAA roster and promptly traded the big reliever to Philadelphia, the organization that signed him out of the Dominican Republic and developed him for five years before sending him to San Francisco in a trade deadline deal for Felix Rodriguez in July 2004.

The Rangers pulled Simon from the Dominican Winter League (where he’d reportedly hit 98 mph on the radar gun) with apparent arm trouble a couple weeks ago, but there are stories suggesting the maneuver was motivated not by an actual injury but by an organizational effort to scare teams off from targeting him in last week’s draft (particularly since he’d missed more than a month during the 2006 season with elbow problems).

But the Phillies — who, again, were obviously familiar with the 25-year-old — were neither fooled nor dissuaded, and GM Pat Gillick (who hired Charley Kerfeld away from Texas last month to serve as a special assistant) engineered the trade with the Orioles (sending their own Rule 5 pick, Kansas City catcher Adam Donachie, and cash to Baltimore) to make sure they got Simon, who will have to make Philadelphia’s Opening Day pitching staff and spend all year in the bigs or else be run through waivers and, if he clears, be offered back to Texas for half of the $50,000 purchase price that the Orioles had to pay the Rangers.

Texas added no players in the big league phase of the draft, though the club did fill some minor league roster holes in the AAA phase, choosing shortstop Johany Abreu (San Francisco), righthander Kendy Batista (Baltimore), and catcher Brian Munhall (San Francisco), and sending cash to Colorado for catcher Salomon Manriquez, whom the Rockies had selected from the Washington system.

The rules of the minor league phase differ from the big league phase, as there are no roster requirements for the ensuing season. Abreu, Batista, Munhall, and Manriquez are thus now Rangers property, with no rules dictating what rosters they need to occupy in 2007. Texas lost no players in the minor league phase of the draft.

Batista has the most intriguing background. Signed at age 17 out of Venezuela by Oakland, the slender righty pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2000 and 2001 before being released five winters ago. He didn’t resurface in pro ball until last summer, when he pitched for a month in the Venezuelan Summer League for Baltimore’s co-op squad with the White Sox. In 15 appearances spanning 15.1 innings, he went 2-1, 2.35 with five saves and scattered 10 hits (.189 opponents’ average; no home runs) and four walks while punching out 27 hitters. He’s been sharp in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a 2.63 ERA in 13 relief appearances, permitting 24 hits (.267 opponents’ average) and nine walks in 24 frames while fanning 25.

Abreu, a 22-year-old Dominican, is a slick fielder who has primarily played shortstop in his five pro seasons (all at Class A or below) but has also seen time at second base, third base, and the outfield, hitting .258/.303/.346.

The 26-year-old Munhall, a San Antonio native who played with Nate Gold and Kevin Richardson at Gonzaga University, hit .250/.291/.343 for AA Connecticut in the Giants system last year, missing the season’s final two months (and the Eastern League All-Star Game) with a left foot contusion.

Manriquez, 24, hadn’t gotten so many as 300 at-bats in any of his first five pro seasons, but in 443 High A at-bats in 2005 he hit .287/.336/.479 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs, and 68 RBI, and in 339 AA at-bats last year he hit .257/.320/.398 with 18 doubles, 10 homers, and 45 RBI. The catcher played for the World Team in the Futures Game in 2006.

The deadline for Texas to tender 2007 contracts to its four remaining pre-free agency arbitration-eligibles — Rick Bauer, Joaquin Benoit, Akinori Otsuka, and Brad Wilkerson — is tomorrow. If the club non-tenders any of them, they become free agents.

Man, did Texas time the Vicente Padilla signing right. How much would Padilla have rightfully asked for if Gil Meche had landed his $55 million deal over four years from the Royals first? Give me Padilla over Meche even if the dollars were equal.

Mark Mulder visits Texas tomorrow. The big lefthander, who had rotator cuff surgery in September, profiles exquisitely as far as Ameriquest Field is concerned — even though he is 4-6, 6.08 in 11 lifetime starts in this park — but is being pursued by several teams, each of which would certainly offer the 29-year-old a two- or three-year deal with hopes of getting through an abbreviated 2007 and striking Chris Carpenter lightning after that. Mulder is expected to begin throwing in January but won’t work off a mound until March, and he’s expected to miss as many as 10 to 15 starts at the outset of the season.

Scott Boras surely wants to get Daisuke Matsuzaka done with Boston before he’ll allow Barry Zito to sign with anyone. But the deadline for the Red Sox to sign Matsuzaka is Wednesday, and there are now stories that a deal may not get done and the 26-year-old will have to return to Seibu.

Whether that would mean the Red Sox would get back in on Eric Gagne — or whether that would cement early indications that they were backing off of the Boras client — is uncertain, but what appears clear is that Texas, perhaps along with Cleveland and possibly San Francisco (or Cincinnati or Toronto), is a finalist for Gagne’s services.

The 30-year-old Gagne, who is coming back from elbow and back surgeries, reportedly rejected an offer to stay with the Dodgers for $4 million with an additional $6 million in performance incentives.

Would Gagne agree to come here if he weren’t going to be the closer? Maybe the more pertinent question is whether Texas would pay Gagne’s price to work in the eighth inning — and if the answer to that question is no, does that mean Otsuka moves back into the set-up role that he was asked to fill a year ago, or does Texas get creative and possibly deal the eminently affordable Otsuka — who will be 35 years old in a month — at the height of his trade value in this reliever market?

Texas is apparently thinking about offering righthander Ryan Drese an opportunity to return.

The Rangers have reportedly reached out to the agent for Michael Young to express interest in opening talks about a long-term contract extension. Young is under contract for the 2007 season ($3.5 million), with Texas owning an option for 2008 ($4-5 million).

Texas has naturally given thought to increasing Joaquin Arias’s defensive versatility but recognizes that his primary value is in his ability to play premium defense at shortstop.

Righthander Nick Masset has predictably generated lots of trade interest, after a solid 2006 season and a spectacular winter. His stint with Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League has concluded, with the 24-year-old recording a league-leading 15 saves in 20 appearances as he gave up six runs (2.61 ERA) on 18 hits (.228 opponents’ average, no home runs) and just two walks in 20.1 innings, punching out 22.

Oakland has released righthander Juan Dominguez. I sure hope this is not where the spiral begins.

Designated hitter Matt Stairs signed with Toronto.

Lefthander Mike Venafro signed a minor league contract with Minnesota, getting an invite to big league camp.

Righthander Ryan Dittfurth has surfaced with the Sussex SkyHawks of the independent Can-Am League.

Former Rangers farmhand Jeff Pickler is now working as a Diamondbacks scout and video coordinator.

The Mets named Sandy Johnson their vice president of scouting.

Baseball America will unveil its ranking of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects on its website today.

Here’s my own top 10, from the Top 72 Prospects List in the 2007 Bound Edition:

1. John Danks, LHP
2. Eric Hurley, RHP
3. Josh Rupe, RHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Nick Masset, RHP
6. John Mayberry Jr., OF
7. Joaquin Arias, SS
8. Thomas Diamond, RHP
9. Ben Harrison, OF
10. Kasey Kiker, LHP

Fabio Castillo was number 11 — a strong number 11. Wes Littleton, Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz, and Freddy Guzman weren’t considered because they’ve exhausted their rookie eligibility.

The transcript of our chat session with Victor Rojas has been posted on the “Minor Details” page by birthday girl Eleanor Czajka.

The 2007 Bound Edition has now shipped to those of you who have already placed your orders, unless you told me to hold yours until Wednesday evening’s Book Release Party at Tin Star. (The party begins at 6:00, but again, you might want to get there by 5:00 and eat.)

As a reminder, by bringing your 2007 Bound Edition to Wednesday’s party (or by buying the book at the event), you will be able to get autographs from our guests: Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, John Danks, and Taylor Teagarden.

Whether you buy the book at the event or order it online or through the mail, you’ll also get 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).

If you buy at least two copies of the 2007 book, you’ll get a free Bound Edition from any previous year (except 2003, which is currently out of stock), your choice, as long as supplies last.

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.

For those of you who won’t be able to attend the party on Wednesday, the Bound Edition is now available for immediate shipping.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 9, 2006

There’s plenty to talk about, but I’ve granted myself a vacation from baseball writing of a few days, having spent a good part of the last few nights on getting the book out. I could use a little break.

But I’ll get to it all — it just won’t be today and probably not tomorrow. Marlon Byrd, Johany Abreu, Kendy Batista, Brian Munhall, Salomon Manriquez. Alfredo Simon. Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Eric Gagne, Kenny Lofton, Jason Repko. Michael Young. Akinori Otsuka and Kameron Loe. Nick Masset and Joaquin Arias. Gil Meche. Juan Dominguez. Sandy Johnson, Mike Venafro, and Ryan Dittfurth.

We’ll cover it all soon enough. Thanks.

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

NEWBERG REPORT: VARIOUS UPDATES

A few things:

CHAT SESSION: Victor Rojas, the Rangers’ radio color analyst, joins us today for a live chat session at 2:30 Central time. Click “CHAT” on the side menu at http://www.newbergreport.com to join.

2007 BOUND EDITION: The books came off the presses Thursday. All prepaid orders have been packaged and shipped this morning (unless you told me to hold yours until Wednesday’s book release party).

BOOK RELEASE PARTY: A few more details about Wednesday’s gathering at Tin Star:

1. The players – Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, John Danks, and Taylor Teagarden – will sign autographs and conduct a Q&A from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., but I would encourage you to arrive at 5:00 if you can. That way, you can take care of your book purchases and get in line for autographs early, not to mention the fact that you’ll have time to eat before the event begins.

2. Remember, you must buy (or bring with you) the 2007 Bound Edition in order to get autographs (limit of three autographs per player – that’s 15 total). We’ll be set up (like last year) on Tin Star’s heated, covered patio; there will be a table near the entrance to the patio where you’ll get your 2007 Bound Edition if you don’t have yours by then (and remember to fill out the forms I emailed you ahead of time, whether you’ve prepaid or plan to buy your book that night – let me know if you need a new copy emailed to you).

If you’ve prepaid, we’ll have a list you’ll need to be checked off of in order to get your books. Once you have your books in hand, you can get in the autograph line.

3. Tin Star is at 2626 Howell Street in the Uptown area a few minutes north of Downtown Dallas. Here’s a map.

And a menu.

4. The $25 cost of the book gets you the following:

a. The 2007 Bound Edition

b. A voucher 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.

c. 10% off your food and drink order at Tin Star that night (discount does not apply to alcoholic beverages). Just tell them at the counter that you’re there for the Newberg Report event.

5. PAYMENT: You may pay for your books with cash, check, money orders, or credit card. (Credit card payments will need to be made at the food counter – they will ring your book orders up and you’ll need to bring the credit card receipts back to the patio to get your books.)

6. SPECIALS: I will have previous editions of the books with me as well, so you will be able to take advantage of both specials Wednesday night:

a. If you buy at least two copies of the 2007 book, 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.

b. 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.

7. TIN STAR GIFT CERTIFICATES: If you buy a $25 Tin Star gift card while you are there, you will get a free $5 gift certificate for yourself.

I’m looking forward to Wednesday. And for those who prepaid for the 2007 Bound Edition, thanks – your books have been shipped.

Jamey

BOUND EDITION PARTY: UPDATE

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler — who is pictured on the cover of the 2007 Bound Edition — will attend our December 13 book release party at Tin Star (the Uptown location: 2626 Howell Street, Dallas, Texas 75204), joining C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, John Danks, and Taylor Teagarden.

The purchase of a 2007 Bound Edition — whether you’ve prepaid or pay at the event — is the cost of getting autographs from the five players. Limit three autographs per player, please.

Jamey

NEWBERG REPORT BOOK RELEASE PARTY

Bound Edition update:

* The books come off the printing press tomorrow night. I plan to ship all paid orders on Friday, unless you have told me (or tell me today or tomorrow) that you want to pick your order up at the Book Release Party a week from tonight at Tin Star (Wednesday, Dec. 13). So if you want to get your books at Tin Star, make sure you tell me that – I would guess you’d get your order in the mail before then, but of course I can’t guarantee that.

* When you arrive at Tin Star, there will be a table near the entrance to the patio where you’ll need to stop to get your 2007 Bound Edition – remember, you have to have the book in order to get autographs from our guests: C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, John Danks, Taylor Teagarden, and one more Rangers player whose name I will announce shortly. So if you get yours in the mail before then, make sure to bring them to the event.

You will pay for your books at that patio table and get your books there. (If you’ve prepaid, we’ll have a list you’ll need to be checked off of in order to get your books.) Once you have your books in hand, you can get in the autograph line.

To speed the process up, like last year, I will email a form for you to fill out (whether you’ve prepaid or not) BEFORE YOU ARRIVE. Otherwise, you’ll need to fill one out at the party before you can get your book. Bringing a completed form will get you into the autograph line more quickly and will help us make everything go more efficiently. I’ll email the form tonight.

* If you have prepaid and you’re having someone attend in your place on Wednesday to pick your Bound Editions up for you, you need to let me know that person’s name in advance.

* Reminder on this year’s special: If you buy at least two copies of the 2007 book, 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.

* 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. I’ll put the vouchers in the mailed orders and also with books picked up at Tin Star next Wednesday.

More details soon.

Jamey

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — DECEMBER 5, 2006

Three matters of clarification:

1. I now understand that 1997 Gaucho teammates Michael Young and Barry Zito don’t refer to their school at Cal Santa Barbara. It’s UCSB.

2. I’m not really expecting a book deal. I was sorta trying to make a point by making a joke at the end of yesterday’s report, but based on some of the emails I’ve gotten since then, I wasn’t subtle enough. No book deal.

3. Our fourth guest has confirmed for next Wednesday’s Bound Edition book release party at Tin Star (Uptown): Taylor Teagarden will join C.J. Wilson, Kameron Loe, and John Danks at the Dec. 13 gathering, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Still waiting for final confirmation from our fifth guest, another big name. Will keep you posted.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 5, 2006

Tuesday

JD: Need one or two starting pitchers and either a center fielder, an impact bat, or both; talk to agents (including those representing those Type A’s who weren’t offered arb), talk to every GM, squeeze in a talk or two with the press.

The Rangers came to terms last night with Vicente Padilla, agreeing to a deal that guarantees the righthander $33-34 million over three years, with an option for a fourth season worth $12 million.

Consider every deal that a free agent starting pitcher changing teams has landed this winter:

Adam Eaton: 3 years, $24.5 million (missed four months in 2006)
Kip Wells: 1 year, $4 million (missed four months in 2006)
Woody Williams: 2 years, $12.5 million (missed two months in 2006)
Randy Wolf: 1 year, $8 million (missed four months in 2006)

Given the market, the Padilla one is solid, both from the player’s standpoint (he’ll get as much annually as he’s earned in his six big league seasons combined, and has the opportunity to pitch in a place he’s familiar with and likes) and the team’s (the 29-year-old went 15-10, 4.50 in 2006, logging 200 innings and posting 20 quality starts, fifth-most in the American League).

Should there be a concern that Padilla’s career year happened to come in his “contract year” (his first opportunity to pitch for a multi-year contract) and that the security of a long-term deal could dial down Padilla’s day-to-day, pitch-to-pitch focus, which was already an issue to some degree (one, however, that he put to rest for the most part as far as his first season in Texas was concerned)?

Yes. But that’s the price of poker. Let those worries overcome your belief in the player every time, and you’ll sentence yourself to turning your pitching staff over every year to a collection of young arms who are still figuring it out. This is not so much a leap of faith as it is a willingness to pay market value and a trust that the player, having had success here, will continue to pitch to his ability every time he gets the ball, that he’ll be no less motivated to post up for his team.

Texas traded righthander Ricardo Rodriguez to Philadelphia 51 weeks ago to get Padilla. The Phillies released Rodriguez during spring training. Compare that to what Texas gave up to get Eaton, for instance, or even Wells. Funny how things work out sometimes.

Next? Maybe Michael Young can place a recruiting call to his 1997 Cal Santa Barbara teammate, Barry Zito. Both left the Gauchos after that season, Young for the Blue Jays organization and Zito for Los Angeles Pierce Junior College (from which the Rangers would draft him in 1998, before he transferred to USC). Pitch it, Michael: your own little 10-year college reunion.

The idea that Zito might actually end up here – still far from likely – is invigorating, mostly because the thought of Millwood-Zito-Padilla fronting the rotation, with Robinson Tejeda next and a fifth spot that could go in any number of directions in April but, beyond that, has C.J. Wilson and Josh Rupe and John Danks and Eric Hurley and Nick Masset and Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond and Kameron Loe and A.J. Murray as candidates, fires me up. It fires me up because that’s a lot of near-ready, high-ceiling arms, with every single one of them – from Millwood-Zito-Padilla to all the pre-arbitration pitchers – under Rangers control for years.

Think about the trading firepower that would give Texas.

Not that Jon Daniels doesn’t have that already, even without Zito. According to Kat O’Brien of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, teams are showing significant interest in Masset, Danks, Hurley, and Joaquin Arias, and there have been repeated suggestions that teams are interested in the Rangers’ stable of young relievers. And the Mets evidently want Akinori Otsuka, but rebuffed Daniels’s demand for Mike Pelfrey or the duo of John Maine and Brian Bannister in return. Gutsy on Daniels’s part, I think, but a GM has to have some guts.

As far as Zito is concerned, Daniels is operating just as he did last year, when he acquired Padilla and Eaton and Otsuka before sitting down at the negotiating table with Millwood. He’s beefing the rotation back up before trying to close a deal with the big target, the 28-year-old lefthander who hasn’t missed a start in his seven big league seasons and has a career record of 102-63, 3.55, including 24-11, 3.58 against the Angels and Mariners. It’s an added selling point to a guy like Millwood, or a guy like Zito, that he’d be joining a rotation set up to compete right now.

This team, especially with Zito, is a team that should compete, and if that’s the case, it increases the chances that Young and Mark Teixeira will want to be here for life, that rare phenomenon of wearing one big league uniform that’s exemplified by their hero, Don Mattingly.

If Zito doesn’t work out? Time to step up talks with Andy Pettitte.

And then there’s Jason Botts. If a Zito signing means Texas gives Botts a shot to DH at the league minimum to balance the money put into the rotation this winter, good. Doesn’t matter to me how that door gets opened. If center field in 2006 needs to be addressed on the cheap, too, fine. Or maybe some of that pitching inventory gets parlayed into a long-term answer in center, or perhaps a more veteran stopgap than Texas has right now. (A story on the Phillies’ official site last night, for instance, suggests that Aaron Rowand continues to be linked to Texas, “for a combination of pitchers Joaquin Benoit, Josh Rupe or Ron Mahay.” I don’t get anywhere near that deal if Rupe is part of it.)

Now I’m getting way ahead of myself. There’s a method to all of this, one that by now we all understand Daniels doesn’t telegraph through the media. Ever since he was labeled a year ago as coming into the job with a plan to be “creative and aggressive,” there have been countless trade rumors involving the Rangers, almost none of which came to fruition, and a handful of impact trades (some that turned out well, others not so much), almost none of which were even speculated on ahead of time.

Stay tuned. I get the sense that Daniels has just flicked the first domino.

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

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