A few things, and then some Mark Teixeira talk.
The Rangers are 3-11 on getaway days, that is, the final game of each homestand and the final game of each road series. That’s a lot of crummy plane flights.
I started wondering if Michael Young’s first third of the season has wiped out any real chance he has of a fifth straight 200-hit season. You’d think so. Think again. At the rate of at-bats per game that he’s established, Young would have to hit .324 the rest of the way to finish with an even 200 hits (which incidentally would also put him at a tick over .300 for the season).
He’s hitting .368 over his last nine games.
When Texas dipped a half-game behind the Reds for the worst record in baseball on Monday, it was the first time the club held that ignominious distinction since June 1, 1990.
At this point I’m only batting .333 on my pre-season predictions in response to “Batter’s Box Interactive Magazine’s” question asking what the Rangers’ biggest surprises would be in 2007 — “Michael Young’s RBI total. Ian Kinsler’s All-Star Game appearance. C.J. Wilson.” — but when I participated in a mid-March AL West roundtable on BaseballAnalysts.com with Rich Lederer, Patrick Sullivan, and Jeff Sullivan, I did OK with this one:
“Rich: Which players would you attach to the MVP, CYA, or ROY should any of those awards come out of the West this year?
“Jamey: Vlad [Guerrero] and [Danny] Haren for me.”
I’m pretty proud of the Haren call.
Haren, by the way, played at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California. So did Young and Mike Lamb and Mike Munoz, though they were all gone before Haren arrived.
Jon Daniels said on his Ticket segment with Bob and Dan yesterday that Jason Botts should get a meaningful look no later than just after the trade deadline, which is a veiled implication that Sammy Sosa may not finish the season here. I’d rather see 350 big league at-bats for Botts than 175, but I’ll take what I can get. And I do understand the idea that you keep showcasing Sosa until you get the right trade offer.
But remember this: Whether Botts can hit every day as a big leaguer may remain an unanswered question, but it’s time to have him show his work. He’ll be out of options when this season ends.
Brad Wilkerson and Jerry Hairston Jr. joined Oklahoma on rehab assignments but neither played for the RedHawks yesterday.
Expect catcher Miguel Ojeda, designated for assignment on Saturday, to clear waivers. He broke his thumb earlier this month and had it surgically repaired.
Clinton lefthander Kasey Kiker, number three this week on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet, has punched out 17 in his 10 scoreless innings (over two starts) since joining the LumberKings from extended spring training, scattering a measly five hits (though five walks). The 19-year-old is working in the low 90s, touching 94, but Rangers farm director Scott Servais told BA that the development of his breaking ball and changeup has been the most impressive aspect of his repertoire.
Kiker was named Midwest League pitcher of the week after the two starts. Frisco second baseman German Duran won Texas League offensive player of the week honors after hitting .381 and slugging .857 for the week.
Bakersfield outfielder John Mayberry Jr.’s 15 home runs lead the California League.
RoughRiders first baseman Emerson Frostad has been placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are on the verge of signing righthander John Maschino, a draft-and-follow taken by the club in the 17th round last June out of Seminole Junior College in Oklahoma, alma mater of Rangers closer Eric Gagné. Maschino remained at Seminole in 2007 (going 4-6, 4.40 with 42 strikeouts and 40 walks in 59.1 innings), forgoing an opportunity to transfer to Oklahoma University. Had he not signed with the Rangers — and if he didn’t sign with whatever club drafted him next week — he was set to transfer to the University of Arkansas for his junior season in 2008.
Unless there were signings by 11:59 last night that haven’t yet been reported, it appears that Maschino will end up being the last draft-and-follow ever signed by the Rangers. The process, which has netted players like Travis Hafner, Botts, Nick Masset, A.J. Murray, Travis Hughes, and Zach Phillips for the Rangers in the last 10 years, was eliminated when the new Collective Bargaining Agremeent was struck. Going forward, draftees other than college seniors cannot sign with their draft club after August 15.
The Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League signed righthander Brandon Villafuerte. The Atlantic City Surf of the independent Can-Am League signed catcher Angel Sanchez. The Grays of the same league released righthander Ruben Feliciano.
There have been some ludicrous trade suggestions in the papers and on the talk shows this week. Some of these journalists either aren’t doing their homework on other teams’ prospects, or hope you won’t. Let’s talk a little bit about the teams that have been mentioned as possible Teixeira suitors and what the hurdles might be to making a deal with each.
Lots of media proposals involving some combination of first baseman Kevin Youkilis, lefthander Jon Lester, righthander Clay Buchholz, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and outfielder Brandon Moss. But let’s face it: why would the Red Sox want to replace Youkilis, who is among the leaders in all of baseball this season in hitting, slugging, and reaching base — and is making less than $500,000? With David Ortiz entrenched at designated hitter and Mike Lowell at third base, there’s no way for Youkilis and Teixeira to coexist — unless Lowell were part of the trade package.
The more I think about it, no matter how often Boston is mentioned as far as Teixeira is concerned, I can’t imagine them getting serious with Texas. Is there enough bad blood dating back to the 1998 draft that Teixeira choosing to stay in Boston long-term would be a longshot? Who knows. A trade just isn’t something that makes a whole lot of sense for the Sox. If the Yankees were a couple games behind them? Maybe. But not the way the standings stack up right now.
And not the way Youkilis is playing.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Yes, I would like to have Phil Hughes here, too.
But the Yankees are 13.5 games out of first, in last place in the East. They’re 7.5 games out of the Wild Card slot, with seven teams to pass.
Look — Hughes is going nowhere. Whether New York is a buyer or a seller.
And given where things stand, hot seat or no hot seat, Brian Cashman is not going to empty his farm system for a player who will hit the free agent market at the same time that the Yankees can cut ties with Jason Giambi.
It would certainly help Texas to have New York in the mix. But I don’t see it.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Here’s one of those places where I think the media is missing the point. We’re asked to consider whether Texas would dare trade Teixeira to a division rival.
Has anyone thought to ask themselves whether the Angels would trade Nick Adenhart, Reggie Willits, and either Brandon Wood or Kendry Morales to a division rival?
I also question whether Casey Kotchman becomes a platoon DH in that scenario, but I think that’s beside the point.
Let’s recognize that, if all the winter stories were accurate, the Angels might have landed Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez if GM Bill Stoneman agreed to part with his top prospects.
If he’s going to give up Adenhart and Wood at this point, for instance, wouldn’t it make more sense to ship them with Willits to Cincinnati for Adam Dunn (though I think his 2008 option voids if he’s traded) than to put them in another AL West uniform for years?
First baseman Sean Casey, lefthander Andrew Miller, and one of two center fielders, Cameron Maybin or Brent Clevlen? No chance. First off, suggesting “Maybin or Clevlen” would be the equivalent of “Eric Hurley or [insert name of Grade B pitching prospect].” Maybin and Clevlen are far from interchangeable.
There is not only zero chance of getting a package that includes Miller and Maybin — it’s unlikely that the Tigers would part with either one. Adding Teixeira for a couple pennant races would be enticing for any contender, but that’s not a team he’d sign long-term with. If Miller or Maybin is on the table, Detroit is certainly in the mix. But I wouldn’t count on it.
The Tigers can probably get a dialogue going with other names (Jair Jurrjens, Eulogio de la Cruz, Gorkys Hernandez, Virgil Vasquez, Jordan Tata, Jeff Larish), but it’s a good bet that the fact that they have Miller and Maybin and likely won’t part with either could prevent them from getting close on a deal.
See the Yankees, on whom Baltimore has a three-game edge in the standings. The same issues apply. The Orioles are a longshot to do anything this year, and if they believe they have a real shot to land Teixeira in a year and a half, would they still part with some combination of Adam Loewen, Nick Markakis, Jim Hoey, and Bill Rowell to get Teixeira now?
Not sure why they would.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
This one makes a lot of sense, on both sides. The Dodgers are in a division dogfight and need an impact bat. First base is an ideal spot to add that bat. They are loaded with near-ready prospects.
A potential pothole, though. Do the Dodgers want to do business with Scott Boras after they got burned by him on Luke Hochevar and J.D. Drew the last couple years?
Maybe Los Angeles doesn’t care about the Boras factor. Maybe they aren’t worried now about whether they can keep Teixeira past this pennant race and next year’s.
James Loney, Scott Elbert, Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Meloan, Hong-Chih Kuo, Tony Abreu, Chin-Lung Hu. Lots of strong candidates. And can we rule out the idea of third baseman Andy LaRoche, with Hank Blalock sliding over to first base upon his return? Do you reject LaRoche because of Johnny Whittleman’s development? Do you see LaRoche instead as a potential answer in the outfield, something that the Dodgers have toyed with themselves?
Preston Mattingly seems right now to be a bit overhyped, but it would be interesting if he were traded for Teixeira, whose idol growing up was Preston’s dad.
I can’t imagine Clayton Kershaw would be up for discussion as a player to be named later.
But the Dodgers have a load of prospects who ought to be available in a Teixeira deal. And Los Angeles could really use him.
Black hole at first base. Loads of high-end young arms, and a potential star hitter who is ready but blocked. And the allure of one of the greatest Georgia Tech stars ever.
You think Texas would be interested in pitchers like Chuck James, Kyle Davies, Joey Devine, Matt Harrison, and James Parr? How about outfielder Brandon Jones?
Or catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who certainly has enough bat to move to first base or left field, either spot of which he’d fit nicely in Texas? He has the chance to be special.
Oh, and for those of you who subscribe to the Norm Hitzges theory that you should never trade for a young Atlanta pitcher because they’re all overhyped, do Kevin Millwood and Jason Schmidt and Jason Marquis and Odalis Perez and Adam Wainwright and Jorge Sosa not count? How many clubs have traded *more* young arms that ended up working out well?
For some reason, Atlanta is getting largely ignored as far as this story is concerned, and I’m not sure why. The Braves are four games behind the Mets and a game in back of Arizona for the Wild Card, have no aversion to dealing with Boras (Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez in 2000), and have a chance to get a local hero.
Which team wouldn’t do Teixeira for James, Saltalamacchia, and Parr?
Another thought: If we put Gagné in the deal, could we get Davies or Devine added to the return, or maybe (Brandon) Jones?
If Texas is to trade Teixeira, shouldn’t the Dodgers and Braves be considered extremely strong candidates, if not the strongest two? The local media doesn’t seem to think so.
A lot can change if Dunn hits the market, and if A-Rod hits the market (doesn’t his opt-out seem to draw closer to an inevitability every day lately?), and Todd Helton and Torii Hunter and maybe even Miguel Tejada and Troy Glaus. Right now Teixeira stands to be the prize catch, which is not to say he wouldn’t be even if all those others are dangled. But if the July buyers can get a Helton or Glaus for significantly less than it would take to get Teixeira, that’s when Texas loses some leverage in terms of what price in players it can put on its star first baseman.
Maybe the Rangers can’t get what Oakland got for Mark Mulder (Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero) or what Cleveland got for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens). And Texas doesn’t have to trade Teixeira at all, let alone in 2007.
But as I discussed in my May 16 and May 25 reports, it seems inevitable that, strategically, the Rangers will have to trade Teixeira this summer or this winter unless they believe they will be able to sign him long-term after the 2008 season.
Again, I don’t want Teixeira traded. But it may be inescapable at this point.
Seems to me that the best chances for it to be this summer would be if the Dodgers or Braves were to step up.
The Rangers were the team that committed no errors, rather than the one that committed two costly ones.
The Rangers were the team that got five shutout innings from their starter, rather than the one whose starter was scored on four times.
The Rangers, losers of six straight and 11 of 14, and nursing baseball’s worst record, shut the A’s out in their own yard.
You never know.
We’re now ready to start taking reservations for Newberg Report Night at Rangers Ballpark, which (based on the heavy majority of those of you who weighed in) will be on Friday, July 6, against the Orioles. We had about 350 attend last year and were at absolute capacity – so please make your reservations as soon as you know you’ll be attending.
The gathering will be very much like last July’s. Here’s what we have planned:
A ticket to the Friday, July 6 event costs $30 a person, and gets you the following:
1. RANGERS OFFICIAL (hopeful): Admission to the auditorium adjoining the Legends of the Game Museum near the center field entrance to the ballpark, where a Rangers official will hold an exclusive Q&A session with our entire group – with comfortable auditorium seating – before the game. General manager Jon Daniels has done this with us the past two years, but as July is probably the busiest month of the season, I’m certainly not going to guarantee anything until we know his availability for sure. More details on time coming soon, but I’d expect us to gather at around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. in advance of the 7:35 p.m. game.
2. WILL CARROLL: Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll, who delivers the renowned "Under the Knife" column and has authored several books, including "Saving the Pitcher" and "The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s Drug Problems," will join us as well, as he has every year that we’ve held Newberg Report Night.
3. DONATIONS: The great Allen Cordrey is once again organizing a charitable effort that we can all participate in that day. More details soon
4. HELLO WIN COLUMN FUND: You’ll recall that last year we hosted a family impacted by cancer at the Newberg Report event. We’ll do it again this year. Cindy Kuster, the daughter of the late Mark Holtz, will act on behalf of the Hello Win Column Fund as a liaison between Cancer Care Services and the Newberg Report and help select the family who will participate.
5. LUXURY SUITES: We will all watch the Rangers-Orioles game from luxury suites. The suites, for those of you who have never been in one, are air-conditioned and well furnished, have their own TV sets and bathrooms, and open onto balconies if you prefer to watch the game outside. Each suite holds 20 people, and we’ll have as many suites as we need. To keep costs down, we are not catering the event (same as the last two years); you will be able to go to the concession stands and bring anything other than alcoholic beverages back into the suites. There will be food service representatives stopping by the suites that will sell alcoholic beverages to you if you’d like.
6. PROMOTION: The first 15,000 fans at the game, 14 and older, receive Texas Rangers picnic blankets.
* Parking is not included.
* Feel free to organize a group to come; it’s not necessarily limited to you and a guest or two. I will be in charge of organizing the suites so you can watch the game with whoever you prefer to. A number of groups signed up with enough people that you got your own suite last year. We can do that this year, too.
Please sign up as soon as you know you’ll be coming. We need to give the Rangers advance notice as to how many suites we’ll need.
Even if you aren’t prepared to pay right now, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how many people you think you will bring.
The cost, once again, is $30, and you can pay in one of two ways:
1. You can order by credit card through PayPal by going to http://www.paypal.com, selecting the "Send money" option, and typing in email@example.com where you are prompted for the e-mail account.
2. Or you can send a check or money order, payable to "Jamey Newberg," to:
Vincent & Moyé
2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2000
Dallas, TX 75201
Let me know what questions you have. I look forward to seeing lots of you there on the 6th.
According to multiple media accounts, Texas has signed lefthander Mark Redman to pitch for Oklahoma. The 33-year-old went 0-4, 11.63 in five starts and a relief appearance for Atlanta before the Braves released him on Tuesday. This was the seventh straight season that Redman began with a new club. He’ll start for the RedHawks tomorrow.
In addition, Frisco outfielder Ben Harrison has been activated from the disabled list, which he’s been on all season due to a separated shoulder he sustained playing in Venezuela this winter. After hitting .289/.379/.510 between Bakersfield and Frisco last year, with 26 homers and 101 RBI in 494 at-bats, Harrison hit .311/.414/.477 in 132 winter league at-bats until suffering the shoulder injury, which led to late-November surgery.
Baseball America reports that Texas released righthander Jon Wilson, the club’s 27th round pick in 2005. Wilson had a phenomenal rookie season in 2005 for Spokane (3-1, 2.08 with 11 saves, 49 strikeouts and only four walks in 34.2 innings), and went 1-3, 4.53 with three saves for Bakersfield in 2006. He was 0-2, 6.39 with a pair of saves in 11 Blaze appearances this season.
Also, on the big league level, Brandon McCarthy reportedly threw 12 pitches in the bullpen yesterday before calling his side short. It’s not clear whether this puts his Wednesday afternoon start in Oakland in jeopardy.
Maybe it’s something that’s easily and subconsciously cooked up, as badly as this season has gone, but I can’t remember the last time that Rangers opponents have looked so confident against us. On the mound, at the plate, running the bases. The other guys seem to play with absolute, unflappable conviction against Texas, which as a fan who lives and dies with this team is really demoralizing.
Bittersweet admission, and memo to contending teams: Mark Teixeira is a difference-maker, the greatest this franchise has had since Juan Gonzalez wore red.
Single, double, and a walk today for Oklahoma corner left fielder Jason Botts, who is hitting .361/.443/.546 in May, and is up to .283/.373/.428 for the year – including .365/.400/.540 against left-handed pitching – after a slow start. He’s hitting .314/.402/.495 with runners on base, .385/.436/.646 with runners in scoring position.
Given where this thing stands in Arlington (we’re half a game out of owning the top pick in the 2008 draft), it will be inexcusable for Botts – who will be out of options at season’s end – not to be here for the entire second half. Frankly, I’d like to see him here on the next plane out of Iowa, but that’s probably not happening as long as Sammy Sosa is being showcased.
Since Texas is not going to be making any prospects-for-veteran trades this summer, it stands to reason that Botts isn’t a candidate to be dealt this season. So let’s find out what he can do against big league pitching, 20 trips a week. No sense at this point in trying to build on his trade value by having him destroy AAA pitching for a third straight year. Bring him up, and not to pad the bench. If he fails, he fails.
And I bet he doesn’t fail.
First, what happened to that new and improved Joaquin Benoit tempo? Looked like he was taking a cue from the man he took over for on the mound, dragging the pace down to the point at which you almost couldn’t call it a “pace” at all. Frustrating to watch.
In 2002, his first minor league season, Brandon McCarthy pitched 14 times, all starts. He never walked four batters in a game.
In 2003, McCarthy made 15 starts and a six-inning relief appearance. He never walked four.
In 2004, in 27 starts, McCarthy never walked four in a game.
In 2005, McCarthy started 19 times on the farm and relieved once. Two times he walked four batters, and it was in consecutive starts. The first was a three-hit effort over eight shutout innings. The next was a two-hit effort over seven innings in which he allowed one run.
McCarthy made 10 big league starts and two relief appearances that season. He walked four one time. It was in a 4.2-inning start against the Royals, his third time on a big league mound.
McCarthy never walked four batters in 2006, though to be fair, he made only two starts. He pitched 51 times in relief for the White Sox. For what it’s worth, five of his outings did last at least four innings.
In 2007, McCarthy has walked four batters three times in 11 games pitched, including last night, when he did it in the space of five Red Sox hitters in the second inning. He was, however, pitching at some point with a blister on the middle finger of his right hand, which I suppose makes this whole discussion sort of moot.
Kasey Kiker is now the proud owner of a professional win. Denied that opportunity on many occasions last year because of strict pitch counts that saw him go the requisite five innings only three times, the 19-year-old pitched only five frames this evening but was masterful, blanking Burlington on four hits and three walks while punching out eight, as Clinton held on for a 3-2 victory.
According to multiple media reports, Texas has purchased the contract of outfielder Marlon Byrd from Oklahoma, where he was hitting .358/.383/.600 (fourth in the Pacific Coast League in hitting, seventh in reaching base, seventh in slugging, and sixth in OPS), sending outfielder Kevin Mahar back to AAA.
No word yet on whose spot on the 40-man roster Byrd claims. Someone is likely going to be designated for assignment (or released) in the next couple hours.
Byrd is reportedly in tonight’s starting lineup against Boston righthander Tim Wakefield, perhaps in center field. The 29-year-old Byrd is 1 for 2 lifetime against the knuckleballer. Kenny Lofton is a career .246/.246/.361 hitter in 61 at-bats against Wakefield.
UPDATE: Oklahoma catcher Miguel Ojeda has been designated for assignment.
On January 15, 1995, the Cowboys traveled to San Francisco to meet the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, a week after Dallas had pasted Green Bay, 35-9. With their sights set on an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl win, the Cowboys fell apart the minute they came out of the tunnel. Troy Aikman was intercepted on Dallas’ third play from scrimmage, and Eric Davis returned it 44 yards for a Niners touchdown.
Three plays later, Davis stripped the ball from Michael Irvin’s hands and San Francisco recovered the fumble, moments after which Steve Young threw a touchdown pass to Ricky Watters. Cowboys kick returner Kevin Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and seven plays later the 49ers punched another one in. It was 21-0. And it wasn’t even midway through the first quarter.
But the Cowboys got up off the mat and battled. Dallas ended up losing, 38-28, but had it not been for a brutal non-call on Niners corner Deion Sanders, who clearly held Irvin’s arm on a deep ball as Dallas was driving to cut the lead to three with seven minutes left, the Cowboys may very well have reached that third straight Super Bowl. And probably won it.
Brad Sham, in his book “Stadium Stories,” calls that game “The Best Loss,” reflecting the sentiments of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Daryl Johnston, and others that it was among the defining moments for the team’s dominant run.
The first third of the Rangers season has gone about like the first seven minutes of that Cowboys-Niners matchup. But the key players from that football team count the way they fought back, even though the comeback fell short, as one of the greatest memories of their careers, even though the end result – a missed opportunity to return to the Super Bowl – had to be considered a failure from any other standpoint.
So if the Rangers somehow play .550 ball from this point forward and end up with a break-even 81 wins, the failure to play past 162 would undoubtedly be considered a letdown, but maybe it would serve a purpose beyond just playing improving baseball in the context of one season.
But that’s the players. It’s their job to win tonight, tomorrow, and every time there’s a game on the schedule. To fight back like the Cowboys did in San Francisco, no matter how bleak the situation. The job is different for the front office, and it’s a job that, unlike that of the players, changes from month to month and can certainly change from year to year. And this year is unique. Because in the next two months, Texas has an opportunity – a responsibility in a sense – to remake the future of this franchise in a way that many teams aren’t ever in a position to do.
Billy Beane likes to say that you spend the first third of the season figuring out what you have, the middle third addressing gaps on your roster, and the final third getting into the fast lane and flooring it.
This middle third for Texas in 2007 is slightly different from what Beane was talking about, because his statement was made in the context of a contending season. In the Rangers’ position, the middle third is all about two playing fields, outside the lines in both cases.
It’s about two sets of five:
(A) Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagné, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton, and, if healthy, Ron Mahay
(B) 17, 24, 35, 44, and 54
What Jon Daniels does in the next two months on the trade front, and what Ron Hopkins engineers two weeks from now in the draft, will factor in heavily to the direction things take here. The Rangers need to capitalize in June and July.
Here’s my armchair manifesto for the next two months:
It’s something that every organization does at all times. Going into this critical two-month stretch, the hope is that the longer this leadership group has been in place, game plans have gotten more and more refined, divergent philosophies have given way to organizational continuity, and everyone is pulling his oar in the same direction.
The self-scouting takes place in every facet. College and high school scouting. Pro scouting. Conditioning. Is there the necessary consistency in each department, from top to bottom? Is everyone on the same page? There are plenty of different ways to go about building a winning baseball franchise in each of these areas. It’s key of course to have good people in charge, but it’s also important to have uniformity in whatever belief sets are in place. Do we have all of that?
Why have the good trades worked and the bad ones not? Same question with regard to the first hour or two of the draft. It’s not as simple as evaluating Daniels and Hopkins and their ability and effectiveness. If you play fantasy league baseball, the accountability is squarely, 100 percent on you. But if you think Daniels or Hopkins or any other general manager or scouting director around baseball makes his decisions based on box scores and sabermetric formulas and what he sees when he watches games, you’re wrong. Both have a cabinet of advisors, each of whom brings a unique set of skills and insights and experience and preferences.
How is the advice that Daniels and Hopkins are getting, and relying on? Why was John Mayberry Jr. the choice over Jacoby Ellsbury and Travis Buck? Why Thomas Diamond over Scott Elbert, whom the Rangers liked enough to fly in for a pre-draft workout? Even if those two decisions end up working out – and they still can – why were they made? Self-evaluate.
Evaluate player development and instruction, too – though that’s been pretty good. There have been more longshots who have arrived (Ian Kinsler, Kameron Loe, Scott Feldman, Jason Botts, Kevin Mahar, even fifth-rounder C.J. Wilson, whose track record in college certainly didn’t suggest this) than “sure things” who haven’t (Drew Meyer), and every organization has examples of the latter. Johnny Whittleman looks like an outstanding pick. There’s Travis Hafner, Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, and John Danks, who are looking pretty good for other clubs after finishing school with Texas. Young and Frankie Francisco – and even Gonzalez – are examples of players who weren’t blue-chip prospects until the Rangers got their hands on them and got more out of them. When the various iterations of the post-Melvin regime have stepped significantly out of slot in the draft, they have done very well (Taylor Teagarden), done somewhat well (Vincent Sinisi), and done not so well (Kiki Bengochea). Marcus Lemon could fall into any of those categories. Time will tell. The level of success in locating, acquiring, and developing Latin American talent is undeniably on an uptrend.
After the 2004 season, in which Gonzalez hit .304 in AAA but with only 12 home runs (plus .238 with one bomb in his big league debut, spanning 42 at-bats), special assignments scout Mel Didier said this about the first baseman: “For a 22-year-old, [he’s] head and shoulders above everybody else. He’s got a chance to be something really special. I think he’s going to hit for power. I don’t think he’s going to be big-time power, but he’s going to hit 15 to 25 home runs, hit .300 and play first base as good as anybody.”
Were there others with stronger voices in the front office who were less optimistic about Gonzalez? Or was the trade market for him not as strong as the Rangers’ own internal evaluation of his potential? And if that’s the case, should he have been traded when he was?
As for the draft, all organizations make mistakes. That understanding should be built into the process of assessing draft success. Look at draft success like net income (busts = tax). But it’s surely possible to minimize the mistakes and the costs (tax-planning, if you will), whether it’s assessing the people making the recommendations on players, or evaluating the blueprint for measuring draft talent. Self-evaluate the philosophy, and those responsible for executing it.
Yes, there are problems with the level of talent in the Rangers farm system, without question, but that can be misleading. Considering how many minor leaguers have been graduated to the big leagues from the last few Rangers drafts – both in Arlington and with other clubs – it’s probably unfair to suggest the talent acquisition has been subpar. There’s no question that the Rangers system is thinner right now, especially at the upper levels, than that of most organizations, but part of the reason for that is so many prospects have departed the system the last few years, and Texas has generally been on the buyer end of most significant trades in that time, trading prospects rather than acquiring them. By definition that’s going to negatively affect the fertility of a farm system, and it’s been years since the Rangers system has been judged to be this low in rank.
But that’s about to change. The Rangers aren’t going to be buyers this summer.
Time for specifics.
Best available, five times. Don’t let agent issues or perceived depth issues factor in. If the top available player on our board when each of our first-round picks comes up on June 7 is a catcher, then take five catchers.
Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit.
But the point is that if the two available players we like most at a given slot are a high school lefthander and a college first baseman, don’t make the call based on the impact of the loss of Danks from the system, or on what might happen with Mark Teixeira. Base it on which player we like more than the other, as if this were an expansion club with fewer players in the organization than executives in the draft war room.
Will high school righties Matt Harvey or Blake Beaven slide to the number 17 pick? Will Texas overlook the flaws in Tennessee center fielder Julio Borbon’s game and take the potential leadoff hitter? Is Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta the kind of guy about whom Sandy Johnson might have commented, as he did regarding Frank Thomas: “He can’t do anything but hit”?
With two weeks to go before the draft, the Rangers’ board is probably fairly well set. I don’t pretend to know enough about the first-round candidates that I’m going to sit here and tell you who I think Texas will draft, or ought to (but getting Harvey or Beaven sure would be buzzworthy). All that matters to me is that when the 17th selection comes up, and the 24th, and the 35th and 44th and 54th, the Rangers are prepared to take the best player on their board, regardless of some sense of “need,” and that the board reflects as close to a scouting consensus as can be expected from an organization.
Drafting for need simply makes no sense in baseball, because drafted players rarely impact the big club for a couple years, when needs will be unforeseeably different from what they are today. If we were talking about the NFL or NBA, then drafting for need makes a little more sense (even though it’s usually not the wisest way to go in those sports, either) because first-year players are often plugged into key roles right away. On top of that, because of the nature of a farm system, you can load up on catchers or left-handed starters, develop them into prospects, and put yourself in a position to trade your excess inventory for things you do need.
Trust the scouts who have earned that trust, and stick to the draft board.
The Teixeira issue gains steam. As I spelled out on May 16, I think the odds are that Texas will trade him this summer or this winter, because he’s not going to extend here right now, and going into 2008 with him will mean, if the club is contending at mid-season, there’s no chance of trading him before he can be a free agent after that season ends. And that would leave you with two compensatory draft picks, no higher than the back half of the first round, which is a lot less palatable than the package of players you can get for Teixeira by way of trade – and that’s not even taking into account that $2-3 million it would cost to sign the two draft picks.
Here’s why the summer makes more sense: (1) Contending teams will theoretically offer more now than they will in December because they’d have Teixeira under control for two pennant races rather than one; (2) teams that have reached the two-thirds point of the schedule in a position to win are hungrier, and maybe more willing to ante up, than they would be in the winter; and (3) Texas has more leverage since they won’t be in a position where other clubs will believe they need to make a deal (unlike in the winter).
Here’s one reason the winter might be worth waiting for: Maybe there’s a team interested in Teixeira but can’t afford to include a particular major leaguer in the deal because it’s relying on that player for the stretch run. In the winter that attachment should be less of a factor.
But for the reasons stated above, the chances are that several teams could step up with formidable offers in July, and it would be pretty risky for the Rangers to reject all of them and count on a better offer turning up in the winter.
Plus, don’t discount the negative impact that a Teixeira trade will probably have on season ticket renewals. Theoretically that would be easier to overcome if the trade happens in July, and the players Texas gets in return are given a two-month chance to become part of the 2008 brand for the fan base.
As for what the trade could look like, you can expect these teams to have some level of interest: Boston, the Yankees, Detroit, the Angels, the Dodgers, and Atlanta, with Baltimore a potential player as well even though that club doesn’t stand to be in contention this summer. There’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and July, and so another team or two could figure in, and maybe one of the above drops out.
Can you get Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester (who would be a Ranger today if the A-Rod-to-the-Red-Sox trade was permitted to go through in 2004), and either Jacoby Ellsbury or Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden? Doubtful. Would Teixeira want to go to Boston, which treated him and his family badly after the 1998 draft, according to some reports? Questionable (though he can’t control where he’s traded). And let’s be honest: Do the Red Sox really need Teixeira? Doesn’t matter: Count on Boston being in the thick of this.
Does New York pony up (maybe Melky Cabrera, Kevin Whelan, and either Dellin Betances or a player to be named later, identified in September as Joba Chamberlain?) or do they sit tight, use their July bullets to acquire pitching, and wait until Jason Giambi’s contract expires at the same time that Teixeira hits the open market in a year and a half? May depend on how serious they think the Red Sox are about Teixeira.
Detroit: Andrew Miller can’t be traded until early August, and so to acquire him by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline he’d have to be a player to be named later – and that’s only allowed if he remains in the minor leagues from the moment of the trade until he’s actually conveyed. Would the Tigers be willing to keep the young lefthander on the farm for that stretch? Sure, if there’s only a couple weeks between the trade and its completion. Reports suggest Detroit won’t trade center fielder Cameron Maybin. Those are easily the top two prospects the Tigers have. But there are others, including Virgil Vasquez, who was drafted by Texas in 2000 but went to UCSB instead.
The Angels: They’re loaded with valuable trade chips, and intent on adding a power bat. Would Texas dare put Teixeira in Anaheim for not only the 2007 stretch run but the 2008 season as well? Would Casey Kotchman be relegated to DH? Would he instead come back in the deal? Or would the more frequently named possibilities – some combination of Joe Saunders, Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood, Kendry Morales, and Reggie Willits – be enough to entice the Rangers to move Teixeira to the team they’re chasing in the AL West?
The Dodgers: It seems like such a perfect fit. Los Angeles desperately needs a run producer, and first base is an ideal place to stick him. They’re loaded with terrific prospects. Let Texas choose three players from a list including Chad Billingsley, Scott Elbert (currently sidelined), James Loney, Matt Kemp, Jonathan Meloan, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Tony Abreu, and this could end up being the best match.
Atlanta: Matt Harrison, Joey Devine, and Brandon Jones?
Baltimore: Surely Erik Bedard is no longer available. Adam Loewen (hurt) and Nick Markakis? Maybe Markakis, Jim Hoey, and Bill Rowell, with an eye toward converting him to first base?
In case you haven’t read the reports I’ve written on the Teixeira issue this month, nothing would make me happier than if he told Scott Boras to get a deal done to keep him in Texas for life. He’s a great baseball player. I’ve just resigned myself to the seeming inevitability that he’s going play somewhere else in the prime of his career. I hate that. But I can no longer rest in a comfortable state of denial and pretend that it’s just a matter of time before he negotiates a long-term extension in Texas.
I suggested a week ago that Gagné, if healthy, could bring a key prospect at trade deadline time, similar to how Ugueth Urbina was flipped for Adrian Gonzalez and two other minor leaguers in 2003. Is Cleveland’s Chuck Lofgren shooting too high? Probably. Trevor Crowe? Brian Barton? Scott Lewis? As long as there are two or three contenders who could stand to improve their ninth-inning situation – and there should be – the Rangers ought to be able to get something positive done by shopping Gagné.
Gagné, I believe, has a limited no-trade clause that permits him to designate something like 10 or 12 teams to which he’d accept a trade. But he’s pitching for a big contract, and so you’d expect him to allow a trade to a contender needing a closer to go through.
Interestingly, when Texas acquired Carlos Lee last July, he was on pace for a .286/.347/.549 season with 42 home runs and 121 RBI and was considered the prize player on the trade market. Right now, Sammy Sosa projects to a line of .266/.327/.526 with 34 homers and 124 RBI.
That’s not to say that Sosa has anywhere near the trade value that Lee had a year ago, or that he should. But consider that he’s a better defender than Lee, and that he’s going to make less than $1 million in August and September combined (even including plate appearance bonuses), while Lee was making about $4 million over the final two months last year.
And if you’re thinking that Lee was different simply because he was age 30 at the time of the trade last July while Sosa is 38, that’s sort of a distinction without a difference since Lee was just as much a one-year proposition giving his impending free agency as Sosa is right now. Yes, Lee carried the added benefit of draft pick compensation, and that can’t be discounted, but the point is that Sosa should have real trade value in July, assuming he keeps producing for the next two months.
Will Sosa bring a closer, two young big league outfielders, and a lefthander to groom? Of course not. But is it out of the question that he could bring one core piece to build with?
Lofton and Mahay will have to step things up to bring something useful back, but that’s not out of the question. Sure, Brian Shouse only brought Enrique Cruz, but at the same time, Texas turned Mike Nickeas into Victor Diaz.
None of the above players stand to be Type A free agents (with the possible exception of Gagné, I guess), so there should be no disincentive in terms of draft pick consequences to moving the players. Just have to move them correctly.
You heard me.
Nobody will argue that his trade ledger is above .500 right now, not even Daniels himself. But in the name of continuity, of remaining faithful to the blueprint, of resisting any temptation there might be to drastically change course just because this season has gotten off to an appalling start, Tom Hicks should fix things so that Daniels doesn’t go into 2008 with one year left on his contract.
Hicks reportedly met with Daniels a week ago, telling the press afterwards that the two talked about the importance of organizational stability. There’s a plan to stick to here, and extending Daniels will help ensure that there are no peripheral factors threatening to distract from it.
It will also serve as a demonstration of faith by ownership in the plan to move key veterans this summer or winter for younger players. I don’t think Daniels would succumb to a temptation to stick with (or add) more veterans than he would otherwise just because his own job is on the line, mainly because I think he believes in his plan and because he knows his job is on the line whether he has six weeks left on his contract or six years. But extending Daniels (which of course doesn’t mean he’s “tenured” for the life of the deal) would have the added benefit of securing his advisors in a way.
If the people responsible for advising Daniels on personnel decisions know that he’s not in an apparent position of having to make moves to save his job (i.e., not working under an edict to “win now”), then theoretically their evaluations and advice won’t be influenced (even subconsciously) by an urge to win today at the expense of a smarter plan to build a more stable contender over the long term.
This is a huge time, a crucial opportunity. Just like trading Travis Hafner and trading Adrian Gonzalez were, arguably, tolerable at the time (even if not in hindsight) – the question being whether they were traded well – there are players here who are in demand and will be over the next two months. It’s imperative that the Rangers capitalize the way they did when trading Carl Everett to Chicago, and Ugueth Urbina to Florida.
And that they capitalize with picks 17 and 24 and 35 and 44 and 54.
The front office is made up of executives that John Hart brought in, that Grady Fuson brought in, and that Jon Daniels has brought in. If they’re all on the same page, working in the same direction, trusting each other and taking advantage of each other’s strengths, lineage doesn’t matter.
All teams make trades and draft picks. But these are unusual circumstances of strength in those two areas for Texas. The next decade could be shaped heavily by what happens in June and July. Jon Daniels talks occasionally of the importance of maintaining (and staying faithful to) both a one-year and a five-year plan. The middle third of this season stands to impact a lot more than that.
How Daniels and his crew handle this opportunity to restock and revitalize the organization’s assets will probably define his legacy, and will almost certainly impact the ball club’s foreseeable future more than any two months in memory.
June 1, 1976: Texas trades shortstop Roy Smalley, third baseman Mike Cubbage, righthanders Bill Singer and Jim Gideon, and $250,000 to Minnesota for righthander Bert Blyleven and shortstop Danny Thompson.
At age 25, Roger Clemens had 51 wins. Greg Maddux had 61 when he turned 25. Steve Carlton had won 47 at that age, Tom Seaver 57.
It’s almost crazy to imagine any of those pitchers being discussed in trade talks at that age, let alone shipped away. Yet the Rangers were able to complete a trade in 1976 for a 25-year-old pitcher with 99 Major League victories under his belt and a career ERA of 2.80. On June 1 of that season, Texas sent infielders Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage and righthanders Bill Singer and Jim Gideon to Minnesota in exchange for 25-year-old curve ball artist Bert Blyleven, getting infielder Danny Thompson tossed into the deal.
In retrospect, it was a stunning trade. Texas finished the 1975 season with a rotation made up completely by pitchers in their 30s, headed by Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins. The club decided it needed to get younger on the mound, and it had an excess on the infield to facilitate the effort. Shortstop Toby Harrah was 26 years old and had two All-Star Games to his credit, and third baseman Roy Howell drove in 51 runs in just 383 at-bats as a 21-year-old. Smalley (age 23) and Cubbage (age 25) were basically depth as the 1976 season got underway.
Gideon was a terrific prospect. He’d gone 17-0, 1.60 for the University of Texas and led them to the NCAA title in 1975 before signing with the Rangers as their first-round pick that summer (17th overall) and pitching at two minor league stops before finishing the season with a big league start.
But Gideon was just two years younger than Blyleven. And 99 wins behind him when the Rangers and Twins stood on the verge of a deal.
What Rangers general manager Dan O’Brien was able to do was package Smalley and Cubbage, who were blocked by better young players, with the prospect Gideon and the veteran Singer (who was off to a 4-1, 3.48 start to the season but certainly not a core member of the club) as well as $250,000, and in doing so he was able to entice the Twins to part with Blyleven, who had never had a losing record in six big league seasons but who had gone 4-5, 3.12 in April and May. Thompson was Minnesota’s starting shortstop in 1975, leading American Leaguers at that position with a .270 batting average, but the Twins were bringing Smalley in to start and thus agreed to include Thompson in the deal to fortify the Rangers’ bench. (Thompson would lose a battle with leukemia three months after the season.)
It’s a trade that would never be possible today.
Blyleven’s Rangers career got off to an impressive start. On June 5, 1976, in front of a massive Arlington crowd of nearly 33,000 (more than double the club’s average home attendance), Blyleven and Tigers rookie Mark Fidrych each went the distance in a 3-2 Detroit win, with Blyleven fanning 10 hitters and taking the loss when a Howell error led to the eventual game-winner – in the 11th inning. The young righthander’s Texas debut was, at the time, the second-longest outing in franchise history.
Two weeks later, Blyleven fired a one-hitter over 10 innings in Oakland, this time rewarded with a 1-0 victory.
The Holland native would win four 1-0 games for Texas in 1976. He went 9-11, 2.76 in 24 Rangers starts that season, with an astonishing average of 8.1 innings per start. He completed 14 games. He fired six shutouts, including a two-hitter in Minnesota in which Smalley and Cubbage combined to go 0 for 5 with a walk and three strikeouts.
But Blyleven’s finest moment as a Ranger came the following year, on September 22 in Anaheim, in what would be his final appearance for the organization. Facing an Angels club that he would join 12 years later for the final three seasons of his career, Blyleven came an out away from firing what would have been the 10th perfect game in Major League history. But Carlos May, pinch-hitting for catcher Andy Etchebarren, drew a two-out walk before Blyleven recovered to strike left fielder Thad Bosley out to seal the second no-hitter in Rangers history.
Less than three months later, the Rangers included Blyleven in a four-team, 11-player trade, sending him to Pittsburgh in a deal that, in the end, brought Pirates outfielder Al Oliver and shortstop Nelson Norman and Mets lefthander Jon Matlack to Texas. As remarkable as the June 1976 trade to get Blyleven was, the December 1977 trade sending him away was equally incredible. By then Blyleven was a 122-game winner, still just 26, and his ERA in nearly two seasons as a Ranger was 2.74, a mark that still stands as the best of any pitcher in franchise history with at least 400 innings to his credit.
Smalley and Cubbage had decent runs with the Twins. Singer went 9-9, 3.77 for Minnesota in 1976 before finishing his career with the expansion Blue Jays in 1977. Gideon would never get back to the big leagues with Minnesota, or anyone else. The start he made for Texas at the end of his draft year would be the only Major League appearance of career.
Meanwhile, Blyleven was a horse for Texas, finishing second in the American League in ERA in 1977, and first in hits and walks per inning. And arguably the second Blyleven trade the Rangers made – getting Oliver and Matlack – was just as big a win for the organization as the deal it made to get him in the first place.
But less notable than the Rangers’ success in trading for Blyleven and then shipping him away was the fact that, at such a young age, a workhorse like that was traded at all, let alone two times.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Someof you probably refuse to listen to friends talk about movie plots before you’ve
had the chance to see the films yourself.
of you can’t resist the temptation to flip right to the last page of a great
both groups: Enjoy the following.