THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 31, 2007

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.

Teixeira time.

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.

BOSTON

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.

Next.

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?

DETROIT

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.

BALTIMORE

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.

ATLANTA

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?

CONCLUSION

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.

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

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