Jason Botts has 92 big league at-bats this year. He’s hitting .207/.288/.304. One home run, eight RBI, 35 strikeouts.
Botts had 90 at-bats for AAA Oklahoma in April. Even though he’d ravaged Pacific Coast League pitching to the tune of an .897 OPS in 2005 and a .980 OPS in 2006, the notoriously slow starter put up an April line of .200/.295/.300. One home run, 14 RBI, 28 strikeouts.
That’s Botts. That’s what he does.
With almost identical first months in AAA and the big leagues this season, if Botts replicates his second RedHawks month — .361/.458/.546 — in September, then we have our 2008 designated hitter. Which is not to say that he needs to throw a 1.004 OPS up there (or 1.138, as he did in June, or 1.194, as he did in July).
But he can’t continue to look up at .600 and hope to lock down a 2008 spot going into the off-season.
New month. Time for those cylinders to start clicking.
I believe they will.
We now know that righthander Edinson Volquez will be recalled when rosters expand on Saturday, and in fact he’ll make that day’s start in Anaheim.
We can be relatively certain that lefthander A.J. Murray is coming back up, too, and that a third catcher (Chris Stewart? Guillermo Quiroz?) is a near-lock to join him. There’s been some speculation that center fielder Freddy Guzman, who leads all of AAA with 51 stolen bases, could get his first 2007 look. And that makes a good amount of sense, as Guzman is on his final option.
Victor Diaz and Kevin Mahar are candidates to show up again as well. Travis Metcalf will return at some point from the disabled list.
But righthander Eric Hurley, who stands to be the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year and could be a rotation factor sometime in 2008? Almost no mention.
As it should be.
That’s not a knock on the 22-year-old. He’s had a terrific season. The last time the Rangers drafted and developed a righthander and got him to the doorstep with this much promise was probably Kevin Brown, 20 years ago.
The reason you would bring Hurley up in September would be to reward him not only for his strong season but for four years of buying into the program and capitalizing on it. To get him acclimated now, if not on the mound then in the clubhouse and on the plane.
But there are more significant reasons not to bring Hurley to Arlington next month.
First, he can’t be drafted via Rule 5 until next winter, so there’s no compelling reason to put him on the 40-man roster before sometime in 2008, and in fact there’s a strong disincentive, as giving him a roster spot means Jon Daniels would unnecessarily have one less spot this winter to devote to a free agent or trade acquisition, or to a minor leaguer among those who would otherwise be exposed to the draft.
Second, Hurley has thrown 158 innings this year, already a career high. Why push it?
Third, on a related note, what if he were to come up here and, buoyed by adrenaline and an urge to prove himself at the highest level, overthrows or gets lax with his mechanics and hurts himself, as Philip Hughes and Jair Jurrjens did? Don’t even want to imagine how ugly that would be.
Fourth, Hurley had his worst outing of the season on Monday. He’ll get one more RedHawks start (on Saturday), and possibly more if Oklahoma makes up its 1.5-game deficit and extends its season. For his sake, I’d like to see him bounce back and take a good start into his off-season. More likely to have that come in Albuquerque (the Isotopes, whom the RedHawks are chasing, haven’t seen Hurley yet) than in Anaheim, or Minnesota, or Arlington.
Fifth, and this isn’t really a reason not to bring Hurley up, but more of a point of precedent. In 2005, Ian Kinsler had a .274/.348/.464 AAA season, with 28 doubles, 23 home runs, and 94 RBI. He was the organization’s minor league player of the month in August (.336/.421/.555, five homers, 20 RBI). The Rangers surely had thoughts as September arrived that Kinsler was ready to take over at second base, leading them to trade Alfonso Soriano three months later. And even if Kinsler wasn’t a lock to break camp with Texas the next spring, he was nonetheless going to be draft-eligible in December 2005 and thus was going to be added to the 40-man roster in November.
But Kinsler was not called up when rosters expanded. C.J. Wilson and Marshall McDougall returned from brief options. Josh Rupe was recalled to make his big league debut, as was Jason Botts. Second-year big leaguer Gerald Laird was recalled, and it was non-roster member Esteban German, rather than Kinsler, who was purchased and given a September audition in the infield.
I can’t get behind the idea that it would be very smart for Texas to bring Hurley up this year. The non-roster invite he’ll get in camp in February won’t carry some stigma distinguishing it from the invitation that 40-man roster member Armando Galarraga will get, and in fact Hurley will get a more extensive look in Surprise. He’ll start the year in Oklahoma, just as he would have if on the 40-man roster. He’ll show up in Texas when the time is right, just as he would have if on the 40-man roster.
In any event, I don’t expect we’ll be seeing Hurley in Rangers Ballpark until 2008.
We will see Volquez, however. The reigning Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week (1-0, 0.00, six hits, five walks, 16 strikeouts in 13 innings over two starts) will start in Anaheim on Saturday and then make his home debut during the Oakland series the following weekend.
Turns out John Danks will pitch in Rangers Ballpark this year before Volquez does. Danks is slated to start tonight against Kevin Millwood.
Daniels will watch the Danks start from the television booth with Victor Rojas and Tom Grieve, as he does a live, in-game chat session. You can submit questions for Daniels today or during the game by going to http://www.foxports.com and typing in keywords “Rangers Booth.” If your question is read on the air, you will receive two vouchers for an upcoming 2007 Rangers home game.
Hand it to Sammy Sosa. Another couple productive at-bats against lefthanders last night, this time delivering his first pinch-hit of the year with a game-tying double into the right field corner in the seventh and then the game-winning sacrifice line drive to center in the 11th.
Hey, Detroit? Minnesota? Omar Minaya? Somebody offer us your Scott Shoemaker for the man before tomorrow night.
Before John Rheinecker came in and caught Jim Thome looking in the eighth, I think the last Rangers pitcher to get Thome out was Steve Foucault. Good grief.
As for Thome’s next at-bat (in the 10th), you’ve got to love the rare 4-5-3 double play that Wilson coaxed.
The Rangers no-hit Chicago over the final 6.2 innings last night, including Kameron Loe’s final inning and two-thirds and then five frames from the bullpen.
The television broadcast last night suggested that Michael Young needed to hit .339 the rest of the way to get to 200 hits, and that was before he went 2 for 6. I think they were wrong, though. My math says that he needs to go 40 for 123 the rest of the way (.324) to reach 200.
Marlon Byrd, who turned 30 yesterday, has 86 RBI between Oklahoma and Texas this season.
Wilson may just is in his first full big league season, but he was selected to be the Rangers’ new player representative once Mark Teixeira was traded.
Righthander Willie Eyre had Tommy John elbow surgery on Monday and will miss the 2008 season.
Catcher Adam Melhuse, whom Texas designated for assignment a week ago, cleared waivers and is a free agent. He could sign with another club today or tomorrow and be eligible for post-season play.
Watching A.J. Pierzynski get collared in five trips last night, leaving four men on base, reminded me that Daniels is going to have an interesting opportunity this winter with his catching depth. Could Laird bring something despite his subpar season? Minnesota turned Pierzynski into Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Johnny Estrada made Kevin Millwood a Phillie. Einar Diaz keyed deals for Travis Hafner and Chris Young. Eddie Taubensee brought rookie Kenny Lofton to Cleveland.
Laird may not have the value that a 26-year-old Pierzynski but should be in the same ballpark as Estrada and Taubensee were and certainly has more big league cred and projection than Diaz had.
And imagine what Saltalamacchia could bring, if the Rangers decide to investigate that alternative and stay with Laird until Taylor Teagarden is ready. Would Tampa Bay be willing to discuss Scott Kazmir, who is set to go to arbitration this winter? Do you allow yourself to test the Dontrelle Willis waters? We know that Pittsburgh was dangling Ian Snell before Atlanta used Saltalamacchia to get Teixeira. Has Zack Greinke’s resurgence as a reliever and spot starter so locked him in with Kansas City that they wouldn’t discuss him?
Dare I suggest that the White Sox might make Danks available if Saltalamacchia were on the table?
Or, thinking much bigger, what about using him to front a package for Miguel Cabrera, who makes $7.4 million this year and will make more the next two years through arbitration before surely pricing himself out of Florida after the 2009 season?
Laird should have enough value to fetch something useful, and is more likely to be traded than Saltalamacchia. But don’t ever think that Daniels isn’t considering every possibility, including some that may seem all but impossible.
Atlanta is 13-14 since trading for Teixeira and Ron Mahay, and has fallen from 3.5 games back in the National League East to five games back.
Texas is 13-13 in that same stretch.
Saltalamacchia when playing catcher for the Braves: .354/.393/.468. When playing first base, DH’ing, or pinch-hitting: .194/.261/.339.
When playing catcher for Texas: .371/.405/.714. When playing first base: .143/.172/.268.
Oklahoma righthander Ezequiel Astacio threw a pitch behind New Orleans designated hitter Jason Alfaro in the ninth inning of last night’s 8-2 Redhawks loss, causing the benches to clear. Nobody threw a punch, and nobody got tossed.
From the great Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus: “Between the Teixeira trade, the 2007 draft, and the emergence of Chris Davis, is there a more improved system this year than the Rangers?”
Davis did not homer for Frisco last night. Probably should have sent out a news flash.
Frisco’s Dave Anderson was named Texas League Manager of the Year, while righthander Luis Mendoza and second baseman German Duran made the Post-Season All-Star Team.
Spokane catcher Jonathan Greene (.249/.359/.482, 11 home runs, 44 RBI in 54 games) and lefthander Ryan Falcon (4-2, 2.36, one save in 24 relief appearances, 32 hits [.208 opponents’ average, just two home runs], six walks, and 58 strikeouts in 42 innings) made the Northwest League All-Star Team.
The Rangers signed veteran righthander Luther Hackman to pitch in relief for Oklahoma, placing righthander Alfredo Simon on the disabled list. The 32-year-old Hackman, who saved 18 games for AAA Nashville with a 3.61 ERA this season, has pitched in the big leagues for Colorado, St. Louis, and San Diego. I don’t think he’s ever gone by his middle name, Gean.
Bakersfield infielder Thomas Berkery was promoted to Frisco.
Blaze shortstop Elvis Andrus returned to action last night after missing four days with a minor injury. In five plate appearances he singled, drew two walks, and stole two bases.
According to Baseball America, the Rangers placed righthander Luis Indriago (10.34 ERA in 15.2 Arizona League innings) on the suspended list.
The Dodgers, who couldn’t get their stuff together a month ago to make a meaningful trade deadline deal, placed a claim on righthander Esteban Loaiza this week and, yesterday, Oakland decided not to revoke, sticking Los Angeles with the 35-year-old and the roughly $8.5 million he’s guaranteed over final month plus next season. Or the Dodgers can opt to pay Loaiza (whose season debut was last week after neck and knee injuries kept him sidelined all year) a little more than $15.5 million if they want to keep him around in 2009 as well.
Oakland recalled righthander Colby Lewis from AAA to replace Loaiza on its staff.
St. Louis signed lefthander Mike Venafro to a minor league contract. Cincinnati released outfielder Tyrell Godwin. The North Shore Spirit of the independent Can-Am League released righthander Ruben Feliciano.
Fort Worth Cats lefthander Mario Ramos retired last week.
Pumped to see John Danks pitch here tonight. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sammy Sosa is in the lineup, and as much as I’d prefer not to see that, and hope that some contender calls Jon Daniels today agreeing to take him, I’d prefer to have Sosa suited up here in September than Eric Hurley.
According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have placed third baseman Travis Metcalf on the disabled list due to the strained hamstring he suffered in last night’s game. Jerry Hairston Jr. has been activated.
Sullivan also confirms the worst-kept secret in Rangerland, that Edinson Volquez will start Saturday’s game. Volquez is reportedly in town, though he won’t be activated until Saturday, when rosters can expand.
Things that fire me up right now:
Erica’s beaming smile about the first few days of second grade.
Chris Davis raked his 36th home run tonight, driving in his 119th and 120th runs of the year.
The song "Barely Listening" by the band Pilot Speed. Had never heard the song until seeing it performed in a live setting on TV last night. Had never heard of the band until then, for that matter. A song hasn’t come out of nowhere and affected me like that in 15 years. It was like watching Jason Kidd for the first time, or Reggie Bush. Or that initial experience with an HD TV.
Outfielder Engel Beltre and catcher Cristian Santana have been promoted from the Arizona League to Spokane. Both are in the starting lineup tonight in Boise. Beltre has singled in three trips so far, and Santana has reached based twice, first on an infield error and then on a double. Outfielder Julio Borbon was sent down from Spokane to the Arizona League. He singled to lead off tonight’s game and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second.
That last part doesn’t fire me up. The idea, however, of Engel Beltre reminding me of Cal freshman Jason Kidd and of Pilot Speed when I first get the chance to see him play? That, without question, does.
The Rangers’ 2007 Arizona Fall League contingent: Joaquin Arias, Matt Harrison, Danny Ray Herrera, Kea Kometani, John Mayberry Jr., and Josh Rupe, with German Duran and Taylor Teagarden as taxi squad members, eligible to play only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Why Duran and Teagarden as secondary delegates? Couple things. I’m pretty sure teams have to draft positions before they can assign players, and I bet Arias was a priority for the club, given his lost year, as far as position players go. Certainly more in need of infield reps than Duran, who is actually a month older and doesn’t yet need to be on the 40-man roster.
As for Mayberry vs. Teagarden, I suppose the organization decided it needs to see more out of the outfielder than the catcher right now, a year before each will be Rule 5-eligible.
Why not Brandon Boggs? Maybe the Rangers have seen what they think they need to see, and in the event that the decision has been made to leave him off the 40-man roster in November, perhaps the club doesn’t want to give the rest of the league another month and a half to scout him before the Rule 5 Draft.
Just for fun . . . .
The Rangers’ 2006 AFL delegation: Jesse Ingram, John Koronka, Travis Metcalf, A.J. Murray, Kevin Richardson, Danny Touchet, Anthony Webster
2005: Wes Littleton, Kevin Mahar, Nick Masset, Drew Meyer, Mike Nickeas, Mark Roberts
2004: Jason Botts, John Hudgins, Ian Kinsler, Wes Littleton, Matt Lorenzo, Juan Senreiso
2003: Jason Bourgeois, Jermaine Clark, Justin Echols, Frankie Francisco, Adrian Gonzalez, Drew Meyer, Ramon Nivar, Nick Regilio
2002: Ben Kozlowski, Gerald Laird, Laynce Nix, Jeff Pickler, Mario Ramos, Mark Teixeira, Derrick Van Dusen
2001: Hank Blalock, Justin Duchscherer, Travis Hafner, Travis Hughes, Colby Lewis, David Meliah, Kevin Mench, Andy Pratt
2000: Joaquin Benoit, David Elder, Spike Lundberg, Kevin Mench, Jason Romano, Michael Young
1999: Cliff Brumbaugh, Derrick Cook, Doug Davis, David Elder, Mike Lamb, Corey Lee, Matt Miller
1998: Kelly Dransfeldt, Jonathan Johnson, Rob Sasser, Mike Venafro, Jeff Zimmerman, Mike Zywica
1997: Mike Bell, Jim Brower, David Manning, Mike Murphy, Matt Perisho, Marc Sagmoen, Dan Smith, Andrew Vessel
1996: Mike Bell, Kevin (the catcher) Brown, Hanley Frias, Eric Moody, Marc Sagmoen, Ted Silva
1995: Mark Brandenburg, Kevin (the catcher) Brown, Chris Curtis, Rick Helling, Terrell Lowery, Danny Patterson
1994: Rich Aurilia, Dave Geeve, Roger Luce, David Perez, Marc Sagmoen, Desi Wilson
1993: Rich Aurilia, Terry Burrows, Rusty Greer, Terrell Lowery, Ritchie Moody, Darren Oliver, Bobby Reed
1992: Jeff Bronkey, Rob Brown, Terry Burrows, Roger Luce, Kurt Miller, Dan Peltier, Jon Shave, Matt Whiteside
I think that’s everyone.
David Murphy was part of Boston’s AFL contingent in 2005. As I mentioned over the weekend, I was already becoming a pretty big fan of his game. Now I have no choice but to pull for the guy. Yesterday someone in the game told me that Murphy reminds him of an well-known outfielder who, it turns out, a scout with a major league organization told me 18 years ago I reminded him of.
If I can string it together, my kids may be the first two at the Ballpark sporting David Murphy jerseys.
The Rangers have announced that they will send righthanders Josh Rupe and Kea Kometani, lefthanders Matt Harrison and Danny Ray Herrera, catcher Taylor Teagarden, infielders Joaquin Arias and German Duran, and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. to the Arizona Fall League, where they will play for the Surprise Rafters, managed by Rangers catching coordinator Damon Berryhill. The AFL season begins on October 9.
Teagarden and Duran are listed on the Rafters roster as “taxi squad” members, available only for Wednesday and Saturday games.
A great night at the yard, which began with an opportunity just before gametime to stand on the first base line, a little closer to the bag than the plate, with a couple hundred other longtime Rangers fans. The thing that was most surprising was realizing an obvious truth, that despite production value and replays and every camera angle imaginable, 90 feet is 90 feet. They are playing our game, just more proficiently.
Vicente Padilla was super-proficient tonight. He was as aggressive as he’s been all year, especially with the fastball, and extremely efficient, keeping low pitch counts until running out of gas in the seventh. Of his 87 pitches, 61 were strikes, a terrific 70 percent rate. He didn’t walk a batter, and didn’t drill any, either.
His tempo was still maddening, but as long as he puts up numbers like he did tonight, I can live with it.
Interesting that Mark Connor made the pitching change in the seventh. Padilla must have said something to him to trigger the hook (probably an admission that he had nothing left); otherwise, surely Ron Washington would have made the trip to the mound to gauge whether to leave the ball in Padilla’s hand.
A few other thoughts:
I love how Marlon Byrd plays the game. He may not have one All-Star tool, but he does everything well, and seems to get the most out of what he has. He didn’t fill up the box score tonight, but he played solid defense, and contributed with two huge sacrifice flies.
I’m also becoming a big David Murphy fan, not so much because of his unconscious run at the plate (it’s a small sample), but because of the way he defends in the outfield. There’s a place for him on a good team’s bench.
I think we took advantage of a situation that gets overlooked in the game. Big-market, consistently competitive teams like Boston rarely have the patience to break in anything but the bluest-chip prospects. Murphy — and Kason Gabbard — were expendable as Red Sox but, with another team, might not have been. Nothing wrong with exploiting the best teams in baseball by going after the young players who aren’t on their very top tier. I think the Rangers might have done that here.
And while Eric Gagné threw a scoreless inning in an 11-1 thrashing of the White Sox today, lowering his Boston ERA to 9.00, Gabbard and Murphy aren’t the only players from that trade faring well for Texas. The most exciting player in the deal, 17-year-old center fielder Engel Beltre, tripled and singled tonight for the Arizona League squad, improving to .304/.380/.570 as a Ranger (after hitting .208/.310/.400 for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox).
Man, am I excited about that kid.
Josh Rupe started that AZL game, giving up a single and a walk in one inning of work, striking out one batter swinging and getting his other two outs on a flyout and a groundout. Great to see him back on the mound.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn’t had lots of defensive chances in the running game (he’s thrown out two of four would-be basestealers since arriving), but you know a catcher when you see one if you pay attention to the way he throws the ball to third base on a strikeout, the way he runs to the mound and deals with his pitcher when the situation calls for it, the way he goes about his business. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a catcher.
Speaking of throws after strikeouts, it’s a thing of baseball beauty to watch Adrian Beltre, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jose Lopez throw the ball around the horn after an out.
The throw that Ichiro made to the plate in the bottom of the sixth (on Byrd’s first sac fly), as gratuitous as it was, was also a thing of beauty.
Strategic question: Jason Botts singled in the sixth and was stranded when the next hitter, Nelson Cruz, popped out to Lopez. Knowing Botts would likely not come up again until the eighth, if at all, why wasn’t Murphy inserted as a defensive replacement right away, in the top of the seventh? Why wait until the eighth?
As it turns out, Botts made a nice play in the alley to end the seventh, but I didn’t understand why Murphy wasn’t in the game. He came on an inning later defensively (and made a dazzling play on Joaquin Benoit’s second pitch), but I thought waiting that extra inning was an odd managerial decision.
Where was Gerald Laird in the top of the ninth? When C.J. Wilson ran in from the bullpen to pitch the ninth, Saltalamacchia was in the dugout, busy donning the gear, as he was on deck when the eighth ended. Wilson stood behind the mound and had to wait for Saltalamacchia to suit up and trot out before he could throw his warm-up tosses. Where was Laird while Saltalamacchia was getting ready?
As for Wilson, the finish was a little less clean than you’d like, but maybe someone out there has the time and the resourcefulness to do a little number-crunching. I would bet a lot of money that almost every closer has markedly worse stats in non-save appearances than they do when there’s a save on the line, and when Wilson entered with a 5-1 lead, I thought to myself that it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s not as dominant tonight as he usually is.
Getting the 27th out of a close big league game is more than a physical feat. Closers are wired differently. They have to be. There’s a certain mindset that thrives with the game in the balance, and another that falters in that situation.
C.J. Wilson may be more wired to close games than any pitcher that I’ve ever met. So it didn’t stun me that he wasn’t at his best tonight, with a little less adrenaline summoned up.
Still, it was good enough, as it turns out, and he finished off a really good day of Rangers baseball.
The Rangers once drafted a 6’3", 220 masher out of college, developed him as a third baseman, and moved him to first base once he arrived in the big leagues, which was after just one full season on the farm.
Mark Teixeira hit 153 home runs as a Ranger, one short of the most any player drafted by Texas has ever hit for the team. But Dean Palmer’s 154 came in eight seasons, while Teixeira was here for only five.
Another Scott Boras client, Chris Davis, is also 6’3", 220, also drafted out of college, and is playing third base for Frisco right now, though there’s a good chance he’ll move across the diamond and play first base as a major leaguer, just as Teixeira did.
Teixeira was drafted fifth overall in 2001, three years after Boston failed to sign him as high school pick. Davis was drafted in the fifth round in 2006, two years after the Yankees failed to sign him as high school pick.
Before playing at Navarro Junior College, Davis attended the University of Texas.
Frisco catcher Taylor Teagarden played at UT from 2003 to 2005.
If the Rangers hadn’t signed John Danks out of high school, he would have played at UT from 2004 to 2006.
Had Davis not transferred to Navarro, he would have played at UT from 2005 to 2007.
If the Rangers hadn’t signed Johnny Whittleman out of high school, he would have played at UT from 2006 to 2008.
The Rangers’ area scout for those four?
Randy Taylor. Randy Taylor. Randy Taylor. Randy Taylor.
In 2006, Davis hit .370 for Navarro with 16 home runs in 50 games, slugging .762.
After signing that summer, Davis hit .227 for Short-Season A Spokane, with 15 home runs in 69 games, slugging .534.
This spring, Davis hit .298 for High A Bakersfield with 24 home runs in 99 games, slugging .573.
So far this summer, Davis is hitting .305 for AA Frisco with 10 home runs in 23 games, slugging .732.
For the 2007 season, the left-handed hitter’s composite line is .299/.349/.600, with 34 home runs and 115 RBI in 122 games.
Don’t overlook this, either: With the Blaze, Davis struck out once every 3.1 at-bats and walked once for every 17.5 at-bats. With the RoughRiders, he’s cut the strikeout rate to once every 3.9 at-bats, and increased his walk frequency to once for every 7.5 at-bats.
The only minor leaguer with more homers than Davis is 27-year-old Craig Brazell, who has 38. A month younger than Teixeira, Brazell has split the year between Kansas City’s AA and AAA affiliates. He got a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2004, collecting 34 at-bats.
Davis’s total of 34 is matched by 28-year-old Val Pascucci, who toils in AAA for Florida. He also saw the big leagues briefly in 2004, getting 62 Montreal at-bats.
Daivs is going to hit lot more than the one big league home run that Brazell has to his name, or the two that Pascucci totaled.
Don’t assume that the Rangers have found their next Mark Teixeira. Or even their next Dean Palmer.
But you can bet they’ve found their next pure power hitter in the 21-year-old from Longview.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Rangers have gotten Frank Catalanotto, Brad Wilkerson, and Sammy Sosa through revocable waivers.
It’s not all that meaningful other than to point out that Texas can trade any of those three to any club at this point, which would not have been possible if they had been claimed through the waiver process. Had any of them been claimed, the claiming team with the worst record would have had 48 1/2 hours after the waiver period closed to make a trade with the Rangers, who would have had the right to revoke waivers in the event that an agreeable trade wasn’t worked out.
The chances of a trade involving any of those three hitters remains slim, but don’t rule it out. Playoff rosters can only include players who are with the team as of August 31, so there’s a chance we may see a veteran or two traded this week around the league as contending clubs start to make arrangements for their October benches.
The leading home run hitters in baseball over the last seven days:
Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with five bombs each.
Since Texas traded Teixeira to Atlanta, nobody has more than his 10 home runs. Meanwhile, no Ranger has more homers in that span than Saltalamacchia.
This is certainly not to suggest that Saltalamacchia is anywhere near as dangerous today as Teixeira or Pujols, but that’s not the point, especially since (1) Jon Daniels was in a position a month ago of deciding what to do with a player who was going to choose not to play here in a year and a half and (2) he also got four other prospects in the deal that sent Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta.
When Teixeira was as old as Saltalamacchia is today, he homered, singled, and walked as AA Tulsa’s third baseman in a 7-6 win over Wichita. (That game happened to be the AA debut for C.J. Wilson, who allowed two runs on three hits and two walks in five innings, fanning four.)
The point is that while Saltalamacchia’s .221/.259/.455 line as a Ranger (.261/.308/.427 when his time with the Braves is included) isn’t very imposing, we need to remember that he was 21 years old when this season began.
The other players Texas got in the trade:
Spokane righthander Neftali Feliz has a 1.08 ERA in five appearances (and no runs allowed since his first outing), scattering five hits (.167 opponents’ average) and six walks in 8.1 innings while punching out a phenomenal 16 hitters. Left-handed hitters and righties are identically inept against the 6’3″ 19-year-old. Last night he got four outs. All on strikes.
The organization views Feliz as a starting pitcher down the road. Right now the idea is to keep him on a pitching schedule but to work him in relief as the club limits his workload.
Bakersfield shortstop Elvis Andrus is hitting .313/.367/.398 for the Blaze. He has hits in 17 of his last 19 games, and since his first five Bakersfield games he’s hitting .355. Andrus, who turns 19 on Sunday, was just a .244/.330/.335 hitter for High A Myrtle Beach in the Braves system, but instructively, he was a .296/.379/.413 hitter on the road.
Clinton lefthander Beau Jones is 3-0, 1.15 in four appearances, the last three of which were starts. In 15.2 innings, he’s permitted 11 hits (.196 opponents’ average) and five walks, striking out 14. Prior to the trade, Jones, who turns 21 tomorrow, walked 26 in 56.1 innings between Myrtle Beach and Low A Rome, all in relief with the exception of one start in June.
Lefthander Matt Harrison could join Frisco for its post-season run. He’s throwing off a mound in Surprise, rehabbing a case of turf toe.
As far as the Boston trade is concerned, lefthander Kason Gabbard is 2-1, 3.51 in five Rangers starts, three of which were quality starts. The other two? The 25-year-old was one out short of a quality start in his Texas debut, giving up three runs in 5.2 innings, and he was lifted from his August 12 start after getting four outs without permitting a run, due to forearm stiffness.
Outfielder David Murphy is 11 for 23 (.478/.478/.652) as a Ranger, playing good defense.
Outfielder Engel Beltre, at age 17, is hitting .303/.386/.553 against Arizona League pitching. He has four home runs, three doubles, two triples, and three stolen bases in 19 games, batting at the top of the order and playing center field.
Meanwhile, Eric Gagné has an ERA of 11.25 in nine Boston appearances.
Oklahoma first baseman Nate Gold has 11 home runs in 22 August games. He had 13 homers in 90 games coming into the month.
Promising Arizona League catcher Cristian Santana is hitting .302/.439/.558, including .361/.506/.623 in his last 18 games.
If Jamey Wright is needed in big league relief today, righthander Armando Galarraga would reportedly be called up to make tomorrow’s start.
Looks like the odds are against Akinori Otsuka pitching again this season, though he probably won’t need elbow surgery.
The latest installment of my “Swapping Stories” column focuses on the Rangers’ 1992 blockbuster trade with Oakland that sent Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, and Jeff Russell to the A’s for Jose Canseco.
You can find an interview I did with Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus Radio at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/radio/ (Aug. 23 link). We talked mostly about the big picture for the Rangers but touched on Wednesday’s 30-run explosion as well.
My favorite notes from that game:
Murphy, Saltalamacchia, and Ramon Vazquez, the bottom three hitters in the lineup, each reached base five times, going 13 for 19 with four homers and 16 RBIs.
Saltalamacchia came into the game hitting .132 with two strikes. All four of his hits, including two home runs, came with two strikes.
Texas hitters reached base 11 of 12 times (eight walks, three hits) when the count reached three balls.
Baltimore pitchers threw 120 more pitches than their Ranger counterparts.
The Rangers saw 33 pitches out of the zone on the first pitch, chasing only two of them.
Murphy swung at 14 pitches in the game. He missed one.
John Danks is slated to face off against Josh Beckett in Game One of today’s Chicago-Boston doubleheader. Brings back a memory or two.
The two-year, $22 million extension that Chicago gave outfielder Jermaine Dye surely has to cap Mike Cameron’s market this winter since Cameron, still a solid center fielder, is a year older than Dye and has been less productive this year. I’ve always loved Cameron’s game, even if it’s not what it once was.
Rangers minor league catching instructor Damon Berryhill will manage the Surprise Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, which begins play in October.
Frisco coach Scott Coolbaugh will serve as a coach in the Hawaii Winter Basbeall League.
Daniels will be in the television booth with Victor Rojas and Tom Grieve next Thursday, August 30, for what amounts to an in-game live chat. You can submit questions for JD in advance (or during the game) by going to http://www.foxports.com and typing in keywords “Rangers Booth.” If your question is read on the air, you will receive two vouchers for an upcoming 2007 Rangers home game.
By the way, Happy Number 30 to JD.
And I’m not talking about Wednesday’s Game One.
August 31, 1992: Texas trades outfielder Ruben Sierra and righthanders Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell to Oakland for outfielder Jose Canseco.
Oakland starter Kelly Downs got out of the first inning on August 31, 1992 unscathed, stranding two Orioles on base. A’s right fielder Jose Canseco jogged in to the home dugout, replaced his glove with a batting helmet, and grabbed a bat.
Leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson skied out to left, bringing third baseman Jerry Browne to bat. Canseco replaced Browne in the on-deck circle. But that’s as close as he got to the plate.
As Browne was busy working a Mike Mussina walk, Oakland manager Tony LaRussa called Canseco back to the dugout, following the orders of A’s General Manager Sandy Alderson, who had just agreed to trade the slugger to Texas, for fellow 1992 All-Star outfielder Ruben Sierra, starting pitcher Bobby Witt, and reliever Jeff Russell.
Lance Blankenship, hitting for Canseco, flied out to left and cleanup hitter Harold Baines struck out to end the inning, but outside of the nine Orioles on the field and the official scorekeeper, it’s doubtful anyone noticed. All attention was on the man who had just disappeared from the on-deck circle and the dugout.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Rangers Vice President of Public Relations John Blake had manager Toby Harrah send Witt and Russell from the dugout to the clubhouse, where Blake told the two righthanders they’d been traded. Then Blake did something he has never done another time in his 28 years in the game – he opened the clubhouse to the media while the game was still going on, so that the beat reporters could have their time with Witt and Russell before they departed for Oakland.
Sierra? He was back in Texas, quarantined with a case of chicken pox that wasn’t improving. But the A’s had to make the blockbuster deal that day in order to have their new players eligible for the playoffs.
No player had more than Canseco’s 230 home runs from his rookie year of 1986 through 1992, and in that same span the 26-year-old Sierra had 156 bombs himself, more than Barry Bonds had through his age 26 season. The names of Rogers Hornsby and Frankie Frisch were showing up in columns following the trade, as not since those two were involved in a 1926 deal had two future Hall of Famers been traded for each other.
Texas was looking for a shakeup. In July the club had dismissed manager Bobby Valentine after more than seven years on the job, the longest tenure in franchise history. Sierra, who would have the right to test free agency for the first time after the 1992 season, had already rejected a five-year, $25 million contract extension offer from Texas, demanding an extension surpassing the one that Bobby Bonilla had inked before the season with the Mets, a five-year, $29 million deal that was the richest in baseball history at the time. Witt was also in his final year before free agency, and Texas didn’t plan to offer him a long-term contract. The Rangers didn’t want to part with Russell, who would also be a free agent, but they agreed to do so in order to make the deal, going with Matt Whiteside as the primary closer down the stretch before signing Tom Henke in the off-season.
Oakland was 27 games over .500 at the time of the trade, but had played 34 of its 131 games without Canseco, who was bothered by a bad shoulder. The relationship between the club and its marquee player was stretching thin off the field as well. On August 10, Canseco pulled himself in the fifth inning of a game against the White Sox, complaining of tightness in his back, and he dressed and left the stadium before the game ended, drawing a barrage of public criticism from teammates and A’s management.
But when Alderson called Rangers General Manager Tom Grieve, it was pitching that he sought. At least on the surface. “Sandy wanted to improve his pitching, particularly his bullpen behind Dennis Eckersley, with the playoffs in mind,” Grieve recalls. “He didn’t bring Canseco’s name up until talks got serious. But I always felt that, even if just in the back of his mind, moving Canseco was what he wanted to do all along.”
Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to re-sign Sierra, Grieve considered the thought of adding Canseco for three guaranteed seasons a more appealing option than recouping two compensatory draft picks upon Sierra’s departure. Alderson was less interested in the long term, focused instead on the next two months of baseball.
Because it was after the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31, in order for Oakland to trade Canseco the club had to get him through revocable waivers, or at least get him by every team that had claim priority over the one that the A’s intended to make a deal with. In this case it meant that seven teams – including the Yankees and Red Sox, both having awful seasons but surely not scared away by Canseco’s injury, his antics, or the $15.7 million that he would be owed over the 1993 through 1995 seasons – had to pass on him before Texas could submit its claim. Like the other five non-contenders, New York and Boston probably didn’t bother, figuring the A’s would never trade Canseco during a pennant race.
As for the three Rangers involved in the deal, their slide on the waiver wire past every team in the American League (Oakland had the league’s best record) was more surprising. Sierra was a young star, Witt a reliable workhorse, and Russell a top-tier closer. Since all three were five weeks from free agency, contract obligations were certainly not a disincentive to contending teams wanting to ensure that no competitors could acquire them. But no team jumped in to block Texas from dealing them – Sierra reportedly cleared waivers altogether – and the trade was made just in time for the trio to be eligible to be part of Oakland’s playoff roster.
While his 1999 season hadn’t been as hampered by injury as Canseco’s, Sierra had fought through a hyperextended wrist and a strained hamstring himself, and missed his final two Texas games due to the chicken pox and didn’t appear for the A’s until September 6. In his Oakland debut, Sierra singled and drew an intentional walk in a 2-1, 10-inning win that Witt started (allowing one run in seven frames) and Russell made his third A’s appearance in (striking out both hitters he faced in the eighth).
Sierra would hit .277/.359/.426 with 17 RBI over the season’s final five weeks. Witt would replace Downs in the A’s rotation and post a 1-1, 3.41 record in six starts. Russell pitched eight times, winning twice and saving two games without allowing a run in 9.2 innings of work. In Oakland’s League Championship Series loss to Toronto, Sierra hit .333/.357/.625 and led the club with seven RBI in the six-game series, while Russell pitched three times, allowing two runs in two innings, and Witt appeared just once, pitching the final inning of the final game, giving up two runs in a 9-2 A’s loss.
Canseco, meanwhile, had a disappointing month with the Rangers, who were 15.5 games behind the A’s at the time of the trade and ended up 19 games back and in fourth place. Taking the fully allotted 72 hours before joining his new club, he hit just .233 with four home runs in 22 games, including none in his final 11, and he missed a handful of games due to shoulder and back problems.
As much of a letdown as Canseco’s 1992 Rangers stint was, however, it paled in comparison with his 1993 season, which was marked by a header into the stands on May 26 and a pitching performance on May 29 that was followed by a June visit to Dr. Frank Jobe and a determination that he needed Tommy John elbow surgery.
Canseco lasted one more year in Texas before Doug Melvin, two months into his job as Rangers General Manager, made his first trade, sending Canseco to Boston for center fielder Otis Nixon and third base prospect Luis Ortiz, a markedly inferior package to the one that Texas had given Oakland two years earlier to get Canseco in the first place.
Sierra put up moderately disappointing numbers over the next two and a half seasons in Oakland, before the A’s traded him with a pitching prospect to the Yankees for Danny Tartabull. Witt went 22-23, 4.53 in 1993 and 1994 before Oakland allowed him to leave via free agency. Russell, following his solid work setting Eckersley up in the aftermath of the 1992 trade, departed as a free agent after the season, signing for two years with Boston to pitch in the ninth inning for the Red Sox.
The August 1992 trade never came close to living up to expectations. In fact, after the deal, Canseco would change organizations nine more times. Sierra would do so 13 times. Witt six times, Russell three times. All four returned to their original organizations, at least once, but things were never the same.
In the case of Canseco and Sierra, it wasn’t at all the way their careers were supposed to play out, given that the only new address many had in mind for the two sluggers before they were traded for one another was in Cooperstown, New York.
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.