November 2007

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 30, 2007

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers have made the decision that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be a full-time catcher going forward, ending the catcher-first base arrangement that he had after arriving last summer in the Mark Teixeira trade.

Whether this means that Gerald Laird is on his way to being traded this winter, or that Saltalamacchia and Laird will share duties behind the plate, or that Saltalamacchia could start the year in AAA was not addressed in the article, and of course it may be that all three are options for the club, depending on what happens over the next two months.

Texas is also bringing Jim Colborn aboard as director of Pacific Rim scouting. Colborn — who no-hit the Rangers as a member of the Royals in 1977 — held the same position with Seattle from 1997 until 2000 (before serving as the Dodgers’ and then the Pirates’ pitching coach the last seven seasons), helping build the Mariners’ huge presence in Japan. Prior to his work with Seattle, Colborn spent four years as the pitching coach for the Orix BlueWave of the Japanese Pacific League.

Colborn helped the Mariners sign Ichiro Suzuki — the two were together with the BlueWave — and Ichiro still refers to Colborn as one of the most instrumental people in his baseball career.

According to a Chicago Cubs blog called ahundrednextyears.blogspot.com, Tokyo media are reporting that the Rangers are among at least 10 MLB clubs pursuing outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, with the lowest known offer coming in at three years and $33 million. The Tokyo press suggests the Rangers, Cubs, Giants, and Padres are among the favorites to land Fukudome.

Colborn is surely involved in the process.

Sullivan also notes that the Rangers have decided they won’t offer arbitration to their four free agents: Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Jamey Wright by Saturday’s deadline to do so. Wright, according to Sullivan, is the only one of the four that Texas is meaningfully interested in bringing back.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 30, 2007

What a compelling football game. Good, old-fashioned prize fight.

Good, old-fashioned baseball trade the other day, too, when Minnesota sent righthander Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and closer prospect Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay for outfielder Delmon Young, shortstop Brendan Harris, and outfielder Jason Pridie. Not a sniff of a contract issue involved. Straight talent for talent, the kind of trade that used to be made in the days of three baseball card companies and the pre-Brett Favre Packers.

(Speaking of Favre, Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima can get away with that head tuck on delivery. Favre can’t. Amazingly bad fundamentals from the all-timer on the Ken Hamlin pick.)

Back to the Rays. Sure would make me happy if trading for Garza (someone we could have drafted in the first round in 2005) was an indication that Tampa Bay might entertain trading lefthander Scott Kazmir (someone we should have drafted in the first round in 2002).

Longshot, I know, but c’mon: Are the Rays really going to threaten for so much as a Wild Card in that division the next three years, when Kazmir will pull down arbitration salaries before leaving after the 2010 season?

Eric Hurley, Taylor Teagarden, and Tampa Bay’s choice of Joaquin Arias or Omar Poveda.

The Rays won’t do it. Would you?

Back to Boston. So the Sox reportedly want some combination of C.J. Wilson, Hurley, Luis Mendoza, and a lower-level prospect for Coco Crisp, huh?

Yeah. Right.

I’m particularly enjoying the Mendoza part.

New names reportedly in the Rangers’ center field scope: Rocco Baldelli, Jim Edmonds, and Juan Pierre.

Interested. Interested. Not interested.

(Yeah, I know Edmonds isn’t really a good fit given the career stage he’s in and this team’s timetable for gearing up to contend. But he’s always been a favorite of mine.)

Jon Daniels told Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that there’s a chance the Rangers don’t do much at next week’s Winter Meetings. Fine with me. My baseball adrenaline is always amped up this time of year, but the construction momentum is more important than a quick December fix. Better to wait until the right moves present themselves — even if that means July or 12 months from now — than to do something major (if not smart) just to make headlines.

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman includes Texas as one of the teams that has made a pitch for Florida slugger Miguel Cabrera.

The New York papers say the Mets and Rangers continue to discuss Gerald Laird.

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Texas is interested in righthander Jason Jennings, but probably only if Vicente Padilla can be moved.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark thinks teams will call the Rangers about Padilla.

ESPN’s Keith Law thinks Hurley projects as a number two or three. Blake Beavan, too. Law likes Kasey Kiker (whose “curveball is one of the best in the minors”) and Michael Main, however, as potential number one or two starters.

This Newark Star-Ledger headline encapsulates one of the only things I really hate about our game: “To get Santana, Yanks would lose an impact player.”

Well, boo-stinkin’-hoo. What a crime, that New York would have part with an impact player for the best pitcher in baseball.

Pass interference in the NFL. Star calls in the NBA. And the birthright of the Yankees and Red Sox to end up with every single superstar in the game when they’re in their prime. I’ll never give those sports up, but if I ever did it will probably have been those things that pushed me right to and over the edge.

MinorLeagueBaseball.com, in the midst of ranking baseball’s top 50 prospects, pegs Hurley at number 25 and Elvis Andrus at number 38.

Outfielder Terrmel Sledge signed a two-year, $2.85 million contract with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Minnesota signed righthander R.A. Dickey to a minor league deal and are making noise that there’s a real chance of the 33-year-old bringing his knuckleball to the big club at some point.

The Shreveport Sports of the independent American Association signed lefthander Trey Poland.

The latest in an increasingly entertaining bag of quotes from Torii Hunter: “I would have signed [with the Angels] for less. . . . [Even if they had offered less than the Rangers, White Sox, and Royals, whose offers were reportedly $15-20 million short of the Los Angeles package,] I still would have taken it!”

Bet that makes his new club real happy.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 28, 2007

There are a lot of interesting things developing, but I won’t have time to write in the morning. I did, however, want to point out four pretty cool things in the meantime:

1. Add one more guest to the lineup for the Book Release Party on Friday, December 14: Rangers starting pitcher prospect Doug Mathis is traveling in from his home in Arizona to join us for the event. He’ll join Chris Davis, German Duran, Johnny Whittleman, and Blake Beavan for our autograph and Q&A sessions at the Rangers’ Dallas Office from 6:00 until 9:00 that evening. The price of autographs is the purchase of the 2008 Bound Edition.

2. Friend of the Newberg Report Joe Siegler has gone yard with an incredibly thorough, unique assessment of all 30 big league ballparks. He’s worked on this piece for four months and has just finished it. Give it some of your time; it’s well worth it.

3. Friend of the Newberg Report Bryan Hoctor (one of the contributing photographers for the 2008 Bound Edition) asked if I would pass this along:

“The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Dallas Wine Opener is this Saturday, December 1, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. We would love to have the Newberg Nation well represented at this Black Tie event.

“The event features about 150 auction items including about a dozen trips, Stars, Mavs, RoughRiders, and FC Dallas tickets, and autographed items from German Duran, Mike Modano, Peggy Fleming and many others. The auction also includes wine tastings, great meals and many unique items.

“Anyone who is interested can contact the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at (214) 871-2222 or visit http://www.cff.org/Chapters/netx/EventsList/index.cfm?ID=7178&blnShowBack=False&idContentType=2158&Event=7178

4. This exchange between a fan and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis in a chat session this afternoon:

=====================================
Nathan (San Diego): When I open Baseball America’s 2008 Prospect Handbook, which team’s farm system am I going to find made the biggest jump from last year? . . .

Jim Callis: The Rangers. Via trades and the draft, plus the improvement of prospects already on hand, they’ll jump from No. 28 last year to perhaps the top five. I haven’t broken down all the systems, so I can’t be more precise.
=====================================

Cool.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 26, 2007

When you spend a lot of time around toddlers, you automatically learn a new language, that is, you hone an ability to understand words that are indigenous to one person, one small, industrious person who will grow out of those words as quickly as he grows out of his tennis shoes and T-shirts.

It took us a good six months, but we finally figured out in 2006 that every time Max said “mopoter,” he was referring to some roller coaster that he’d seen (probably a block or two northeast of the Ballpark).

These days, when Max says, “Pumpkin Horns,” pressing his third and fourth fingers down with his thumb, we know he’s actually paying tribute to his parents’ University.

When he asks us if Michael Young wears a long-sleeved blue-striped shirt after the baseball game, we know the answer must be yes if we expect Max to allow us to put his on him. (I’m being genetically punished on this issue, incidentally. When I was Max’s age, it was made clear to me that I was the only kid on the planet who refused to wear long sleeves. Max is only slightly more tolerant than I was.)

When Max says “No-fat-no-foam” as if it were one word, he’s not really communicating anything of substance to us other than a cry for help from having had to endure more trips with his mother to Starbucks than a four-year-old should reasonably be subjected to.

If you’re a parent of young kids, or of kids who were young not that long ago, or a school teacher or a child care professional or an au pair (lots of Rangers fans in that demographic), then maybe you understood meaning between the lines of several of Torii Hunter’s comments over the last couple months, as he headed toward the biggest contract of his life.

Hunter on September 19: “My family is so important, and I’m hoping the Texas Rangers make some moves and I’ll be right there. . . . Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me].”

OK. So it’s about family.

Hunter on September 23: “I don’t favor Texas. My family doesn’t even favor Texas, but we’re just going to kind of wait and see.”

Check that. Not about family. Or, yeah, it’s about family, but my family doesn’t prefer to be where we live.

Hunter on October 17: “I always talk to my wife about being interested in playing in front of the African-American fans and trying to get the African-Americans back to playing the game. If I go to Atlanta or D.C. and make a difference that way, I would love it. Trust me — D.C. is very interesting to me as well as Atlanta.”

It’s about making a difference.

Hunter on November 18: “The Dodgers are definitely near the top. With Joe Torre there, things have got to change. He’s bringing his history with them. I’m telling you, they’re going to start winning.”

It’s about being part of the rebirth of a storied franchise.

Hunter on October 24, regarding the lack of an offer from Minnesota since the end of the season: “I’m kind of disappointed, but what can you do? That’s my home team; I want to be with my home team. But there are no talks, no progress at all. It’s still the same. But there’s still a lot of time left. . . . Money has something to do with it, but trust me, that’s just a percentage. We need to talk about stuff that needs to change before we start to get into deep talks.”

It’s about trying to find a way to stay with the Twins. But trust him, it’s not about the money.

Hunter on November 20, responding to reports that would sign with the White Sox during Thanksgiving week: “I promise you, it won’t be this week. I don’t want to think about that while I’m eating turkey. I want to spend the whole weekend relaxing with my family. . . . It’s a life-changing decision, so I’m not going to make it in a rush. I’m still in listening mode. I’m not leaning toward anybody. Next week a lot of things could change, so you’ve just got to let everything play itself out.”

Hunter signed with the Angels the next day.

That’s what can happen when, without question, it’s about the money.

So when you read this Hunter comment, which appeared in yesterday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune, you understand that, in a manner similar to an exception swallowing a rule, Hunter’s omission obscures what he actually said: “It was like a 24-hour decision. I could not leave Anaheim — that’s a nice place, a nice ballpark, they play the game right, they’ve got a chance to win every year. Because Arte Moreno is that type of owner, he wants to win.”

Money.

Incidentally, the Rangers’ offer to Hunter was reportedly a five-year deal worth $75 million plus a club option for a sixth year.

If you’re thinking Texas ought to get in on Mike Cameron or Andruw Jones at this point, it’s worth noting that each is a Type B free agent, meaning the Rangers wouldn’t forfeit a draft pick to sign either one of them. The Padres and Braves will get a supplemental first-rounder if they offer arbitration to their player and lose him (or if they sign elsewhere before the arbitration tender deadline). But Type B’s don’t cost the signing team a pick.

Theoretically, the Mets’ acquisition of Milwaukee catcher Johnny Estrada last week doesn’t slam the door on a possible deal of Gerald Laird to New York. There’s been a story or two the last few days suggesting the Mets may dump Estrada, having made the trade with the Brewers primarily to shed the Guillermo Mota contract.

The Mets signed righthander Joselo Diaz, who had a spin in the Rangers system in 2006 that ended in a trade deadline deal to Kansas City for DH Matt Stairs. Diaz — a onetime Mets farmhand who was traded to Tampa Bay in 2004 along with lefthander Scott Kazmir — spent 2007 in Japan.

Newsday’s Kat O’Brien credited “one source” as saying that the Yankees intend to make a “good, strong offer” for lefthander Johan Santana, and you’re going to have a tough time convincing me that the source was not Reginald R. “Ribby” Paultz.

The Mets are interested in Santana as well, and according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that possibility is one key reason that Omar Minaya refuses to discuss his top outfield prospects (Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez) in other trade talks. Rosenthal notes that the Rangers keep asking the Mets for Gomez, likely in the context of a Laird trade.

The Rangers’ signing of infielder Ramon Vazquez to a one-year contract last week leaves only three potential arbitration cases for the club: Laird, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and righthander Akinori Otsuka. Texas, which has avoided arbitration this winter by signing Vazquez and righthanders Joaquin Benoit and Frankie Francisco so far, hasn’t had an arbitration hearing since 2000.

Class A lefthander Beau Jones had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, according to a Baseball America note written by Evan Grant. Jones, part of the five-player package Texas received from Atlanta for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay, is expected to be ready for spring training.

The Rangers signed a Cuban defector named Yennier Sardinas and former Marlins farmhand Adalberto Flores, according to Baseball America. Sardinas is a lefthander, Flores (age 21) a 6’7″ righty.

The USA squad won the Gold Medal in the World Cup competition in Taiwan last week, beating Cuba, which had won seven straight titles. Leading Team USA in its first World Cup win since 1974 was second baseman Jayson Nix, who was named tournament MVP (.387/.457/.742 in 31 at-bats).

Emerson Frostad hit .222/.318/.556 in 18 at-bats for Team Canada.

Ryan Roberts, the 27-year-old utility player that Texas signed to a minor league deal (with an invite to big league camp) last week, is a Fort Worth native who attended L.D. Bell High School and the University of Texas at Arlington.

The Carlos Lee trade, 16 months later: Milwaukee has Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and two picks in 2008, one probably in the 30s and the other likely in the 60s. Texas has Nelson Cruz, Blake Beavan, and Julio Borbon.

Bad break for the Brewers, having the Reds rather than a contender sign Francisco Cordero (four years, $46 million, club option for a fifth year at $11 million). That draft pick in the 60s would have otherwise been around the 20s.

Don’t blame Coco, though, for signing so quickly, with a team that’s not a real good bet to win. Don’t blame Torii Hunter, either.

It’s always about the money. Always.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 24, 2007

Adam Morris wrote a really good article Thursday night on the Torii Hunter signing and why it’s a good thing for the Rangers.

Among Adam’s points:

1. Led by Brandon McCarthy and Eric Hurley and Edinson Volquez in the rotation, Chris Davis and Ian Kinsler and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden in the lineup, and C.J. Wilson closing games, with a free agent signing or two mixed in, Texas should be ready to contend in 2010.

2. What Hunter does for the Angels the next two years isn’t as important, because 2008 should be a rebuilding year for the Rangers, and 2009 should be when the club takes a step forward, with 2010 as the target year to be in the mix.

3. The Hunter signing costs Los Angeles another first-round draft pick (27th overall this June). That’s good.

4. If Arte Moreno presses his new general manager to go get Miguel Cabrera and it costs something like Howie Kendrick, Nick Adenhart, and Brandon Wood (I’d add Jeff Mathis’s name as well), and Cabrera then takes his free agency after 2009, then that’s obviously good.

5. Signing Hunter costs the Angels $18 million annually that might otherwise have been earmarked for Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana, or someone else in that stratosphere.

6. Bottom line, the Hunter deal is going to make it harder for the Angels to succeed in 2010, when Adam believes the Rangers should be hitting their stride.

All very good points.

Let me add a few.

1. With a lineup headed by Vlad Guerrero, who is nearly 32 (and not a “young” 32, either), and Hunter, 32 as well, the Angels and their aggressive owner (and new GM) might be compelled to fire a bunch of bullets over the next couple years and take advantage of Guerrero’s presence in an otherwise unimposing lineup. The club has a number of interesting young hitters (primarily Kendrick, Wood, Casey Kotchman, and Kendry Morales), but none figures to create a lot of damage in the middle of the lineup, at least not in the next two years when Guerrero can reasonably be expected to remain the force that he is.

2. The vaunted Angels farm system of recent years is no longer so vaunted. After Wood, there doesn’t appear to be much to speak of in terms of impact position players. And they forfeited last year’s number one draft pick (24th overall) to Texas (who used it on righthander Michael Main) by signing Gary Matthews Jr., and surrender their 2008 first, 27th overall, to Minnesota.

3. So to make an impact trade, whether for Cabrera now or someone else in July, it stands to reason that the Angels will not only have to move at least one of their key pitching prospects (Adenhart, Jordan Walden, Sean O’Sullivan) but also a couple core pieces of the big league lineup (probably from among Kendrick, Mathis, Kotchman, and Wood).

Think that’s going to stop Moreno, who has committed about $42 million per year to Guerrero, Hunter, and Matthews in 2008 and 2009?

Moreno has owned the Angels for four full seasons. His club has averaged 92.5 wins and has three division titles in that time. And yet Los Angeles has a 4-12 playoff record since he arrived, with one series win out of four and no World Series appearances. If he has a chance to add, say, Santana or Troy Glaus, do you think he’s going to order his baseball people to tap the brakes because it could hurt the club’s chances in 2011?

C’mon.

One place where I might differ slightly from Adam is my thought that, as I suggested back in June, Texas could be a contender in 2009 (not only because a number of the Rangers’ top young players should have settled into roles by then, but also because Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla could both be pitching for contracts that year and because I have no doubt that we will have a much better outfield defense by 2009).

But otherwise, I think Adam is dead on. Torii Hunter makes the Angels tougher in 2008 than they would have been otherwise, and probably in 2009, too, but that’s about when the Rangers, whose depth in prospects is, for the first time in years, significantly more dangerous (not only in big league potential but also utility in trades) than that of the Angels, should be ready to fight for the division flag that Los Angeles has had a grip on for years.

What the Angels are able to accomplish between now and then shouldn’t be a huge concern to Rangers fans. Especially if it effectively compromises what the Angels are able to do thereafter.

P.S. Mike Hindman has posted his assessment of the number 11 through number 15 starting pitcher prospects in the Rangers system.

P.P.S. John Sickels has just released his preliminary ranking of the Rangers’ top 20 prospects:

1. Taylor Teagarden, C, Grade B+ (would be a Grade A- if not for injury history)
2. Eric Hurley, RHP, Grade B+
3. Elvis Andrus, SS, Grade B+
4. Chris Davis, 3B, Grade B+
5. Matt Harrison, LHP, Grade B+
6. Michael Main, RHP, Grade B
7. John Mayberry Jr, OF, Grade B
8. Kasey Kiker, LHP, Grade B
9. Max Ramirez, C, Grade B
10. German Duran, 2B, Grade B
11. Omar Poveda, RHP, Grade B
12. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Grade B-
13. Blake Beavan, RHP, Grade B-
14. Brandon Boggs, OF, Grade C+
15. Johnny Whittleman, 3B, Grade C+
16. Julio Borbon, OF, Grade C+
17. Tommy Hunter, RHP, Grade C+
18. Armando Galarraga, RHP, Grade C+
19. Neil Ramirez, RHP, Grade C+
20. Brennan Garr, RHP, Grade C+

Don’t be discouraged by the lack of “A” grades. Sickels gave only 27 marks above B+ across the entire league in his 2007 book. He finished today’s Rangers ranking with this comment: “This is a loaded system.”

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 22, 2007

The easy thing to do, the instinctive thing, is to waggle a finger at the Angels, to curse the Rally Monkey, to belittle that organization’s decision to give a reported $90 million over the next five years to Torii Hunter, a very good 32-year-old baseball player who, despite his career year in 2007, still put up a line of just .287/.334/.505.

He’s not a superstar, and he wouldn’t be even if he were 27 years old, which is what that contract might suggest.

The automatic impulse is to chide Los Angeles for making Gary Matthews Jr. — who was overpaid a year ago as a then-32-year-old with a five-year, $50 million contract — even more overpaid now that he shifts to a corner outfield spot, where the .253/.323/.419 line he put up in 2007 (much more in line with his career production than the .313/.371/.495 he gave Texas in 2006) won’t look very cornery if he repeats with it.

The gut reaction is probably to shake your head today, beached by a couple plates of turkey and all that that implies, at those Angels, who will be paying $28 million a year for the next four years to Hunter and Matthews, two very good players who are not great players.

But the reality is that it would have been far better news for us if Hunter had signed just about anywhere else.

The Angels are in an interesting position, one that sees them relying almost exclusively on players who are likely past their prime years or are not yet there. Right now, outside of Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning, there’s not really any core member of that team in his prime.

But if they go out and take some of their solid farm pieces and go get Miguel Cabrera? Scary.

I’ve gone back and forth the past couple months, in this space, on whether I wanted Hunter here. The idea of what he’d bring to the clubhouse is what kept me from thinking it was a terrible idea to choose him from among the handful of available center field candidates. But if the price tag on making him a Ranger was going to be in the 5/90 neighborhood, I think it would have been a move we’d have ultimately regretted.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, coming off the third-highest win total in baseball last year, is in a different place, and for at least the next couple years, envisioning Hunter in that uniform isn’t very comforting.

But no worries. Other organizations pay their front office folks to make their teams better, too. Texas certainly didn’t go into this off-season counting on Torii Hunter, who seemed to call half the teams in the league his “top choice” at one time or another over the last two months.

Time to move on to Plan B, keeping the Plan C and D and E balls in the air, something that we can be sure Jon Daniels will be doing even as the rest us are sprawled out on a couch in a tug-of-war between that meal that’s now pulling us toward unconsciousness and the football that’s keeping us awake.

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

2008 BOUND EDITION OF THE NEWBERG REPORT: THE COVERS

Printing of the 2008 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report is underway.  I need to let the printer know in a couple days how many copies to run, so if you haven’t placed your order and are in a position to get your holiday shopping underway now, it would be a great help to me. 

Here’s a sneak peek at the front and back covers.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the genius Marty Yawnick for the amazing work he did on executing the vision for the cover and then some, and to the photographers who provided the shots that we used.  Contributing photographers for the covers are Brad Newton, Wendy Eagan, Bill Mitchell, Jason Cole, Paul Gierhart, and additional photography inside the book was provided by Scott Lucas, Eleanor Czajka, Andrew Woolley, Megan Millender, Keenan Bowen, Bryan Hoctor, Shawn Davis, Dave Sanford, and Cindy & Jeff Kuster, and expertly formatted by Devin Pike.

Details on the book can be found at http://www.newbergreport.com/buythebook.asp.

Also, the Marines will be at the December 14th Book Release Party at the Rangers’ Dallas Office to collect toys for the Rangers/Toys for Tots program.  Please consider bringing new, unwrapped toys to the party to help support the Toys for Tots program and its effort to help needy children in North Texas experience the joy of the holidays.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 21, 2007

Stories out of New York the past few days suggested that the Mets, having broken off nearly completed contract talks with free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba, found the Rangers’ asking price for Gerald Laird (and the Orioles’ for Ramon Hernandez) to be prohibitively high.

Regardless of what it was that Texas was asking for in return for Laird, it didn’t need to be prohibitively high for the Mets to opt instead for Milwaukee’s Johnny Estrada, whom they acquired last night for 34-year-old middle reliever Guillermo Mota, whose last decent season was in 2005. Estrada, a five-year big league starter in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Arizona, and Milwaukee, and an All-Star in 2004, is a lifetime .280/.320/.406 hitter — though terrible defensively in the running game (he gunned down only six of 79 would-be basestealers in 2007).

As a Rangers fan I don’t like that deal for two reasons. I was hoping Texas could squeeze a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, or Kevin Mulvey, or an outfielder like Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, or Fernando Martinez (remember, there are rumors out there that Coco Crisp Laird is being discussed as the possible price to Boston for Laird) from the Mets with a package fronted by Laird, but obviously that’s not going to happen now. The other part of this that bothers me is that Boston and whoever else might be in on Laird (Milwaukee is said to be zeroing in on free agent Jason Kendall) now has the Mota benchmark to use as leverage. That’s not the market we were hoping for.

Of course, we’ll point to the fact that Laird is three years younger than Estrada, is among the best throwing catchers in baseball, and isn’t coming off elbow and knee surgery, as Estrada is.

Tom Hicks, his sons Tommy and Alex, Jon Daniels, and Ron Washington talked Rangers baseball with Torii Hunter and his agent Larry Reynolds over steaks at Hicks’s home on Monday night. Hunter will reportedly take the Thanksgiving holiday to mull over offers from five clubs and perhaps a sixth (he is set to meet with the Dodgers this weekend) before making a decision on where he’ll play the next five or six years. Lots of national stories make the White Sox the frontrunner.

Local reports indicate that the Rangers and Hunter are discussing a five-year commitment, but at this rate it looks like it might take six for Texas to stay in the game.

The Rangers announced the following player awards for the 2007 season:

* Player of the Year: Michael Young
* Pitcher of the Year: Joaquin Benoit
* Rookie of the Year: David Murphy
* Jim Sundberg Community Achievement Award: Kevin Millwood
* Harold McKinney Good Guy Award: Marlon Byrd
* Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year: Chris Davis
* Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Edinson Volquez
* Alumni of the Year: Mike Hargrove

They’ll all be honored at the annual Sluggers of the West Awards Dinner, which will be held on January 25, 2008 at Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Dallas.

As clubs finalized their 40-man rosters by yesterday’s deadline, the White Sox designated outfielder Scott Podsednik for assignment, and St. Louis released righthander Andy Cavazos. They’re probably the most prominent players that Texas has ever drafted (Podsednik) and lost (Cavazos) in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

It’s hard not to imagine that the Rangers, who signed reliever prospect Warner Madrigal on Sunday and added lefthander Matt Harrison, righthander Thomas Diamond, catcher Max Ramirez, and outfielder Brandon Boggs to the roster on Monday, will be on the buyer end of a trade or two this winter. The roster additions, which were accompanied by the designation for assignment of outfielder Victor Diaz, brought the roster to a complete 40 members, with several needs to fill through free agency or trade.

It’s possible that some or all of Robinson Tejeda, Bill White, Freddy Guzman, and Nick Gorneault could be in jeopardy as Texas adds veterans this off-season, but it also suggests that we might see the Rangers trade two-for-one or three-for-one if the right deal presents itself.

If nothing else, assuming Boggs was the toughest call in terms of Rule 5 protection, this should tell you how much the organization likes him.

And how much the Rangers believe in Julio Borbon, whom they had to give a roster spot to in August (knowing then, of course, which prospects they would likely protect) by virtue of agreeing to a major league deal for him out of college.

It’s also why we didn’t see righthander Eric Hurley (or, for instance, infielder German Duran) in September, even if the Rangers envision them as factors sometime in 2008.

As expected, Angels fans aren’t very happy about the circumstances that made Madrigal a Ranger.

Perhaps foremost among the Rangers players exposed to the December draft are righthanders Jesse Ingram and Kendy Batista, catcher Chris Stewart, infielders Tug Hulett, Nate Gold, and Emerson Frostad, and outfielder Kevin Mahar.

Tejeda, by the way, made his first 2007 Dominican Winter League start on Monday (after three relief appearances), firing five no-hit innings. He walked four and fanned six.

According to the Associated Press, Kenny Rogers and the Tigers spoke on Monday about a contract that would keep him in Detroit in 2008. Rogers said afterwards that he needs some time before he’ll be ready to make a decision.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Texas talked to Seattle about first baseman Ben Broussard earlier this month at the general managers’ meetings, but the Rangers ultimately believe the Mariners will non-tender Broussard in December, making him a free agent.

San Diego signed infielders Marshall McDougall and Edgar Gonzalez to minor league contracts.

No Texas players made Baseball America’s assessment of the top 20 prospects from this off-season’s Hawaii Winter Baseball League. The best Rangers performance came from first baseman Ian Gac, who hit .303/.379/.560 with seven home runs in 31 games, good for the second-highest total in the league.

The great Allen Cordrey, who has headed up so many charitable efforts for the Newberg Report to participate in over the years, is announcing the launch of DFWSportsUniverse.com, a social network for the Metroplex sports fan. You can set up profiles and share your interests, thoughts, and photos with other DFW sports fans. You can create and join groups to talk Rangers, Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks, and RoughRiders, and soon will be able to read exclusive content from Brady Tinker and Pat Summerall. Check it out.

I cannot recommend “The Best DFW Sports Arguments” enough. Seriously. Local Associated Press writer Jaime Aron features the 100 most controversial debate points in local sports, including 15 that focus on the Rangers. You can learn more about the book here.

So it was apparently billionaire investor Warren Buffett who advised half-billionaire infielder Alex Rodriguez to sidestep Scott Boras and approach the Yankees directly, with the assistance of a couple executives from Goldman Sachs.

Fifteen years from now, if ESPN doesn’t kill itself first, I expect there to be a really campy scene involving Buffett and A-Rod (played by Daniel Sunjata) in episode five of a three-month “Bronx Is Burning”-esque series.

It will also be about 15 years from now when it will probably be OK for me to sit down with Max and watch the just-completed Season Six of “Curb Your Enthusiam,” easily the best season of the show in years.

Conceivably, 15 years from now, Max and I might also be watching a couple guys out of the group of Chris Davis (age 36), German Duran (38), Johnny Whittleman (35), and Blake Beavan (33) still playing baseball. For now, Max will get the chance to meet them in three weeks, when they’ll be at the Rangers’ Dallas Office for the December 14th Bound Edition Release Party.

Hope to see a bunch of you there, too.

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

NEWBERG REPORT BOOK RELEASE PARTY

The Bound Edition Book Release Party will be on Friday evening, Dec. 14, at the Rangers Dallas Office at 2222 McKinney Avenue, Suite 140, just north of downtown, from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm.

Here’s two more updates you might be interested in:

* Free burgers and hot dogs provided by Spring Creek Barbeque

* Attending to sign autographs and do a Q&A will be Rangers prospects Chris Davis, German Duran, Johnny Whittleman, and Blake Beavan. That might not be all, either.

So, the details at the moment:

WHAT: Book Release Party for the 2008 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report
WHEN: 6:00-9:00 pm, Friday, December 14, 2007
WHERE: Texas Rangers Dallas Office, 2222 McKinney Avenue, Suite 140 , just
north of Downtown Dallas (tons of Rangers merchandise for sale there,
by the way)
GUESTS: Chris Davis, German Duran, Johnny Whittleman, and Blake Beavan…and maybe more
FOOD: Burgers and hot dogs, courtesy of Spring Creek Barbeque
ADMISSION: Free – but the “cost” for getting autographs from the Rangers
players in attendance will be a 2008 Bound Edition, which you can
buy now or at the event. (Buying it now will get you right into the
autograph line, as I will ship the books about a week before the
event to those who prepay.)

Let me know if you have any questions. Hope to see you on Friday the 14th.

======================

Also, a new special: If you buy at least two copies of the 2008 Bound Edition, you will get a free Bound Edition from any previous year, your choice, as long as my supply of those respective books lasts. So if you have Rangers fans on your holiday gift list, think about getting them an ’08 book as you get yours, and you’ll get a prior edition tossed in for free.

For those of you who have already ordered two or more 2008 books, let me know which prior edition you’d like.

The other special remains in place as well: A gift set of all nine Bound Editions (2000 through 2008) is available for $120, which is a $25 discount.

Jamey

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 18, 2007

The Rangers announced this morning that they have agreed to terms with minor league free agent righthander Warner Madrigal, adding him to the 40-man roster.  Very interesting pickup.

The Angels signed the 23-year-old as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, and in his first stateside season (2003), he led the Pioneer League in slugging, hits, extra-base hits, doubles, and runs, putting together a .369/.394/.581 line and leading Baseball America associate editor Josh Boyd — who is currently the Rangers’ manager of professional scouting — to rank him as the Angels’ number 16 prospect going into the 2004 season, at age 19.

Madrigal never matched those numbers thereafter (Los Angeles actually released him in November 2005 before re-signing him for the 2006 season), but in 2004, 2005, and 2006, BA voted his arm to be the best among outfielders in the Angels farm system, which helps explain why the club decided in 2006, when Madrigal was in his third straight Low A season, to move him in from right field and onto the mound.

Sent back to extended spring training and then to the Arizona League for the experiment, Madrigal gave up five runs (3.75 ERA) on 11 hits (.250 opponents’ average) and three walks in 12 innings, fanning 13.  A fastball-slider pitcher, he worked at 92-95 and touched 98 in his role as a closer.  The Angels took the bat away for good from the player once described as an Albert Belle starter kit.

In 2007, Madrigal — after throwing 2.1 scoreless innings for the Angels in spring training — returned to Cedar Rapids for a fourth straight year, and the results were eye-opening, particularly in the second half, when he saved 18 games in 18 chances, posting a 3-1, 0.57 record with these phenomenal numbers: 13 hits (.129 opponents’ average, no home runs) and six walks in 31.1 innings, 44 punchouts, 10 inherited runners, all stranded.

For the season, the stocky 6’0", 200-pounder went 5-4, 2.07 with 20 saves, holding the Midwest League to a .202/.280/.284 line, fanning 75 and walking 23 in 61 frames, and coaxing 1.6 as many groundouts as flyouts.

Currently pitching in the Dominican Winter League, Madrigal has appeared six times for Escogido and hasn’t allowed an earned run, giving up an unearned run (plus permitting five of eight inherited runners to score) on five hits and a walk in 3.2 innings, with five strikeouts.

What I don’t understand is that the Angels have a November 6 press release on their official website noting that they had added Madrigal to their 40-man roster on that date, which of course would have nullified his free agency and made him unavailable to sign elsewhere.  I suppose we’ll get some clarification on that soon enough.

The Madrigal signing brings the Rangers’ 40-man roster to 37 players, which probably endangers the chances that outfielder Brandon Boggs gets protected on the roster by Tuesday’s deadline.

 

=================================

Here’s another reason you should feel good about the people in charge of running baseball operations for your team:

10-23-07 Baltimore purchases RHP Fredy Deza from minor leagues, adds him to 40-man roster
10-23-07 Washington purchases OF Roger Bernadina from minor leagues, adds him to 40-man roster
10-26-07 St. Louis purchases OF Joe Mather from minor leagues, adds him to 40-man roster

Why did the Orioles, Nationals, and Cardinals add Deza, Bernadina, and Mather to the roster so early? You probably know that teams generally don’t need to add minor leaguers to the roster for purposes of protection from the Rule 5 Draft until November 20 each year. But in the case of potential six-year minor league free agents – which Deza, Bernadina, and Mather each were – they become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series, and so they have to be added to the roster before that time in order for their team to continue to control them. You may not have known that.

The Angels apparently didn’t.

Warner Madrigal, having been signed in 2001, became a six-year minor league free agent when the Red Sox dispatched of the Rockies on October 28.

So when the Angels sent out a November 6 press release, and surely a memo to the league office on the same day, announcing that they had added their potential future closer to the 40-man roster to ensure that they wouldn’t lose him in next month’s Rule 5 Draft, it was essentially a nullity, as Madrigal was no longer Angels property, and hadn’t been for nine days.

I don’t know how many teams got busy the minute they saw that Madrigal became a free agent three weeks ago, or how many made a vigorous, opportunistic effort to sign him after that, but your team did, and now there’s a serious relief prospect in the fold, with all his options left, at virtually no cost.

I wouldn’t be very happy about this if I were an Angels fan.

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

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