THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 3, 2007

One of the features in the 2005 Bound Edition was a rundown of the top 10 Alex Rodriguez quotes from the previous year. (Here’s my favorite, uttered two weeks before he forced his trade from Texas — enjoy the decisiveness: “I definitely think I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m probably pretty sure it will work out for the best.”)

This week the reserves got restocked with a number of new gems, the most celebrated of which came not from A-Rod himself but from Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner, reacting pompously to A-Rod’s exercising of his opt-out clause: “Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, or a Toledo Mud Hen?”

Classy. Lots of class, in fact, everywhere you turn as far as this story goes.

Love how the Mud Hens (Detroit’s AAA affiliate) responded, disclosing a letter that they were preparing to send to Scott Boras, offering A-Rod a contract worth $35 million in incentives per season if he hits .350 with 75 home runs a year for 10 straight seasons (note that the International League’s regular season lasts only 144 games), drives in at least 1,500 runs over 10 years, and helps Toledo win 10 straight league titles.

The letter also requests that A-Rod consider a position change, since reigning IL MVP Mike Hessman is the club’s starting third baseman.

While A-Rod mulls the Hens offer and awaits the opening of free agency among big league clubs, it is commonly believed that the Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Tigers, White Sox, and Giants are probably the teams with a legitimate chance to sign him.

ESPN’s Peter Gammons suggests Texas will be in the mix.

That’s surely Gammons acting as Boras’s messenger, not as the Rangers’. Not happening.

As for who Texas might be in the mix for, we’ve discussed it here before, but it bears repeating: Other than in center field — and maybe even including center field — odds are that the Rangers are going to make their biggest splash(es) this winter by way of trade, rather than free agency. The free agent class is weak, the Rangers’ minor league currency is the strongest it has been in years, and given the club’s payroll situation, Texas could be a major player for a veteran that another team believes it can no longer afford.

Local papers in New York and Philadelphia suggest the Yankees and Phillies could zero in on Hank Blalock as a trade target this winter. That doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere, given that the Rangers would be expected to sell low at this point, which doesn’t make much sense.

Free agent Curt Schilling didn’t include Texas on his blogged list of the 13 teams he’s interested in playing for: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, the Angels, the Mets, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Arizona, San Diego, St. Louis, Milwaukee, the Cubs, and the Dodgers.

Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson, and Jerry Hairston Jr. have filed for free agency. Jamey Wright hasn’t yet.

All four are no-compensation free agents.

Eric Gagné is a Type B, as is Kerry Wood. Even if offered arbitration by the Red Sox and Cubs, therefore, the Rangers would not forfeit a draft pick to sign either of them.

Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand are Type A’s, and will certainly be offered arbitration, meaning the teams signing them will each forfeit a first-round pick or a second, based on where they draft. Texas would lose its second-rounder. The number 11 pick is safe.

Michael Young was not only classified as a Type A, but he was the highest-ranked American League second baseman, shortstop, or third baseman.

Correct. Ahead of A-Rod. And Jeter and Lowell and Cano and Tejada and everyone else.

The only other Rangers getting Type A status were Akinori Otsuka and Joaquin Benoit. C.J. Wilson was the highest-ranked Type B among American League relievers.

Sosa wants someone to pay him at least $7 million in 2008.

I’d say the odds of A-Rod getting his $350 million are better than Sosa landing a $7 million deal.

John Thomson is a free agent. Minor league deal with an NRI?

Teams can only negotiate with their own free agents until a week from tomorrow. Stated another way, it’s permissible to express interest in free agents from other clubs now, as long as dollars aren’t discussed.

The deal that Texas signed Benoit to will reportedly pay him a $500,000 bonus, $2.5 million in 2008, and $3 million in 2009. The signing leaves the Rangers with four remaining potential arbitration cases — Otsuka, Gerald Laird, Marlon Byrd, and Ramon Vazquez.

What’s interesting about the deal Rudy Jaramillo signed is not so much the dollars (reportedly a moderate raise from the $400,000 he had been making per year) but the term. Coming off two straight three-year contracts, Jaramillo this time gets a two-year deal, matching the commitments that the club has made to Jon Daniels and Ron Washington.

As far as the Rangers’ lone coaching vacancy is concerned, Texas contacted Jerry Narron to gauge his interest in returning as third base coach, catching instructor, and spring training coordinator (replacing Don Wakamatsu in those roles, which Narron was responsible for himself from 1995 through 2001), but he has taken his name out of consideration.

With Narron out of the mix for the position, Texas interviewed former Oakland coach Brad Fischer and former Rangers catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. on Thursday and former big league catcher Matt Walbeck (now a rising star as a manager in Detroit’s farm system) on Friday.

In addition to Mark Holtz, among the other local candidates for the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball,” are Eric Nadel (who will begin his 30th year with the Rangers in 2008), Josh Lewin, Tom Grieve, Steve Busby, Norm Hitzges, and Merle Harmon.

To place your votes in an effort to get any of them inducted into the Hall of Fame, go here. You can vote once each day for the entire month of November.

Asked in an ESPN chat session who has the best farm system in baseball, lead baseball analyst Keith Law responded: “Probably Tampa Bay. Maybe Texas.”

Two of Matt Harrison’s last three Arizona Fall League appearances have been hitless four-inning efforts. The lefthander stands at 4-0, 1.50 in five starts, holding the opposition to a skimpy line of .177/.239/.274 and issuing five walks in 18 innings while fanning 12.

According to an AFL press release, Chris Davis has been deactivated from the Surprise roster, apparently due to the stress fracture in his left foot, and Elvis Andrus has been elevated from the taxi squad to the club’s roster on a fulltime basis.

Texas re-signed 26-year-old righthander Kendy Batista to a minor league contract. Batista, whom Texas acquired in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last December, went 6-3, 4.05 with the Arizona League club, Bakersfield, and Frisco in 2007. He fanned 103 batters in 102.1 innings, walking 31. He has an ERA of 0.84 in 10 Venezuelan Winter League appearances, scattering six hits and four walks in 10.2 innings while striking out six.

Mike Hindman thoroughly breaks down the Rangers’ estimated 2008 payroll commitments here.

Major League Baseball suspended free agent righthander Luther Hackman 50 games for violating baseball’s minor league drug program after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The 33-year-old made four appearances for Oklahoma at the end of August, but is no longer with the Rangers. He pitched 41 times for Nashville in the Milwaukee system in 2007 before joining Texas.

Kansas City claimed righthander Colby Lewis off waivers from Oakland.

Detroit signed catcher Nick Trzesniak to a minor league contracts and named Ray Burris pitching coach for AA Erie and Andy Barkett manager of High A Lakeland. The Dodgers named Mike Brumley assistant minor league field coordinator.

Former Rangers catcher John Russell, who interviewed for the managerial post here last winter, is expected to be named Pirates manager on Monday.

Thanks to those of you who have taken advantage of the early purchase special for the 2008 Bound Edition. Details on the discount, which is good through November 15, can be found in the upper right corner of http://www.newbergreport.com and in the email that should have landed in your mailbox at around 9:30 p.m. (Central) on October 31.

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

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