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.

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