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.

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