November 2007

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 17, 2007

There are two fascinating situations occupying the baseball corner of my brain right now, and neither has anything to do with Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez.  One involves a player who could become a Ranger for an unprecedented fourth time, and the other involves the possibility that Texas could acquire a third center fielder from Boston in less than four months.

When Kenny Rogers left Texas after the 1995 season, Scott Boras convinced him to go to New York, which seemed to be a potentially bad fit (and not for a meaningfully larger sum of money, given state income tax consequences) and proved to be an awful one.   

When Rogers left Texas after the 2002 season, Boras had convinced him to decline a two-year, $10 million contract to remain a Ranger (Texas proposed a performance-based option for a third year, while Boras insisted that the third year be guaranteed).  Rogers instead took the best deal he could get on the open market: a one-year, $2 million deal with Minnesota.

Boras, of course, had nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding Rogers’s departure from Texas after the 2005 season.

Whether Boras factored into Rogers’s inability to get a contract done with Detroit so far this off-season — or, more importantly, whether Rogers perceives Boras to have been such a factor — is unclear, but what’s certain is that Boras isn’t going to get a Rogers deal done with the Tigers now.  Or with any other team.  Rogers has dumped Boras, the man lovingly dubbed in a recent New Yorker article as "The Extortionist."

Rogers says that his first choice is still to reup with Detroit.  He adds that he’s confused by the Rangers’ insistence that a 2008 reunion would require, at the outset, an apology from the pitcher to the organization for the events that ended his last tour here.   

But Rogers and his wife Becky still live in Westlake in the off-season.  When the 2008 season begins, their daughter Jessica will be 14 and their son Trevor will be 11.  You’d think Rogers has to be at least considering the thought of coming back to Texas.

Rogers reportedly declined a one-year, $8 million Tigers offer (and one other undisclosed Detroit proposal) before firing Boras.  You can make the argument that his decision to go forward pro se could make a return to Detroit more likely or less.  We’ll see.

Is there an argument that he’d owe Boras his commission if a deal gets done with the Tigers substantially similar to the one he’s already turned down, but wouldn’t owe him if he signs elsewhere, assuming it’s with a team Boras never initiated negotiations with?

It doesn’t matter from a Rangers standpoint whether Boras put one of those "can’t offer arbitration" clauses in the Rogers deal that just expired with the Tigers.  Rogers is a Type B, meaning a team other than Detroit that signs him wouldn’t lose a pick; instead, Detroit would get a supplemental first-rounder if another team signs Rogers before the arbitration tender date or if the Tigers offer him arbitration (assuming they can do so contractually).

Of all the center fielders who began the 2007 season in the Boston system, the one who caused the most angst among Rangers fans was Jacoby Ellsbury, a pure leadoff-hitting center fielder whom Texas passed on in the 2005 draft.  As it turns out, Ellsbury’s development this season made both David Murphy and Engel Beltre expendable and made them Rangers, and there is mounting speculation that it could do the same with regard to Coco Crisp.

Texas has a similar situation on its own hands, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia makes Gerald Laird a player who is likely more valuable to Texas as a trade chip than as a member of the club going forward.  Like the 28-year-old Crisp (who is owed a guaranteed $11 million the next two years, or $18.5 million over three should his 2010 option be picked up), the 28-year-old Laird is affordable (he’s under club control through arbitration for the next three years) and in demand.

There are rumors gaining steam that Texas and Boston could engineer a one-for-one swap of Laird and Crisp, which would seem at first glance to benefit both teams.  But there’s more to this.

We talked four days ago about timing, and it comes into play here.  With Jorge Posada and Yorvit Torrealba landing with the New York clubs this week, the market for Laird becomes more defined (the Mets were reportedly a strong suitor if they’d been shut out on both Posada and Torrealba), but Crisp’s value is nowhere near at its height, from a timing standpoint.  Center field is easily the strength of this winter’s free agent class, and the Red Sox don’t need to be in any rush to move Crisp until a few center fielders sign and teams are forced to turn to Plan B, which could include a phone call to Boston.

That is, unless the Red Sox have decided that Laird is their man to back Jason Varitek up and keep him fresh for October.  Varitek will be a free agent after 2008 but it’s hard to imagine Boston letting him leave.  Still, the club’s interest in Laird is less about finding Varitek’s eventual successor than it is about extending Varitek’s career by adding a capable sidekick who can give him 30 days off each year.  As unlikely as it might sound, backup catcher is among Boston’s primary needs this winter.

I’m skeptical that Boston would trade Crisp this early without getting more than just Laird, but if that deal is put on the table for Texas at some point, I’m interested.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean I’d tell Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand that I’m no longer interested.

Unless Hunter is going to stick to his demand for seven years.

For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that a baseball executive "with some knowledge of [Hunter's] discussions predicts he will sign with Texas for six years and $90 million."

Surprise plays in the Arizona Fall League championship game today.  For the most part the Rangers’ delegation fared well for the Rafters during the six-week season.  Shortstop Elvis Andrus — the youngest player in the league by more than one year — led the club in hitting (.353), reaching base (.411), and OPS (.881), committing no errors in 15 games.  Infielder German Duran hit .281/.385/.422 and showed up at second base, shortstop, and third base.  Catcher Taylor Teagarden hit .271/.345/.479, hitting safely in 10 of his 12 games.  Right fielder John Mayberry Jr. hit a team-leading five homers (one short of the league lead) but managed just a .214/.306/.405 line.  Third baseman Chris Davis was shut down early to rest a stress fracture in his left foot, going deep once among his three hits in 13 trips, adding three walks.

Lefthander Matt Harrison was one of the league’s most effective pitchers, going 5-0, 2.00 in seven starts and limiting the prospect league to a pathetic line of .174/.230/.261 in 27 innings of work, racking up 19 strikeouts while issuing seven walks.  Righthander Kea Kometani was brilliant out of the bullpen, giving up two runs (1.80 ERA) on five hits (.143/.189/.200) in 10 innings, setting an impressive 17 down on strikes and walking only two.  Get this: the 24-year-old faced 18 right-handed hitters.  He no-hit them.  He walked one, and punched out 12 of the other 17.  Lefthander Danny Ray Herrera posted a 2.53 ERA and 1.90 groundout-to-flyout ratio in 10.2 innings, scattering seven hits and six walks while fanning five.  Righthander Scott Feldman, working on the three-quarters delivery that he unveiled late in the big league season, posted a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings, giving up 16 hits and walking eight while fanning 16.

Based on discussions with scouts and front office personnel around the league, Baseball America ranked Teagarden as the number 10 prospect in the AFL and Mayberry as number 19.  I’m stunned that Mayberry outranked Andrus, and a bit surprised that Harrison wasn’t among the seven pitchers recognized in the top 20 list.

In a chat session tied to the AFL rankings, BA associate editor Chris Kline noted that Texas is "[a]rguably the most improved system [in the league] with what they were able to do via trades, the draft and the way they work Latin America every year. . . . Watching [the Rangers' Fall Instructional League] was enough to make at least two-thirds of all clubs envious.  They’re definitely on the rise."

The Rangers have to add Rule 5-eligibles to the 40-man roster by Tuesday to protect them from being drafted at the Winter Meetings in December.  My prediction: Texas will add Harrison, catcher Max Ramirez, righthander Thomas Diamond, and outfielder Brandon Boggs to the roster.

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, among the free agent pitchers Texas is interested in are righthander Hiroki Kuroda and right-handed relievers Eric Gagné, Kerry Wood, Scott Linebrink, and LaTroy Hawkins.

Sullivan adds that talks with Ian Kinsler on a five-year contract aren’t close to producing a deal.

The deal that A-Rod apparently agreed to with the Yankees will reportedly guarantee $275 million over 10 years, with incentives for passing Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Bonds on the all-time home run list that could push its value to more than $300 million.   

Major League Rule 3(b)(5) states: "No Major League Uniform Player’s Contract or Minor League Uniform Player Contract shall be approved if it contains a bonus for playing, pitching or batting skill or if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing Club at the end of the championship season."

That provision permits contract incentives based on games started, games finished, innings pitched, and plate appearances, but not, for example, home runs or RBI or strikeouts or saves.  The rationale is that rewarding "skill" (as opposed to usage) could inject a disincentive to hit behind the runner rather than swing for the fences, or lead a pitcher to dial up for a one-out, bases-loaded strikeout when what’s really needed is a ground ball.

Allowing "historical achievement" bonuses like A-Rod is apparently getting sure sounds like the contractual equivalent of erasing the back line of the batter’s box with your spikes.  Slippery slope, is it not?

Curt Schilling will reportedly get a $1 million bonus if he gets a Cy Young vote.  Not a first place vote.  A vote.   

Wonder which scorched-earth writer will approach Schilling after he goes 13-16, 4.78 and offer him a third-place vote for $50,000.

Righthander Chan Ho Park has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.

Roberto Kelly, one of the more underrated members of the Rangers’ 1998 and 1999 division winners, was named first base coach of the Giants.  He’d managed San Francisco’s Low A affiliate in Augusta to 92-47 and 89-51 records the past two years.

Free agent righthander Travis Hughes has allowed one run in 19.1 Venezuela innings this winter, fanning 19 and walking four on his way to a dozen saves.

Tentative date for the Newberg Report Bound Edition Release Party: Thursday night, December 13, at the Rangers Dallas Office on McKinney Avenue just north of downtown.  We’ll have food, and three of the Rangers’ top prospects have already committed to attend.  More details soon.

The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association released outfielder Alan Moye, who would have become a Ranger if Rogers had not vetoed a trade to Cincinnati in July of 2002.

That decision extended Rogers’s second tour with the Rangers by two months.  We’re about to find out whether the 43-year-old’s decision to fire his agent will lead to a fourth stint with the club.

And who knows?  Maybe if Rogers had fired Boras a long time ago, he’d still be on his first.

 

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 14, 2007

Jeff Cogen was named the new president of the Dallas Stars this morning, replacing Jim Lites, who is moving into a larger role with Hicks Sports Marketing Group. Cogen, who has previous NHL experience as president of the Florida Panthers, had been president of the Texas Rangers for the past four seasons.

As far as the Rangers position that Cogen vacates is concerned, no successor has been named. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News speculates that candidates could include executive vice president of business operations Rick McLaughlin, Hicks Holdings vice president Tom Hicks Jr., executive vice president of communications and public relations Jim Sundberg, and senior advisor to the general manager John Hart.

(Could Chuck Morgan be in the mix?)

More as this story develops.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 13, 2007

It’s generally not my thing to spotlight stories like this that aren’t really news, but according to a story that T.R. Sullivan has up on MLB.com, the Rangers have expressed interest in bringing free agent lefthander Kenny Rogers back to Texas, for a fourth stint. 

Said GM Jon Daniels: “We’d be open to it under the right circumstances.  Obviously, finances would be a part of it.  But I’d only want it to be a positive homecoming.”

I’m obviously on record as having a love-hate relationship as a Rogers fan since 2005, but there’s one thing that cannot be disputed: There’s never – never – been a pitcher who better understood how to pitch in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.   

If he returns and his head is right (not a given), he could be a huge benefit to this club, not only on days he pitches but also as a mentor to the young pitchers who have arrived and are on the way.

And think about JD’s final comment: “I’d only want it to be a positive homecoming.”  If Rogers signed a contract to pitch here, by definition there would be nothing negative about his return from his own standpoint, either in business terms or personally.  Otherwise he wouldn’t sign the deal.   

The positive Daniels must be talking about is from the organization’s perspective, that is, a clear understanding that Rogers would be returning with some degree of contrition, a gesture to management and teammates and the local press and the fans that he isn’t proud of his past behavior and is ready to put that behind him and everyone else.

No way?  Then no deal.   

That appears to be what Daniels is saying.   

Fascinating.   

 

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 13, 2007

The gate was lifted late last night, allowing teams to begin negotiating with other clubs’ free agents. The relative weakness of this year’s crop is likely to make this winter’s trade market one of the most active in a long time. In certain cases, however, it will take some movement in free agency before sellers will pull the trigger on trades, even those for which the groundwork might have already been laid.

Case in point: If the Rangers are going to trade Gerald Laird, it makes sense for them to wait until a few key available catchers find homes, leaving the jilted teams that were interested in them to turn to their Plan B.

As Jorge Posada re-signs with the Yankees, Laird’s trade value just went up a tick. Start with the Mets, who were said to be very interested in Posada.

Remember the discussion we had over the course of a month or two this summer on why July was absolutely the right time to trade Mark Teixeira, assuming you believed he was not going to sign a long-term deal here? Given the names that are starting to make the rounds as potentially available in trade this winter, it’s almost impossible to believe Texas could have gotten a package this off-season anywhere close to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Beau Jones.

And again, the idea of going into 2008 with Teixeira would have been a risky one, because if the Rangers are anywhere near contention this coming July, there’s no way you can move a player like Teixeira unless you want to fracture your clubhouse (because moving him then would be tantamount to telling your own players you don’t think they can stay in the race all summer: suicidal).

Teixeira was the number one trade commodity in baseball in July. He wouldn’t have been this winter. And he couldn’t have been during the 2008 season.

One case of waiting out the trade market. Another of jumping out in front.

It’s not just the anticipation of who might be wearing your team’s uniform for the first time next season. For me, the coolest thing about baseball’s hot stove season is the tactical planning, the strategy and finesse, the measure of timing and the recognition of market vulnerabilities that go into positioning yourself to maximize your opportunities to get better.

Go.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 8, 2007

In 1993, Baseball America ranked Matt Walbeck as the Cubs’ number eight prospect. In 1994, BA ranked him as the Twins’ number four prospect.

The publication has given the 38-year-old, who accrued 11 big league seasons, much more love since his playing days came to an end.

After finishing his career as a backup catcher for Detroit in 2003, Walbeck was named manager of the Tigers’ Low A affiliate, the West Michigan Whitecaps. His club promptly won the Midwest League championship in 2004. The Whitecaps made the playoffs again in 2005, losing in the second round. They then won another league title in 2006, after posting a sick 89-48 regular season record. Promoted to manage AA Erie in 2007, Walbeck produced an 81-59 record and won a division championship.

BA called Walbeck the top managerial prospect in the Midwest League in both 2005 and 2006, and he was named Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2007.

And now he’s back in the big leagues, hired Wednesday to become the Rangers’ third base coach, catching instructor, and spring training coordinator, filling the vacancy left in each role by the departure of Don Wakamatsu to Oakland.

I hated to see Wakamatsu go, but it was a move that made sense for him, and faced with having to replace him, I love the idea of bringing in a winner. Walbeck has proven that he’s that.

Paramount among his responsibilities will be the tutoring of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, assuming he remains behind the plate, not to mention a high-ceiling crop of catcher prospects headed by Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramirez, and Cristian Santana — assuming he’s around long enough to see all of them get to the big leagues. Lots of people expect that Walbeck will manage in the big leagues one day, and maybe not in the too-distant future.

Walbeck got the job after Texas interviewed him, former Oakland coach Brad Fischer, and former Rangers catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. for the final spot on Ron Washington’s coaching staff. The Rangers also reached out to Jerry Narron, but he declined interest.

As Rangers manager, Narron missed having Gerald Laird on his club by a year. Whether Walbeck will have the chance to work with Laird is questionable. He’s obviously a possibility to be traded, with the most prevalent speculation centering on Boston, who is reportedly interested in the first-time arbitration-eligible. Just as the 22-year-old Saltalamacchia might make Laird (who turns 28 next week) a luxury whose trade value is greater than his value to the Rangers, 24-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury has made 28-year-old center fielder Coco Crisp expendable in Boston, and the rumors have already proliferated that there could be a match between the Rangers, who need a center fielder, and the Red Sox.

Texas has reportedly reopened discussions with Ian Kinsler’s representatives about the possibility of a long-term deal with the second baseman that would extend through 2012, covering his arbitration years and first year of free agency eligibility. Similar to deals the club struck with Michael Young and Hank Blalock at around the same stages of their careers, it would give the Rangers added cost certainty for the next five years (and possibly an overall discount) and give Kinsler a foundation of long-term security, not to mention a raise up front.

Yes, a number of teams are reportedly showing interest in Blalock. No, writes Fox Sports columnist Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers aren’t nearly as interested in a Blalock trade.

Righthander Akinori Otsuka has resumed throwing, so far without incident.

Contrary to what Baseball America reported a couple weeks ago, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus reports that the Rangers did not have the choice between Elvis Andrus and outfielder Jordan Schafer in the Mark Teixeira trade. According to Goldstein, the Braves refused to make Schafer available.

There are 10 candidates for Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Year. Rangers lefthander Matt Harrison (4-0, 1.50 in five starts), who also came over in the Teixeira trade, is one of them.

Multiple national writers are suggesting that lefthander Ron Mahay is going to be the most highly sought middle reliever in free agency this winter, likely to land a three-year deal that could be worth as much as $12 million.

He’s a Type B free agent, meaning the Braves will get a supplemental first-round pick if they offer him arbitration and lose him to another club.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Japanese player drawing the most attention right now may not be outfielder Kosuke Fukudome but 32-year-old righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who like Fukudome is a free agent and won’t require a posting bid (or draft pick compensation). Texas has been linked to both.

First baseman Emerson Frostad (.273/.429/.818) has homered twice in Team Canada’s first four games of World Cup play.

The Rangers have brought Rich Rice back to serve as Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations. Rice, who worked under John Blake and then Gregg Elkin in the media relations department from 2001 to 2005, spent the last two years as Colorado’s assistant director of communications and public relations.

Cleveland released righthander Matt Miller.

You should read Jason Cole’s three-part interview with Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger. You’ll learn a lot.

One note from the interview that I hadn’t seen anywhere else: an enlarged spleen was the reason for the serious viral infection that prompted Texas to shut third baseman Johnny Whittleman down early in Fall Instructs and send him home. Whittleman has been on antibiotics for several weeks and should be fine for spring training.

C.J. Wilson’s early birthday present to himself.

On the Alex Rodriguez front: "Let’s Go Mets!"

The Rangers have promoted Frisco manager Dave Anderson to minor league field coordinator, a position that involves the synchronization of all facets of instruction in the organization’s farm system, from spring training through the season and Fall Instructs. As part of the job, Anderson will assist Rangers director of player development Scott Servais in managing minor league player movement and will also serve as the system’s infield coordinator.

Texas also named minor league catching coordinator Damon Berryhill the club’s new manager at Bakersfield, replacing Carlos Subero, who left to take over as manager of the White Sox’s AA Birmingham affiliate.

Berryhill caught for the Cubs from 1987 through 1991. Servais caught for the Cubs from 1995 through 1998. Nestled in between was Matt Walbeck, who debuted with Chicago in 1993 before being moved to Minnesota in a trade following the season.

Berryhill, Servais, and Walbeck were never big league teammates, but all three are now rising stars together in a big league organization.

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

P.S.  BA has just named Walbeck their Minor
League Manager of the Year for 2007.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 7, 2007

Too busy to write this morning, but I thought it was worth noting that, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, promising 19-year-old righthander Jake Brigham is apparently headed for Tommy John surgery, which will wipe out his 2008 season.

Brigham, the club’s sixth-round pick in 2006, went 5-4, 3.16 in 15 Spokane starts this year, striking out 65 hitters in 77 innings.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 4, 2007

Not much news today, but Evan Grant goes deep with an article about some things the Rangers are looking into this winter, with the general managers’ meetings kicking off in Orlando tomorrow.

Among the names invoked in Grant’s story are Vicente Padilla, Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nelson Cruz, and Joaquin Arias, as well as Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Mark Kotsay, Carlos Beltran, Jason Giambi, Richie Sexson, Mike Lamb, Kevin Millar, Ben Broussard, and Adam Eaton.

You should read it. You can do so by clicking here.

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

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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