THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 6, 2007

The addition of Chris Shelton isn’t a blockbuster move, but it’s also one that has zero downside and some chance to pay dividends. Freddy Guzman’s 40-man roster spot was almost surely going to be surrendered as the winter progressed and, in any event, without any options, he wasn’t going to be around in April even if he survived the off-season.

The fact that Guzman was not brought to Arlington when rosters expanded in September — especially with Texas evaluating center field possibilities for 2008 — was pretty telling as far as the organization’s plans were concerned for Guzman, who was acquired in May 2006 from San Diego, with righthander Cesar Rojas, for first baseman-outfielder Vincent Sinisi and righthander John Hudgins.

As for Shelton, a lifetime .281/.348/.477 hitter in parts of three seasons with Detroit (and a .533/.588/1.467 hitter in 15 Rangers Ballpark at-bats), he could turn out to be anything from someone else’s property in April (he’s out of options as well) to the Rangers’ starting first baseman and a guy who fits somewhere in the middle third of the lineup.

My gut tells me he could end up as productive as Mike Simms (.281/.352/.555 in 299 at-bats over three seasons) was for Texas. Nothing wrong with that. Simms was a role player, but a key component to the 1998 playoff team in particular. I’m not sure Shelton is a core contributor on a playoff club, but I can see him helping. Surely more than Guzman was ever going to help here.

Shelton was unseated as Detroit’s first baseman when the Tigers acquired Sean Casey at the 2006 trade deadline. Casey, ironically, is among the free agents that Texas reportedly continues to kick the tires on as a potential first baseman as the Winter Meetings draw to a close.

The Meetings will conclude with this morning’s Rule 5 Draft. Among the Rangers eligible to be chosen are righthanders Jesse Ingram and Kendy Batista, catcher Chris Stewart, infielders Tug Hulett, Nate Gold, and Emerson Frostad, and outfielder Kevin Mahar.

Two former Ranger farmhands generating a little buzz among draft-eligibles are righthanders Paul Abraham (San Diego) and Johnny Lujan (White Sox).

According to several reports, the Rangers have offered free agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins a one-year contract with a club option for a second season, while Hawkins continues to look around for a two-year deal. The Yankees and Tigers are among the other suitors for Hawkins, as are the Rockies, for whom he pitched very well in 2007.

Eric Gagné remains a potential Rangers target.

So does mercurial outfielder Milton Bradley, a high-ceiling talent with career-long makeup and health questions. I’m interested, and so is Ron Washington, who was with Bradley in Oakland in 2006.

Billy Beane traded prospects Andre Ethier and Antonio Perez to the Dodgers for Bradley two winters ago. If the Dodgers’ signing of Andruw Jones yesterday makes Ethier available (Los Angeles reportedly offered Ethier, first baseman James Loney, and reliever prospect Jonathan Meloan to Texas for Mark Teixeira and Joaquin Benoit in July), I’m interested. Juan Pierre, not so much.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Minnesota told Texas that to deal Johan Santana to the Rangers, the package would have to start with righthanders Edinson Volquez and Eric Hurley and first baseman Chris Davis.

The only minor leaguer with more home runs than the 36 that Davis hit in 2007 was 27-year-old Chris Brazell, who hit 39 in the Royals system and has signed with Japan’s Seibu Lions.

Milwaukee reportedly worked out an agreement with outfielder Laynce Nix on a minor league deal with a big league invite to spring training if the Brewers, who designated him for assignment yesterday, can get him through waivers.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have brought Kevin Millwood’s name up. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers have spoken to several teams about Vicente Padilla.

According to one published report, the White Sox tried to get in on Miguel Cabrera late in the game, offering third baseman-outfielder Josh Fields, lefthander Gio Gonzalez, and either lefthander John Danks or righthander Gavin Floyd.

Kansas City released righthander Colby Lewis.

By the way, the contract that Detroit gave righthander Francisco Cruceta (who pitched for Oklahoma in 2007) was a big league deal. It was the Tigers’ need to make room on the 40-man roster for Cruceta and Kenny Rogers on November 30 that prompted Detroit to designate Shelton (and outfielder Timo Perez) for assignment.

Baltimore signed catcher Guillermo Quiroz to a big league deal.

The Dodgers purchased catcher Kelley Gulledge, the son of Rangers P.A. man Chuck Morgan, from the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association.

It’s going to be sad to see the bat taken out of Dontrelle Willis’s hands.

It’s far from the main reason that I’d like to see Minnesota ship Santana to the National League, but I’d sure like to see him hit.

The Astros gave up on Santana first as a hitter and then, in a manner of speaking, as a pitcher, when they declined to shield him from the Rule 5 Draft in 1999 and the saw that risky decision blow up in their face.

Don’t expect another Santana to emerge from this year’s draft class — or any ever again — but if anything notable and Rangers-related happens at this morning’s draft, we’ll fire off a news flash.

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

3 Comments

Shelton isn’t a bad guy to take a chance on. He started off on fire in 2006, and his MLB stats aren’t bad.

http://www.fightingphils.mlblogs.com

Remember, the Marlins were involved in the Santana rule 5 thing as well. They took him and immediately traded him. (They didn’t know any better either). It was as much luck as skill in wanting Santana. Santana was just another hard thrower with an ERA over 4.00 and a K/BB ratio of 3:1, there was no sign of greatness. Not enough credit is given to a teams coaching staff once a player changes organizations.

Give the Twins coaching staff credit for transforming Santana into the pitcher he is now. Would Bagwell have become the hitter he did if he stayed with the Red Sox or was it Rudy Jaramillo? Would Ortiz have become the same hitter without Ron Jack. How about Smoltz with the Tigers and without Leo Mazzone?

http://mikemac.mlblogs.com

Am I the only one that thinks it would be a good trade to give up Volquez, Hurley, and Davis to get the kind of #1 pitcher the Rangers have never had? We only hope Hurley could be a “Santana” some day, and we have had lots of young pitchers who have never become that before, so there’s no guarantee he will either. Volquez is a long shot at best, and I don’t trust him at all. And Davis, as awesome as he is, (and he’s AWESOME) is no better than Teixeira, and we couldn’t win with him because we never have a true ACE who can beat ANYBODY!

I’m not crazy about having to pay him $150 million ON TOP of giving the Twins our top prospects too, but if that’s the only way to get a pitcher like him to sign with us….

And it’s not like we don’t have money. Teixeira didn’t take our money, Zito wouldn’t take our money, Torri practically laughed at our face when he signed with the Angels, AND DIDN’T TAKE OUR MONEY.

Getting someone like Santana would make a statement to other free agents for years to come. Any team with a pitcher like that, has a chance to win, no matter what kind of payroll you have, the twins have proved that.

If we can’t use our minor league system to get one of the best players in baseball when we have the chance, at a time when our system is at it’s deepest, then what’s the point?

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