THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 13, 2007

The road just got a little clearer for Chris Davis, German Duran, and Brandon Boggs. And the role just got a little more cemented for C.J. Wilson.

By acquiring 31-year-old Ben Broussard from Seattle for minor league infielder Tug Hulett on Wednesday night, the Rangers added a veteran first baseman who, like Chris Shelton, is here on a one-year commitment. Texas probably would have had to commit two years to a player like Sean Casey or Mike Lamb had the club gone in that direction. With Texas not committed to Broussard (a lifetime .267/.328/.458 hitter) past 2008, if Davis produces this season anything close to what he did in 2007 and the Rangers feel he’s ready to impact the lineup in 2009 (and if they feel he fits best at first base), there’s no roster impediment as far as his arrival is concerned.

This also seemingly makes it more likely that Texas either trades Gerald Laird before April or options Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Oklahoma to start the season. Not a lock, but more likely now.

As for Duran, there’s no question that his upside is greater than Hulett’s, but since Hulett was a level ahead of Duran in 2007, you might argue that Hulett would have gotten the first shot at an emergency utility role in case of big league injury in 2008.

That’s a trade you make without thinking twice, developing a college senior taken in round 14 into a tradeable commodity and flipping him for a player who should start for your club. Hulett, an on-base machine who developed a little pop in 2007, is likely going to play in the big leagues, but he’ll probably always be a role player, and you don’t hesitate to move those when an opportunity arises to make your lineup better.

As for Boggs, these are the eight outfielders now on the roster: Boggs, Milton Bradley, Julio Borbon, Jason Botts, Marlon Byrd, Frank Catalanotto, Nelson Cruz, and David Murphy. Borbon won’t be in Texas in 2008. It’s unclear where Botts and Cruz will be, other than it won’t be on the farm with Texas, as both are sure to be clamed off waivers if not traded first in the event that they fail to make the Opening Day roster and are designated for assignment. The point is that, with the designation for assignment of Nick Gorneault on Monday (to make roster room for Broussard), Boggs becomes the only outfielder on the roster who stands to start the year in the upper levels of the Rangers’ farm system. That’s key when considering what the club will have to do when and if one of its outfielders needs a stay on the disabled list.

If Gorneault clears waivers, Texas will be able to outright him to the minor leagues without the 28-year-old having the right to decline the assignment, since this would be the first outright of his career.

Botts is hitting .330/.422/.535 in the Mexican Winter League.

As for Wilson, a month ago there was speculation that Texas was interested in bringing Eric Gagné back and was kicking the tires on Kerry Wood and LaTroy Hawkins, and stories that Akinori Otsuka was throwing again, pain-free. Today, however, there is no question who the team’s closer is. It’s Wilson.

Texas declined to offer a contract to Otsuka by last night’s deadline, making the arbitration-eligible righthander a free agent. The Rangers can continue to negotiate with the 35-year-old, who was sidelined for the season’s final three months with right forearm inflammation, but they won’t have to go to arbitration with him and be on the hook for what’s probably a meaningful amount more than his market value, considering his arm health and age. If we think his arm is sound, though, I’d like to see him back.

Jon Daniels is not optimistic about an Otsuka return to Texas, however, according to multiple local reports.

Bradley, incidentally, passed his physical on Wednesday and was officially signed (one year for a reported $5 million plus incentives). With the addition of Bradley and Broussard and the removal from the roster of Gorneault and Otsuka, the Rangers’ roster remains at a full 40 players. Someone else, then, is in jeopardy of losing his spot when and if Texas signs set-up reliever Kazuo Fukumori.

Interesting: San Diego general manager told Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he acted quickly to acquire Bradley last summer partly because he believed Texas was on the verge of trading for him.

According to Daniels, the organization is cautiously optimistic that Bradley — barring any setbacks — could be ready to go in April. He added that Bradley could see some time in center field.

Really hoping we get to see Bradley healthy. The guy has monster bat speed.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel seems to stick a note into his space every couple days that the Brewers are sniffing around on Hank Blalock. Haudricourt speculates that the club’s designation of Kevin Mench for assignment (and its lack of resistance to Geoff Jenkins’s decision to leave via free agency) is an indication that Ryan Braun is headed to left field and that GM Doug Melvin will now target a third baseman — perhaps Blalock.

The Rangers traded righthander Jeremiah Haar to Florida for outfielder J.T. Restko, according to Baseball America. Haar, signed as an undrafted free agent in June 2006, went 10-6, 4.15 with seven saves in two seasons with the Rangers, swinging between the bullpen and rotation for the Arizona League squad, Spokane, and Clinton. Restko, the Marlins’ 10th-round pick in 2003, is a career .267/.341/.392 hitter in five seasons, none above Class A. The 6’5″ righty turns 23 later this month, as does Haar.

Texas released righthanders Craig Crow and Jesse Hall, lefthanders Anton Maxwell and William Rodriguez, and infielders Wally Backman Jr., Nick Cadena, and Jay Heafner.

The Dodgers signed righthanders Tanyon Sturtze and Rick Asadoorian and catcher Danny Ardoin to minor league contracts.

All I’ll say regarding this article about Michael Young and his wife Cristina is that you must read it:

See you tomorrow night at the Book Release Party.

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

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