THE NEWBERG REPORT — DECEMBER 21, 2007

My general routine is to write on days where there’s at least one big story to comment on, which typically works out to anywhere from two to four times a week. Follow it up with some sidebar stuff, maybe toss in an earmark or two, something tangential, if not self-indulgent.

But when there’s no real news to use as a hook for more than three or four days, the secondary stuff starts to pile up. Time for a little housecleaning.

There have been stories locally and by a couple national writers in the past few days reporting that Texas and Cincinnati have discussed center fielder Josh Hamilton, with a couple of the articles suggesting the Reds are interested in Edinson Volquez.

Don’t get your hopes up. It would take significantly more than Volquez — or at least should — to get Hamilton, one of the National League’s most productive hitters in 2007. The company he kept statistically last year is made even more amazingly when you consider Hamilton was not only a rookie, but one who had basically been inactive for four years as he fought a drug addiction.

Just a guess, but considering what the Reds have and need, it wouldn’t surprise me if their price for Hamilton — if they’re really willing to trade him — would be something more along the lines of Volquez and Taylor Teagarden (which I wouldn’t do), or Volquez and a different trade chip they can spin to Baltimore in a deal for Erik Bedard.

I love Volquez, especially after what he accomplished last summer, but surely Cincinnati will get more — whether from Texas or someone else — for an above-average up-the-middle defender who is a .292/.368/.554 hitter after one big league season, with five years of club control ahead. For all the upside Volquez has, he’s a 3-11, 7.20 pitcher in the major leagues. Lots of promise — and trade value — there, but Hamilton has already crossed that line from potential to results.

Don’t hold your breath.

Recent signee Edgardo Alfonzo is hitting .331/.395/.506 in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Don’t hold your breath on him, either. This is basically this year’s version of Desi Relaford. Does he have a shot? Sure, I guess. But it’s a long one.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.com, Texas and Houston have been the most aggressive suitors for free agent righthander Mark Prior. ESPN’s Buster Olney, on the other hand, suggests the Padres are the frontrunners.

Still no word on whom the Rangers will drop from the 40-man roster to accommodate the additions of Milton Bradley and Kazuo Fukumori, who bring the roster to 41 players.

If Fukumori spends at least 30 days on the disabled list in 2008, the second year of his two-year, $3 million contract apparently converts to a club option with a $200,000 buyout.

Seattle decided to give four years and $48 million to righthander Carlos Silva, and as a Rangers fan, I’m happy about it.

Mark Teixeira underwent arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago to clean out some loose tissue. Not a big deal. He should be ready to go when spring training gets underway.

The other player Atlanta received from Texas in the Teixeira trade, lefthander Ron Mahay, signed a two-year, $8 million deal with Kansas City. Because the Braves offered Mahay arbitration, they’ll get a compensatory draft pick between rounds one and two in June, probably around 39 to 42.

ESPN’s Keith Law said in a live chat yesterday that Texas can make a legitimate case that it has baseball’s number two farm system, behind Tampa Bay.

I think it’s too early to say that, but a year from now, as a lot of the players who make up the top tier of the system graduate to its upper levels, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more than just Law making that sort of comment.

Major League Baseball has suspended second baseman Julio Gonzalez for the first 50 games of the 2008 season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The 19-year-old hit .253/.304/.337 for the Rangers’ Arizona League squad in 2007.

The Rangers have promoted Mark Giegler (who has spent 18 of his 22 scouting years in the Rangers organization) from amateur scout to pro scout and have hired Scot Engler (who had been an amateur scout with the Marlins) as a pro scout.

Milwaukee signed Gabe Kapler, who managed in the Boston minor league system last year, to a one-year deal to compete for an outfield spot.

Washington signed Rob Bell to a minor league contract.

The Laredo Broncos of the independent United League traded something to the Reno SilverSox of the independent Golden Baseball League for outfielder Juan Senreiso.

Happy Holidays.

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

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