THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 10, 2008

Jon Daniels apparently shared some interesting news at a Rangers fan event yesterday, responding to a question about Akinori Otsuka’s status by noting that the righthander, who turns 36 this Sunday, is headed for elbow surgery that will cost him the 2008 season. Certainly makes last month’s non-tender a lot more understandable.

The Otsuka situation factored into the Rangers’ determination that they could use another veteran presence in the bullpen, someone else with late-inning experience for the last run through an opponents’ lineup who could also act as sensei to C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit. In the next day or two, Eddie Guardado is going to be introduced as that pitcher.

Guardado’s left-handedness is probably one reason that the decision was made yesterday, in conjunction with the addition to the roster of reliever Kaz Fukumori, to drop southpaw Bill White. The velocity that the 29-year-old flashed in his nine Rangers appearances in September was intriguing, but with lefties Wilson, Guardado, and the optionless John Rheinecker around, White didn’t stand a very good chance of being any more than an injury reinforcement in 2008.

Texas signed White last March, after he’d been released in camp by Washington following a seven-year run in the Arizona system during which he never got past Class AA. The Rangers turned the scrap-heap pickup into a serviceable big league reliever, getting a 4.29 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine from him in 43 appearances for Frisco and one for Oklahoma, and then the nine September games for Texas in which he struck out nine hitters in 9.1 innings (4.82 ERA), though he coupled eight hits allowed with an unsightly seven free passes.

When the Rangers placed White on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release yesterday, it wasn’t because the club had no interest in hanging onto the lefthander, who still has three options remaining. Baseball’s rules simply didn’t permit the Rangers to try and run him through waivers and outright his contract to Oklahoma.

The rules dictate that a player who is added to the 40-man roster after August 15 (White was purchased on September 4) can only be outrighted off the roster until October 10. After that, outright waivers are unavailable for that player until mid-March, the apparent rationale being to prevent teams from purchasing a bunch of their potential minor league free agents late in the season, thereby thwarting their free agency rights and shielding them from the Rule 5 Draft, and then turning around after December and running them through waivers with an ensuing outright to get them back off the roster.

As a result, the only way to get a player like White off the roster between October 10 and mid-March is to trade him (which you can expect Texas tried to do over the last few weeks) or release him. For now, players like Nelson Cruz, Robinson Tejeda, Chris Shelton, and Jason Botts (all of whom are out of options) survive, as do Scott Feldman and Josh Rupe, though one more player will need to be removed when the Guardado signing is made official, by all accounts sometime this week. This second decision is going to be a tougher one that the decision to release White.

If it were me, I think Cruz or Tejeda would be the next to go.

And I bet both play for at least four more big league clubs. Too much talent with both not to get plenty more chances from organizations who think they can unlock it consistently.

Incidentally, I don’t think there’s any reason that White, should he clear waivers, can’t return to Texas later in the off-season on a minor league deal, if he so chooses.

On Monday the Mets signed eight players to minor league contracts. Five were former Rangers property: righthanders Joselo Diaz and Andy Cavazos, lefthander Ryan Cullen, infielder Fernando Tatis, and catcher Salomon Manriquez.

Houston signed outfielder Victor Diaz to a minor league deal, and Baltimore signed righthander Ryan Bukvich to one.

San Diego hired Todd Greene to scout.

Evan Grant is ranking the Rangers’ top prospects, counting down from number 20, on the Dallas Morning News’s “Seamheads” blog. So far he has lefthander Zach Phillips at number 20, righthander Wilmer Font at 19, third baseman Johnny Whittleman at 18, and righthander Luis Mendoza at 17.

Stay tuned for an update when the Rangers announce the signing of Guardado, and — assuming he commands a big league deal (as opposed to a non-roster deal that perhaps permits him to take free agency if not added to the roster by some fixed date in March) — the accompanying move to take someone off of the 40-man roster to accommodate the veteran lefty’s addition.

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

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