THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 30, 2008

The trendy thing for a baseball blogger to do today is come up with his team’s equivalent to Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey, setting up a strawman argument that his team’s general manager surely could have outbid the Mets to land Johan Santana, the world’s best pitcher.

I promised half a dozen of you who asked me yesterday to go down that path that I’d tackle it in today’s report, so here goes: Josh Hamilton or Elvis Andrus; Luis Mendoza or Omar Poveda; Neftali Feliz; and Matt Harrison.

Now forget about all that.

Because this has nothing to do with whether the Rangers were willing to give up a better package than New York has reportedly offered Minnesota for Santana, and everything to do with a contract provision that the 28-year-old secured three years ago: a limited no-trade clause that permitted him to block trades to 10 teams in 2007 and 12 teams in 1008 and would convert to a full no-trade clause for those two years if he were to finish in the top three in the American League Cy Young vote in 2006 or 2007.

Santana won the award in 2006. Full no-trade.

Dismiss your Rangers-centric viewpoint for a second. Cincinnati and Tampa Bay (like Texas) are thought to have two of the top farm systems in baseball. Although you can be sure that Minnesota would take it in a second, you can be sure that the Reds would never offer Jay Bruce plus Homer Bailey plus Joey Votto to the Twins — and you can be sure that even if Cincinnati made such an offer, Santana would bang the deal because he has no interest in pitching for the Reds.

Evan Longoria, Jake McGee, and Wade Davis from the Rays? Same thing.

Assume for a moment that Santana would be willing, given the choice between finishing out his current deal with the Twins or spending 2008 in Texas, to waive his no-trade and accept a trade to the Rangers. Think he’d extend here for six or seven years?

I tend to doubt it. Maybe he’d entertain the thought after a year of pitching here, but not now.

The no-trade clause (combined with a Teixeira-esque vibe that he’s not going to stick around past 2008) gives Santana enough leverage to essentially engineer his way out of Minnesota, and while he can’t name his team, chances are the Twins were told long ago which few teams he’d accept deals to. And it’s conceivable that the playing field might have been reduced further, eliminating any clubs on his list that were not interested in extending the lefthander long-term.

That part is crucial. Nobody is going to give up 20-plus years of control over four or five blue-chip prospects in order to get one year of Johan Santana.

Including the Mets, who are reportedly in the midst of a 72-hour window to get a long-term extension done. If they can’t reach an agreement with Santana in the next couple days, the trade dies.

Part of the wisdom of trading Mark Teixeira last July was that no team (including Atlanta) was going to give Texas as much as the Braves did if it was for just two months of Teixeira, or even one full season. John Schuerholz took a huge shot at one last title as GM, and he presumably had the blessing of everyone whose blessing he needed because it wasn’t going to be for merely a two-month rental.

What the Mets are giving up for Santana (assuming they close the deal) isn’t a mind-boggling package. It’s hard to compare what the Braves gave up for Teixeira (and Ron Mahay) with the Mets foursome, but I’ll say this: If Minnesota and New York make this deal and the Twins turn around and offer me Gomez, Humber, Guerra, and Mulvey for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrus, Harrison, Feliz, and Beau Jones? There’s no way I make that trade.

In fact, I’m not so sure that Oakland didn’t get more for Dan Haren than the Twins are getting for Santana.

The immediate reaction I had to this supposedly imminent deal was not disappointment that Texas wasn’t the team on the other end, because I think that was unrealistic (and out of the Rangers’ control). Instead, my first instinct was to do a dance because the Twins found a way to get Santana out of the American League.

I wish Baltimore would find a National League to move Erik Bedard to (he doesn’t have a no-trade clause), but there aren’t a whole lot of Adam Jones types available on the trade market. If Seattle makes this deal (that is, if Peter Angelos doesn’t kill it), it’s a very good deal for the Rangers if the Mariners don’t manage to lock Bedard up long-term.

But it’s not going to be a lot of fun on March 31 and April 1, when the Rangers send Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, presumably, out to face Bedard and Felix Hernandez in Seattle.

If the Bedard trade goes through, there are reports suggesting that the Mariners will then sign Brad Wilkerson to assume the right field slot opened up by Jones’s departure.

Remember a month ago when I noted that six publications and blogs had coming up with five different number ones when ranking the Rangers prospects (Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, Eric Hurley, Engel Beltre, and Feliz)? I followed that note with this:

“Baseball America won’t disclose its Rangers rankings for another couple weeks. I doubt Elvis Andrus will emerge as BA’s number one, because Jim Callis admits his skeptical take on the shortstop creates more internal debate at BA than on any other prospect in baseball — but Andrus is nonetheless the type of prospect who could conceivably top a respectable ranking of this franchise’s minor league talent.”

Well, what do you know — BA revealed on Friday that Andrus will be its number one Rangers prospect when it discloses its list next Monday.

And Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News just put Andrus on top of his ranking as well.

ESPN’s Keith Law ranks baseball’s top prospects by position, making Teagarden his number three catcher, and Andrus and German Duran his number two and number three middle infielders in the game (wow).

Baseball America lists 23 minor leaguers whose peak velocity has been clocked at 98 mph or better. Feliz shows up at 99, while 17-year-old righthander Wilmer Font (the youngest pitcher on the list) comes in at 98.

Yes, Tom Hicks met with Nolan Ryan last week. I certainly don’t mind if this works out — we’re talking about Nolan Freakin’ Ryan — but I’m hopeful that if he does return to the organization, it will be in a strictly business-oriented role, with his baseball input coming into play only if Jon Daniels decides to ask for it (and I expect that in certain situations, he absolutely would).

Dangerous, otherwise, I think. Ryan would be good P.R. for the franchise, and he could be a hugely significant factor in marketing and sponsorships, but I don’t think his presence would improve the way in which the baseball operations department is run. I think the club is in very good hands there, and for the first time in years, it seems, there is a unified direction. Not sure I’d want to mess with that.

Nolan Ryan. Dave Campo. Jason Kidd.

According to Grant, the Rangers declined a Cubs offer of outfielder Matt Murton for outfielder Marlon Byrd, insisting on the addition of one or two Chicago pitching prospects to any deal.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that Texas and Ian Kinsler’s agent Jeff Frye have suspended talks on a possible five-year contract extension with a club option for a sixth season. Such a deal would lock Kinsler up through one year of free agency and possibly two.

I still think the designation for assignment of righthander Armando Galarraga is a little curious, given that he has an option remaining and righthander Robinson Tejeda doesn’t. Maybe Texas feels that Tejeda has found himself again this winter (2-2, 2.96 in five Dominican Winter League regular season starts, a stingy .151/.264/.226 opponents’ line, 25 strikeouts and 15 walks in 27.1 innings; 1-3, 4.03 in the playoffs, 20 hits allowed in 22.1 innings ,23 strikeouts and eight walks). Otherwise it’s hard to imagine he’s anything more than a longshot to win an April job in Texas, which he must do to avoid being lost on waivers or traded.

Mike Hindman tackles the ranking of the Rangers’ top five corner infielders in his blog.

Cool plug from Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

Many of you have asked, and Chuck Morgan, Rush Olson, and Kaylan Eastepp have come through. You can now view the video introduction to the 2008 Rangers season that was shown at Friday night’s Awards Dinner.

Eric Nadel will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Rangers’ April 8 home opener. He’s being honored as he embarks on his 30th year of broadcasting Rangers baseball.

Toronto signed Rod Barajas. Sorta funny, sorta irritating.

Boston signed righthanders Dan Kolb and Dan Miceli to minor league contracts and invited them to big league spring training. Either St. Louis or Pittsburgh signed six-year minor league free agent outfielder Anthony Webster to a minor league deal. Houston signed utility player David Newhan and righthander Ken Chenard. Washington signed outfielder Juan Senreiso (purchasing him from the Laredo Broncos of the independent United League) and righthander Sam Marsonek. The Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League signed righthander Shannon Wirth.

C.J. Wilson is hosting a Guitar Hero 3 Benefit Tournament this Friday, February 1, at the Landing Cafe at the Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters, 2702 Love Field Drive. The event will benefit Cook Children’s Hematology and Oncology Outpatient Treatment Room, where Wilson has undertaken an effort to build a new video game lounge and entertainment room stocked with gaming systems, TV’s, and DVD’s for young patients and their families to enjoy.

You can sign up to compete in the Guitar Hero tournament or just come to watch. Doors open at 6:30, admission is $20 at the door, and there will be food. You’re encouraged to donate any DVD movies (G or PG rated) or XBOX 360 games that you no longer need, and if you’re interested in contributing to the effort, you can make checks payable to the “Texas Rangers Foundation c/o C.J. Wilson.” There will also be opportunities to bid on auction items and get player autographs, and there will be Stars ticket and Southwest airline flight giveaways.

The following weekend, Wilson will appear at Ticketstock to sign autographs. As will Nolan Ryan.

Wouldn’t surprise me if Ryan has something else calendared for his weekend in Dallas, too.

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

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