THE NEWBERG REPORT — FEBRUARY 10, 2008

Make no mistake: Erik Bedard finally landing in Seattle is not a good development in an immediate sense for the Rangers, who visit the Mariners to start the season and are sure to face their two aces, Bedard and Felix Hernandez, on March 31 and April 1.

Texas doesn’t even really get a reprieve in its home-opening series against the Orioles, when Bedard probably wouldn’t have pitched anyway since that three-game set starting on April 8 will include Baltimore’s eighth, ninth, and tenth games, although it’s possible manager Dave Trembley might have skipped the fifth slot on April 5 to get Bedard back on the mound for the series finale in Arlington.

What’s more interesting is that Bedard will face the Orioles twice in April, once in Baltimore on April 5 or April 6, and presumably again in Seattle on April 22.

What’s more discouraging is that Texas and Seattle tee it up 19 times in 2008, and chances are Bedard or Hernandez will start about eight of those games.

But the bigger point is similar to the one that makes the Angels’ signing of Torii Hunter potentially less daunting in the long term than it is right now. As I wrote on November 24:

“Torii Hunter makes the Angels tougher in 2008 than they would have been otherwise, and probably in 2009, too, but that’s about when the Rangers, whose depth in prospects is, for the first time in years, significantly more dangerous (not only in big league potential but also utility in trades) than that of the Angels, should be ready to fight for the division flag that Los Angeles has had a grip on for years.


“What the Angels are able to accomplish between now and then shouldn’t be a huge concern to Rangers fans. Especially if it effectively compromises what the Angels are able to do thereafter.”

The key aspect to the Bedard trade, from a Rangers standpoint, is that, unlike with the Mets and Johan Santana, a contract extension wasn’t a condition of the deal. Seattle controls Bedard in 2008 and 2009. Bedard controls his own future after that.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Adam Jones has a chance to be a great center fielder for years and years, and getting him out of the division is a good thing, particularly if the Mariners don’t manage to lock Bedard up past 2009, when Texas could be right there in terms of the division picture. Check in with the distinguished crew at USSMariner.com to see how unhappy knowledgeable Mariners fans are about this trade. (Start with this post.)

The five-player package Baltimore got for Bedard, headed by Jones, is closer in quality to the quintet the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay in July than it is to the foursome Minnesota got for Santana. Teixeira, Bedard, and Dan Haren each brought more in trade than Santana did.

(And no, if reports from the summer were accurate, Texas could not have traded Teixeira for Bedard. Baltimore wasn’t making the ace lefthander available at the time, or giving any indication that he’d be anything but untouchable this winter.)

Again, I’m not disparaging Bedard. I know he’s never logged 200 innings in a season, has just 40 wins in four full seasons, and spent the final month last year sidelined with a strained oblique muscle. In spite of all of that, there are still fewer than 10 pitchers I’d take ahead of him.

But if Seattle can’t get him extended, this could end up being a good thing for the Rangers in two years.

A solid point made by Newberg Report reader Tommy Doyle, offering one more positive with regard to the hiring of Nolan Ryan as Rangers President: if the Rangers had opted to go outside the organization and ended up hiring a more experienced big league executive to come in and oversee all aspects, including baseball operations, as Ryan will, chances are far greater that the new hire would have wanted to come in and make loud changes. And that’s exactly what doesn’t need to happen to the positive momentum that Jon Daniels and his crew have built.

Ryan won’t come in determined to tinker. His legacy in the game is obviously more than solid enough that he isn’t coming here driven to make a name for himself. He simply comes here wanting to win.

The Rangers’ player development contract with AAA Oklahoma lasts through 2010. The Astros’ deal with AAA Round Rock (principal owner Nolan Ryan; owner/CEO Reid Ryan; owner/CFO Reese Ryan) runs through 2008.

Current Rangers hit .111 lifetime against Ryan. Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Jim Sundberg went 5 for 39, and first base coach Gary Pettis was hitless in six at-bats.

Texas reportedly continues to talk to outfielder Kevin Mench about a non-roster deal but wants an assurance from the 30-year-old that he would report to Oklahoma if he didn’t make the Opening Day roster.

Righthander Omar Beltre made one start for the Caribbean World Series champion Licey Tigers, giving up one run on four hits and no walks in six innings, fanning three. Outfielder Nelson Cruz was the Tigers’ best player, hitting .407/.429/.667 in 27 at-bats over six games, with four doubles and a home run among his 11 hits.

Boston signed righthander Matt Miller to a minor league contract and named Chuck Smith the pitching coach at High A Lancaster and Tom Goodwin a coach with Lowell of the short-season New York-Penn League.

The Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent American Association signed righthander Pat Mahomes.

Scott Lucas put together a really cool “40-man tree,” sort of a genealogy of every player on the Rangers’ roster. Example:

VICENTE PADILLA
—- Ricardo Rodriguez
——– Ryan Ludwick
———— Carlos Pena (1st round, 1998)
———— Mike Venafro (29th round, 1995)

You can find Mike Hindman’s ranking of the Rangers system’s top 10 prospects here.

Grant Schiller has an interview with Travis Metcalf here.

The local papers have their spring training previews out today. Pitchers and catchers in four days. Start your engines.

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

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