Two underrated stars.

Last year at this time, the likelihood of the Rangers being central figures in the trade market was much greater than it is today, not just because the club isn’t hopelessly out of the hunt this time around but also because Texas has fewer obvious trade pieces right now.  On the one hand, it seems unlikely that the Rangers would part with blue-chip prospects for a veteran unless it were an impact player who would be under control for multiple years (not many of those available), and on the other hand, given where the team is right now, there may not be an active effort to trade a veteran who is a key part of the lineup or staff unless the offer is overwhelming.

But seeing national writers report, for instance, that the Yankees are calling about Gerald Laird, that the Dodgers have joined a couple other teams showing interest in Hank Blalock, and that there are any number of contenders that could use Eddie Guardado, and figuring that another gem out of Vicente Padilla tomorrow night could make him as valuable as any starting pitcher on the market, I find myself fired up that A.J. Preller and Don Welke work for my team.

The thing I love about the Yankees, as an example, showing interest in something we have is that I’m comfortable that Preller and Welke probably know New York’s international kids as well as anyone in the Yankees’ own front office.  Slight exaggeration.

When the 2007 season began, 18-year-old righthander Neftali Feliz was ranked by Baseball America as Atlanta’s number 18 prospect (lower than Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones, by the way), having only 29 stateside innings under his belt.  

When the 2007 season began, 17-year-old outfielder Engel Beltre was ranked by Baseball America as Boston’s number 20 prospect.  He had yet to play a pro inning.

Less than four months into the season, they were Rangers property, Feliz after another 27.1 short-season innings, Beltre after a pedestrian 125-at-bat run (.208/.310/.400) in short-season ball.

But it’s not all about what your pro scouts can envision when watching other organization’s kids play Gulf Coast League and Appy League games.  Preller and Welke knew all about Feliz and Beltre well before they signed with the Braves and Red Sox.

Now, that’s not to suggest that those teams didn’t know what they had in Feliz and Beltre (or that other teams weren’t aware of them).  Recall this note from Peter Gammons after the Gagné trade:

“The biggest holdup in the Gagné deal, other than working out his negotiated rights to refuse a deal to Boston, was 17-year-old outfielder Engel Beltre.  When Epstein went to bed at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, he had refused to include Beltre in the trade, so on Tuesday morning, the Rangers still were down to the Brewers ― who were on Gagné’s list of teams to which he could be traded ― and the Red Sox.  But Epstein decided a 17-year-old kid a half-dozen years from the big leagues probably was worth including for a shot to win the World Series.  ‘When Theo called and said he would put Beltre in the deal, it was down to the no-trade language and the paperwork,’ Daniels said.  That paperwork was so complicated that it almost was not completed by the 4 p.m. deadline.”

Let me put this another way.

Even if Texas doesn’t make a major trade in the next seven days, and does nothing except maybe find a new home for Frank Catalanotto, we won’t be getting someone’s Chad Reineke back.

And if Preller and Welke worked for the Padres, they wouldn’t have, either.

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

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