November 2008

Mayberry for Golson, and 40-man roster moves.

Back in 2004, Baseball America predicted that the Rangers would use their two first-round picks on LaGrange High School righthander Homer Bailey (with pick number 10) and Austin Connally High School outfielder Greg Golson (with pick number 30), two University of Texas commits.  

But Bailey was already off the board before the 10th pick, and Texas chose Thomas Diamond.  Golson was gone by time the number 30 pick came around, and the Rangers took Eric Hurley.

Had Bailey and Golson declined first-round money and honored their UT scholarships, they would have been part of a Longhorns freshman class that included Longview High School’s Chris Davis, the third-to-last pick of the entire 2004 draft.  (What Yankees 50th-round offer to sign did Davis turn down?  “PB&J,” says the Rangers first baseman.)

Scouting amateur players is more unpredictable in baseball than in any other major sport.  Just four years ago, the Longhorns’ incoming freshman class included Bailey (the seventh pick in the nation), Golson (the 21st pick), and Davis (the 1,496th pick).  

Would Bailey and Golson have been first-rounders again had they spent three years at Texas?  Maybe.  But they’re not the players today that the Reds and Phillies imagined they were getting in 2004, and Davis, who used two years at Navarro Junior College to move himself into the fifth round, isn’t the same player that the Yankees (2004), Angels (2005), or Rangers (2006) thought he’d become, either.  

One player who was a two-time first-rounder was John Mayberry Jr., whose raw tools, baseball pedigree, Stanford career, and plus makeup promised more than he has delivered as a pro.  Texas used the 19th pick in the 2005 draft on the 6’6″ outfielder, and while he’s shown glimpses of big league talent in his minor league career, he hasn’t met expectations, a description that also fits Golson, whom Philadelphia traded to Texas for Mayberry last night, the deadline to promote minor leaguers to the 40-man roster to shield them from exposure to next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Golson was added to the Phillies’ roster in September, a couple months before Philadelphia would have had to add him or risk losing him.  Texas wasn’t prepared to do the same with Mayberry as the season entered its final month and decided that Golson fits the outfield mix better here.  The Phillies added Mayberry to their 40-man roster upon completing the trade.

Overall, because two former first-rounders are involved, the trade will probably get more attention than it would otherwise.  (This report is probably longer than it should be.)  It’s a classic change-of-scenery deal, one where both teams think they have a chance to unlock a guy who hasn’t quite put it all together.  A trade of two players who ought to benefit from playing in an organization without the buzz of disappointment.

Interestingly, new Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s first trade is for a fellow Stanford product (and a fellow second-generation big leaguer, an outfielder whose father was an infielder).  Amaro starred for the Cardinal in the mid-1980s before getting to the big leagues for parts of eight seasons, getting as many as 200 at-bats only once.  He’s hoping for more out of Mayberry, a .255/.330/.472 hitter in four minor league seasons.  The right-handed power is there (82 home runs) but the consistency hasn’t been.  If it comes around, he might be Pat Burrell’s replacement — probably not in April, if in 2009 at all, but eventually.

While Mayberry was advertised as a Jermaine Dye type coming up, the comp that scouts often attached to Golson, considered the best athlete in the 2004 draft, was Victoria, Texas native Ron Gant.  Golson is considered a five-tool talent, with outstanding range and throwing ability in center field, and good instincts and plus-plus speed in the field and on the bases.

The bat has shown up in spurts — he’s a career .265/.309/.406 hitter who, for every 150 games, averages 30 doubles, eight triples, 14 home runs, and 35 stolen bases (78 percent success rate).  But he also averages 1.2 strikeouts a game, a number that must come down.  (There is progress, though: in his first taste of AA, in 2007, Golson struck out 49 times and drew two walks, giving him a season total between High A and AA of 173 strikeouts, which led the minor leagues.  Back in AA in 2008, he had a less terrifying [but still unacceptable] 130/34 ratio.)

Golson hit .282/.333/.434 for AA Reading this season — a good sign in that his numbers at that level were better across the board than they’d been in his career coming into 2008 — and spent the season’s final month with the World Champions, getting six plate appearances and several pinch-running opportunities.  The 23-year-old struck out four times, failed to get a hit, and stole a base, scoring twice.  

In a Baseball America survey of Eastern League managers and coaches after the season, Golson was tabbed as the circuit’s most exciting player, its best outfield arm, and its fastest runner.  Baseball people rave about his makeup.  The bat is suspect, but so is Mayberry’s, and Golson offers a couple things Mayberry doesn’t, namely, plus defense and the running game.

You can bet that Rangers Senior Director of Baseball Operations Don Welke is very familiar with Golson from his days in the Philadelphia front office, and Rangers area scout Randy Taylor — who presumably had Golson (and Bailey, not to mention Diamond and Davis and Teagarden) in his territory — had an extensive book on Golson as well.  Taylor also coached Mayberry as an amateur, in the Area Code Games.  

Here’s the big thing with this trade.  While Mayberry, even with a step forward, would have been blocked here (he does nothing as well as Nelson Cruz, and chances are that Josh Hamilton will be a full-time corner outfielder in the next few years), and Golson is fairly well blocked with the roster’s current makeup, Texas is creating a second key area of inventory.  The Rangers haven’t capitalized yet on their depth at catcher, but they will.  They’re building sizable depth in center field as well, with Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, and Julio Borbon capable of playing the position, and Engel Beltre (plus David Paisano, to a lesser extent) developing on the farm.  

It’s more strength up the middle, which could make the Rangers’ ability to close a trade for pitching a little more interesting than it was yesterday.

Yesterday I wrote, in reaction to an MLB.com article noting that the Red Sox are looking for a fourth outfielder who hits right-handed and can handle center field: “I doubt Texas would be interested in expanding a deal with Boston to include Marlon Byrd, but he sure would seem to fit what the Sox seek.”

Do we like Golson enough to now listen to offers for Byrd?  Jon Daniels acknowledged to reporters yesterday that outfield is “an area that we’ve been asked about” in trade talks.  Golson’s not any more a candidate to play big league baseball in April than Borbon is, but Byrd is in his final arbitration year and thus is very likely to be somewhere else in 2010, when he’ll rightfully seek his first multi-year deal at age 32.  If the right trade opportunity presents itself now, are the Rangers more comfortable with their overall center field picture?  

The trade of Mayberry, interestingly, didn’t ease the Rangers’ 40-man roster movement, but the designation for assignment of Kameron Loe — who is on his way to Japan — and Wes Littleton did.  Both righthanders were out of options and, at best, were going to have opportunities to compete for middle relief spots in camp.  

Loe, 27, joins the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, getting a guaranteed $900,000 for 2009.  The Hawks have a $1 million option for 2010,
with a $200,000 buyout.  Love this opportunity for Loe, who will reportedly get the chance again to be a starter.  As a first-time arbitration-eligible, there’s a real chance that Loe would have been non-tendered, left to hunt around for a AAA job that would have paid less than 10 percent of what he’ll make in Japan.  There’s no reason he can’t go deal for the Hawks, which should be a really cool experience, and earn a chance to come back to the States and pitch in the big leagues again.

Littleton, 26, will likely be placed on waivers at some point in the next week, and if he clears, Texas will outright his contract to AAA (and since it would be his first outright assignment, he won’t be able to decline it).  Chances are good that he will clear, since teams have all maneuvered in the last few days to clear enough space for the addition of their own minor leaguers to their 40-man rosters.  Outrights aren’t a death sentence.  Texas got Byrd through waivers at the end of spring training 2007, when he was out of options and couldn’t break into the Rangers’ outfield picture.  Look at his career now.

The removal of Loe and Littleton left four open spots on the 40-man roster, and Texas filled them all, purchasing the contracts of infielder Jose Vallejo and righthanders Willie Eyre, John Bannister, and Omar Poveda.

Pedro Strop was the one player I predicted would land a spot but didn’t.  I thought Eyre and Poveda had shots but could get caught up in a numbers game.  Vallejo was a lock, and Bannister was the one whose buzz was so loud over the last two months that I couldn’t leave him off my list.

Coming off of spring 2007 Tommy John surgery, the righthander was decent in 2008, going 4-6, 4.14 with two saves for Bakersfield and 1-0, 4.56 with one save for Frisco (though the ERA was 2.77 in his second stint with the RoughRiders, after a mid-season demotion to the Blaze), with command issues you’d expect from a pitcher coming back from that sort of layoff.  But by season’s end and in the fall, he was complementing the plus curve he’s always had with a fastball getting comfortably into the mid-90s and touching 98, and that’s exactly the type of player who gets taken in Rule 5.

Bannister’s Arizona Fall League results weren’t especially good (5.00 ERA, three home runs allowed in 18 innings), but he fanned 19 in 18 innings and induced more groundouts than flyouts, as he’s always done.  He’ll go to camp with Texas, and while he’s a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, he’s absolutely a candidate to show up in Arlington sometime in 2009.

Eyre is coming back from 2007 Tommy John surgery as well.  The Rangers signed the 30-year-old to a minor league deal last October, knowing that he’d be rehabbing for the duration of the contract.  Despite a 6.49 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, his first action in nearly a year and a half, reports are that he was throwing very well, and Texas wanted to make sure to hang onto him since the club considers him in the mix for a big league bullpen spot.

Vallejo, perhaps the fastest player in the organization — possessing game-changing speed that he’s very effective with — made offensive strides in 2008 (.292/.345/.415 between Bakersfield and Frisco, with 42 steals in 46 tries and 166 hits, which was 12th most in the minor leagues) and will see time all over the infield at Oklahoma City in 2009, transitioning from a fulltime second baseman to a utility infielder candidate.

Poveda went 4-4, 4.47 in 17 Bakersfield starts this season, at age 20, with nearly 10 strikeouts and under four walks per nine innings.  He’s not ready, but Texas decided there was too much upside there to risk another team drafting and keeping him.  Starting pitching remains priority one here, and the potential of losing Poveda was too great a risk not to add him to the roster.

So Texas adds four players to the roster, but keep in mind that four others who would have been Rule 5-eligible for the first time this winter already joined the roster during the season — 2005 college draftees Taylor Teagarden, German Duran, and Doug Mathis and the 2004 high school draftee Hurley — and Davis and Tommy Hunter joined the roster one and two years early, respectively.  

With the roster now full, of course, space will have to be cleared if the Rangers sign a big league free agent or trade for more roster members than they give up.  

I suppose it can’t be ruled out that Greg Golson could himself be part of the trade activity that, going forward, is sure to be the story of the winter for this franchise.  This deal gets things started, but when the trucks are packed up to head out to Surprise, it will probably be no more than a footnote — or a means to a greater end.

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

40-man roster decisions due today.

The Rangers, having reinstated Ian Kinsler and Kason Gabbard to the roster in the last few days (transferring them from the 60-day disabled list), now have 37 players on the 40-man roster.  Today is the deadline to supplement it with minor leaguers eligible for next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

In the 2009 Bound Edition, which comes out in about two weeks, I predict that Texas will add infielder Jose Vallejo, outfielder John Mayberry Jr., and righthanders Pedro Strop and John Bannister to the roster today.  But in 10 years of handicapping the annual 40-man roster conundrum, I’ve never had a more difficult time making this prediction.  It’s not going to be easy any more, not with the progress the organization has made in building prospect depth.

Vallejo is a lock.  Nobody else is, for various reasons that I’ve already discussed in this space (and lay out in more detail in the book).  It wouldn’t surprise me if Omar Poveda or Willie Eyre were to get a roster nod.  But there’s not room for six additions — and there’s not even room for four.

So it wouldn’t surprise me if one or two of the group including Gabbard, Luis Mendoza, Kameron Loe, and Wes Littleton — the latter two of whom are out of options — could find their own roster spots in jeopardy today.  All four could be outrighted if they clear waivers, but Mendoza could refuse an outright and take free agency since he’s been outrighted before.

We’ll know soon enough, and I’ll hit you with a flash when the moves are reported.

Boston’s trade of Coco Crisp to Kansas City for Ramon Ramirez should make a Red Sox trade with Texas more likely.  Understand that I’m not suggesting a Boston-Texas trade *will* go down, but it would seem that the odds are now better.  

The reason is that Ramirez joins a set-up crew that includes Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima, both of whom are proven in high-leverage relief situations.  That either relegates Justin Masterson to a middle relief role, which may be inadequate in terms of his value to the club, or increases his trade availability, or makes him a rotation candidate (as he was groomed to be on the farm).  

The problem with the third possibility is that Boston has Daisuke Matsuzaka under contract through 2012, Josh Beckett under contract through 2010 (assuming the club option is picked up), and Jon Lester under control through 2012, plus Tim Wakefield on a year-to-year option, and the Sox are rumored to be in on A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe as well.  Masterson may or may not figure in, but if his big league candidacy is now as a starter, then if he’s not someone Boston wants to trade, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden ought to become a bit more available.

That doesn’t mean the Red Sox would trade any of those young pitchers for less than they would have a week ago.  But the trade for Ramirez ought to make one of those pitchers more likely to be moved, even if just slightly.

Ian Browne of MLB.com adds that the trade of Crisp has Boston looking for a fourth outfielder, preferably one who hits right-handed and can handle center field.  I doubt Texas would be interested in expanding a deal with Boston to include Marlon Byrd, but he sure would seem to fit what the Sox seek.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has arrived in the Dominican Winter League and has played three straight nights for Escogido (the last two behind the plate), hitting .400/.500/.800 in 10 at-bats.  He homered, doubled, and walked two nights ago.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated suggests new Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu could bring Mark Connor aboard as his pitching coach.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that Rick Peterson, who coached in the White Sox system when Wakamatsu was a player, could be a fit.

Newsday’s Kat O’Brien writes that Texas is one of at least half a dozen teams that has expressed interest in Lowe.

According to Baseball America, Texas released 38-year-old righthander Yukinaga Maeda, who went 5-3, 4.55 in middle relief with Oklahoma this season.

The White Sox claimed righthander Kelvin Jimenez off waivers from Toronto, which had claimed the 28-year-old off waivers from St. Louis earlier this month.

Oakland named Marcus Jensen manager of its Arizona League entry.

Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Bobby Jones is the inaugural winner of the Mike Coolbaugh Award, which is given to an individual in minor league baseball that “has shown an outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game, and skill in mentoring young players.”  Coolbaugh passed away in July 2007 when struck by a line drive while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers.  Jones — who managed Coolbaugh in Tulsa in 1996 — will be presented with the award at the December 8-11 Winter Meetings.

The high bid on the Guitar Hero guitar controller signed by C.J. Wilson is at $425, and bidding closes at 5 p.m. on Friday.  Email me if you wish to bid.  Go here to check on the bid status: http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6830

Stay tuned for news on the Rangers’ roster changes later today.

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

Stuff.

Nothing
official yet, but (1) word out of Seattle is that the Mariners will name former
Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu as their new manager, and (2) word out of
Kansas City is that the Royals have obtained outfielder Coco Crisp from Boston for
reliever Ramon Ramirez, a set-up type (and former Rangers farmhand) that I was
hoping we could land. 

 

Back in August,
I’d proposed this deal with the Royals: (a) Jarrod Saltalamacchia, (b) Matt Harrison
or Eric Hurley, (c) John Mayberry Jr. or Nelson Cruz, (d) Joaquin Arias, and (e)
Zach Phillips (or Carlos Pimentel or Miguel De Los Santos or Geuris Grullon or
Julio Santana or Matt Nevarez, whichever lower-level minor league pitcher our bunkmates
in Surprise preferred) for Zack Greinke and Ramirez, who probably figures in now
as a seventh-inning man in Boston.

 

It will be
interesting to see what the Sox do with Justin Masterson.

 

Congrats to
Wakamatsu, a really good dude.

 

The high
bid on the Guitar Hero guitar controller signed by C.J. Wilson is now $425.  Email me if you wish to bid.  Go here to check on the bid status: http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6830

 

And I forgot
to mention that, as always, we will collect new, unwrapped toys at the December
10 Book Release Party in conjunction with the Rangers’ Toys for Tots Drive.

 

The deadline
to add internal non-roster players to the 40-man roster is tomorrow.  We’ll catch up then, if not sooner.

 

Jamey

 

 

 

 

Patience.

If you’re frustrated when you see trades reported that don’t involve Texas, and other teams rumored to have floated landmark free agent contract offers, or when you see quotes from Jon Daniels or Nolan Ryan suggesting that the Rangers aren’t going to get involved with the top tier of free agents and that the plan is to let things settle down before jumping squarely into the mix, consider that, at this time last year, Texas was still two and a half weeks away from its first big league move of the off-season.

Freddy Guzman to Detroit for Chris Shelton.

Last winter’s activity:

Dec. 5:  Guzman for Shelton
Dec. 12: Tug Hulett for Ben Broussard
Dec. 21: Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera for Josh Hamilton
Jan. 3: Milton Bradley signs
Jan. 11: Eddie Guardado signs
Jan. 14: Kaz Fukumori signs
Jan. 25: Jason Jennings signs

Patience is prescribed.  Last year’s Hamilton trade, which Daniels has said survived countless discussions and dozens of versions, took time.  Bradley (an opportunistic strike when it looked like he was on the verge of re-signing with San Diego) and Guardado would have cost more earlier in the winter.  

Given where the Rangers have set their budget, waiting for the market to play out is necessary, not only because demands will come down in many situations but also because the passage of time will create opportunities that may not be there right now.

It’s a great time of year for a serious baseball fan, having an off-season ticket to the always fascinating hot stove game, but for most teams it’s more like an NBA game than anything else.  Plenty can happen at any given time, but the fourth quarter is when the real action stands to take place.

In the meantime, mark your calendars for the evening of Wednesday, December 10, which is when the Newberg Report Book Release Party will be, with guests Jeff Zimmerman and Derek Holland (plus a third surprise guest, which I may or may not reveal in advance).  I’ve got a bead on the location, and should have that nailed down in the next two days.

And do yourself a favor and follow friends Joey Matschulat, Jason Parks, and John Vittas over to this morning’s launch of Baseball Time in Arlington — http://www.bbtia.com — a relocation of their similarly named blog at MVN.  I’ve read their work long enough to know you won’t be disappointed.  Give Jason’s Michael Main interview (now posted) a read, and you’ll have a greater appreciation of the 19-year-old righthander.  Guaranteed.  Main is going to be a big part of things in Arlington.  

Soon enough.

Just draw on some of that patience.

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

Newberg Report Bound Edition: Sample feature

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THE 2009 BOUND EDITION OF THE NEWBERG REPORT

 

09frontcover.jpg

 

Reminder
– if you pay for your 2009 Bound Edition by November 15 (this Saturday), the
price is reduced from $25 to $23.

 

Also,
if you buy at least two 2009 books, you get a free copy of any previous year’s
edition (your choice).

 

And
a gift set of all ten Bound Editions is available for $125, which is a
$35 discount.

 

To
order, you can pay by credit card at www.PayPal.com, sending payment to the gjsneaker@sbcglobal.net
account.  That should take about 30
seconds, or even less if you use this shortcut: http://tinyurl.com/6ndb8m

 

Or
you can send payment by check or money order to:

 

Jamey
Newberg

Vincent
& Moyé, P.C.

2001 Bryan Street,
Suite 2000

Dallas, TX
75201

 

For
a teaser, here is one of the 72 position-by-position prospect features that
appears in the front of the book, in conjunction with my ranking of the top 72 prospects
in the Rangers system:

 

 

 

Michael Main, RHP

 

After making what
amounted to three rehab appearances in Surprise as he was coming back from a
ribcage injury that cost him half the season, righthander Michael Main was
assigned in early July to Clinton,
where he logged 45.1 innings for the year.  

 

To give you some
perspective, Roy Halladay had a heavier workload (49.2 innings) in April
alone.  C.C. Sabathia worked more innings
in both July (47.2) and August (48.1). 

 

Sidney Ponson racked up more innings in
May (46.1) for Texas than Main
did as a LumberKing.

 

Main
didn’t pitch a lot in 2008, but what he did with his 10 Midwest League starts
was remarkable.  At age 19, pitching
against significantly older competition, he posted a 2.58 ERA, never allowing
more than three earned runs, and he set 50 hitters down on strikes in those
45.1 innings, issuing only 13 walks. 

 

But it’s what the
stat pages don’t show that has the Rangers as excited as they are about the Florida native.  Aside from the mid-90s fastball and sharp
curve, the consistency, and the athleticism that made him a top center field
prospect in some clubs’ eyes, Main earns raves
for his makeup, his tenacity, and his coachability.  Following the season, Rangers Minor League Pitching
Coordinator Rick Adair told Mike Hindman of the Dallas Morning News, regarding Main:
“Mentally he’s easily the most polished guy out of high school I’ve ever been
around.  The only comparison I can think
of is [Adam] Wainwright when I had him.”

 

Wainwright came
out of high school in 2000.

 

Tim Hudson logged
268 minor league innings (24-10, 3.22) before he reached the big leagues at age
23.  Bret Saberhagen needed only 187
innings on the farm (16-7, 2.55) before getting to Kansas City at age 20.  They’re probably the two pitchers to whom
Main (5-4, 2.91 over 86.2 pro innings) is most often compared.  Does Main need 100 more innings before
arriving in the big leagues with a pro workload similar to Saberhagen’s?  Probably. 
But maybe not.

 

Main
is a man who, along with fellow high school righthander Neil Ramirez, the
Rangers drafted as compensation for the loss of Gary Matthews Jr.  As lopsided as that exchange looks right now,
just wait until we look back at it in another year.

 

 

 

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Jamey  

 

 

Hey, the Rangers and Red Sox could make a trade!

 

This, from Tony Massarotti
in this morning’s
Boston
Globe
, would be foolish to summarize. 
Here it is in its entirety:

 

Here is a look at some teams that could be
a “fit” for the Sox come trade time, starting with the most
obvious:

 

Texas Rangers . The Rangers need pitching and have
catching to deal, which makes them the ideal trade partner for the Sox on this
year’s market.  Quite simply, there is no better fit.  Texas has four catchers
on its 40-man roster — Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden
and Max Ramirez — and one major league evaluator recently suggested that the
Rangers would be willing to deal two of them (so long as Ramirez is one of the
two).

 

That leaves Laird, Teagarden, and
Saltalamacchia as the centerpiece of any deal.

 

Clearly, if the Sox wanted Laird, they
could easily get him.  The defensively skilled Teagarden (who is also blessed
with power) and the hyped Saltalamacchia are more desirable targets that will
cost more, though Epstein and his baseball operations staff understand the
difficulty in finding good young catching.  If the Red Sox ever were to give up
a top pitching prospect like Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden or Justin Masterson
— the last is unlikely — this is precisely the kind of deal that would inspire
them to do it.

 

So why hasn’t a deal been struck yet?  As
every executive likes to say at this time of year, there are a lot of “moving
parts.”  If the Red Sox can upgrade their offense significantly on the free
agent market, they can make a lesser trade (Laird?) and keep their pitching
prospects because the rest of their lineup would allow them to carry a mediocre
catcher.  At the same time, if the Sox lose on someone like Mark Teixeira, the
cost for Saltalamacchia or Teagarden could go
up.

 

Incidentally, Massarotti also notes
that Boston tried to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from
Texas before he was shipped to San Diego three winters
ago.

 

The Rangers’ Off-Season Conditioning
Camp is underway at the Ballpark, with pitchers Mike Ballard, Thomas Diamond,
Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Eric
Hurley, Doug Mathis, and Josh Rupe in
attendance.

 

Joaquin Arias is on his way from
Arlington back to the Dominican
Republic, where he’ll test his improved arm
strength by playing shortstop in the Dominican Winter League.  Scott Servais and
A.J. Preller will reportedly be on hand to monitor Arias’s
progress.

 

Matt Holliday is a career
.280/.348/.455 hitter away from Coors Field.  That’s somewhere between what
Marlon Byrd and David Murphy did in 2008.  (Yes, I know the home ballpark helped
Byrd’s and Murphy’s numbers.  Still.)

 

Will Colorado flip Huston
Street?

 

Speaking of which: Street, Carlos
Gonzalez, and Greg Smith?  Or Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Harrison, Saltalamacchia, and
Beau Jones?  The latter, if you prefer it, will cost you a Ron
Mahay.

 

Free agent righthander Brian Gordon
has three consecutive scoreless starts for La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter
League.  In those three starts, the 30-year-old has scattered 12 hits and three
walks in 19 innings, punching out 16.

 

Justin Smoak is a .405/.488/.649
hitter in the Arizona Fall League.  He’s good at
baseball.

 

The Rangers have re-signed minor
league free agent righthander Kendy Batista, who posted a 3.76 ERA in relief for
Frisco and Oklahoma last
year.

 

Don Wakamatsu and DeMarlo Hale are
among those who will interview for Seattle’s managerial
vacancy.

 

Chris Davis and Murphy lead the
group of Rangers rookies to be completely shut out of the American League Rookie
of the Year vote.  Not one Ranger with so much as a third-place
vote.

 

Edinson Volquez was no longer a
rookie in 2008, and yet he finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the
Year vote.

 

And the league is apparently letting
it count.

 

Impressive.

 

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

Texas signs Pedro Strop.

According to Jack Etkin of the Rocky Mountain News, the Rangers have signed righthander a 23-year-old shortstop-turned-reliever Pedro Strop — maybe as much as a month and a half ago — after Colorado snuck him off the 40-man roster to make room for Todd Helton to return to the active roster for what ended up being two pinch-hit at-bats, before the 35-year-old was shut down again and then operated on for a bulging disk in his lower back.  

The Rockies designated Strop — who had June surgery for a stress fracture in his right elbow — for assignment on September 12.  The rules say that, during the season (other than with 10 or fewer days left on the schedule), a team has only two choices when designating an injured player for assignment: if he’s not claimed on waivers, the team must trade or release him.  An injured player can’t be outrighted during the season.  

Not a smart move by Colorado, who released Strop on September 19, presumably thinking of it as nothing but a paperwork move, with the intention of turning around and re-signing the reliever to a minor league contract.  On September 23, he became a free agent, and Etkin reports that Strop was “immediately” signed by the Rangers, who were “relentless,” according to the Dominican’s former agent.  

Led by assistant general manager Thad Levine, who was with the Rockies when they signed Strop as a 17-year-old and who left for the Rangers right at the time that Colorado had decided to transition Strop to the mound, Texas swarmed right in — reminiscent of the club’s opportunistic signing of outfielder-turned-reliever Warner Madrigal last November — and signed Strop to a minor league contract (so no impact on the 40-man roster, unlike Madrigal) for a reported $90,000.

Strop (pronounced “strope”) is expected to be sidelined until sometime after the beginning of spring training.

In his first four pro seasons (2002 through 2005), Strop hit .212 with no power or speed and more than a strikeout per game, and never got out of Low Class A.  Colorado moved him to the mound, and the results were instantly eye-opening.  In 13 innings for Casper of the rookie-level Pioneer League in 2006, Strop brandished a mid-90s fastball with late life, a plus slider, and a nasty splitter, giving him (as Baseball America described it) “three swing-and-miss pitches.”  In those 13 innings, he scattered nine hits (.188 opponents’ average) and two walks, striking out 22 and giving up only three runs (2.08 ERA).  In a final-month promotion to Low A Asheville, he posted a 4.73 ERA but held opponents to 10 hits (.213 average) and five walks in 13.1 innings, fanning 13.

The Rockies left him off the 40-man roster that fall but not without holding their breath, according to some accounts.  He ended up undrafted via Rule 5, however.

In 2007, assigned to High A Modesto, Strop went 5-2, 4.28 as the Nuts’ closer, saving seven games in nine attempts.  Over 54.2 innings, he allowed 43 hits (.215 opponents’ average) and walked 28 unintentionally, setting an astonishing 75 hitters down on strikes and maintaining a positive 1.25 groundout-to-flyout rate.  His splits were relatively even, as he held right-handed hitters to a .224/.316/.362 line and lefties to a .202/.323/.321 line.

The Rockies took no chances last winter, adding him to the 40-man roster this time to shield him from Rule 5 exposure.  In the spring he was assigned to AA Tulsa, having been ranked over the winter by BA (“along with Manny Corpas and Casey Weathers, he gives the Rockies three strong closer options for the future”) as Colorado’s number nine prospect and a candidate to reach the big leagues during the season.  But two weeks into April, after seven appearances (three saves in four tries, two runs [2.57 ERA] on six hits [.231 opponents' average] and four walks in seven innings, with seven strikeouts), he was diagnosed with the stress fracture in his elbow and didn’t return.

While it won’t happen early in 2009, Strop has a chance to eventually factor in here.  

More good work by your baseball operations department.

Jamey

Morning (TROT) COFFEY.

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(* Trade Rumor Offerings To
Chew On For Fun, Even Yuks)

 

Not
to be confused with journeyman righthander Todd Coffey, the TROT COFFEY is a
mailing list-only update on what the media has unearthed at various busy times
of year, such as the July and August trade deadlines, the GM Meetings, and the
Winter Meetings:

 

A little Saturday
morning COFFEY, which I need myself more than usual since I arrived at a conclusion
45 minutes ago that only a parent of eight- and four-year-olds can conceivably arrive
at, that whoever wrote the “High School Musical” song “We’re All in This Together”
seems to have thieved parts of the melody from the theme song to “Full House”
(yes, it’s in syndication, and suddenly a stopdown for my daughter), a disturbing
conclusion to be sure, disturbing primarily in that the analysis even took
place in my decaying brain.  Gimme some
baseball.

 

  • One local reporter suggests
    that Boston, Florida, and Detroit make up the top tier of contenders to
    trade pitching to the Rangers for a catcher, with Kansas City, San
    Francisco, the Mets, and Cincinnati as fringe suitors, and the Yankees as a
    longshot.

 

  • The same reporter believes the
    Rangers prefer the potentially available young pitchers from Boston in this order: Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and
    Justin Masterson, while the Red Sox prioritize the Texas catchers as follows: Taylor
    Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Gerald Laird.

 

  • The same reporter believes the
    Marlins are interested in Teagarden, Saltalamacchia, and Max Ramirez, but
    not Laird, and while they are pushing Scott Olsen and Kevin Gregg, Texas will
    probably try to redirect talks toward Ricky Nolasco or Andrew Miller,
    either of whom would take more than just a catcher to acquire – the reporter
    proposes Saltalamacchia or Teagarden plus Neftali Feliz for Nolasco and
    left-handed reliever Renyel Pinto, which just gave me a stomach ache.

 

  • The same reporter points out
    that Detroit lacks the young pitching Texas would need in a catcher trade,
    suggesting that perhaps Laird plus a pitching prospect could fetch Jeremy
    Bonderman, unless Texas would consider Laird for Nate Robertson, the latter
    of which just gave me a stomach ache.

 

  • The same reporter suggests that
    Cincinnati
    seemed interested at one point in a Laird for Homer Bailey trade, but the
    fact that Bailey finished the season hurt might gum that possibility up. 

 

  • Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty has
    visited with the Rangers regarding their catchers, and if Bailey is available
    at all, it won’t be for a “quick fix” – I’m not sure if the two points are
    related (John Fay of the
    Cincinnati Enquirer)

 

  • The Braves are now in on Olsen
    . . . and I hope they get him (Scott Miller of CBSSports.com)

 

  • The Rangers, along with the
    Angels, Mets, and Tigers, have asked to look at reliever Chad Cordero’s
    medical records . . . the former closer’s first choice is to pitch for the
    Angels (Bill Ladson of MLB.com)

 

  • The Mets are shopping relievers
    Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, and Pedro Feliciano, and Texas is interested
    in at least Heilman (Ken Davidoff of
    Newsday)

 

  • The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that an anonymous
    baseball source is saying “there’s no way Bud [Selig] and the owners are
    going to let” Mark Cuban buy the Cubs. 
    “Zero chance,” says the source.

 

  • There are evidently two
    external candidates for San Diego’s
    vacated television play-by-play gig – Josh Lewin and Victor Rojas, though both
    are under contract with the Rangers (Jay Posner of the
    San Diego
    Union-Tribune
    )

 

 

 

 

Some notes:

 

Atlanta named Dom Chiti special assistant
to general manager Frank Wren.  Chiti
pitched for five seasons in the Braves’ minor league system 30 years ago.  Among the other special assistants the Braves
employ are Jim Fregosi and Chuck McMichael.

 

Pittsburgh hired Perry Hill to coach first
base.  Milwaukee named Brad Fischer third base
coach.

 

Texas reportedly hired Mike Maddux without
needing a face-to-face meeting. 

 

Davidoff
notes that the Mets have dismissed scout (and former Chicago Bulls GM) Jerry
Krause, who sat 10 feet away from me at an August or September Rangers game and
is a very, very oddly shaped man.

 

According
to MLB.com, right-handed reliever Kazuo Fukumori signed a minor league contract
to return to the Rangers.

 

According to
local reports, Scott Servais said the Rangers will be the sixth organization in
baseball to employ a full-time strength and conditioning coach at every minor
league level.

 

The Rangers’
minor league free agents, according to
Baseball America: righthanders Kiko Calero, Brian Gordon, Trey Hodges, Jose
Jaimes, Brandon Puffer, Elizardo Ramirez, and Steven Rowe; lefthanders Derek
Lee, Raul Mayora, Zach Parker, John Rheinecker, and Bill White; catchers Tim
Gradoville, Justin Pickett, and Nick Trzesniak; first basemen Nate Gold and Jason
Hart (who is now coaching in the system), and infielder Drew Meyer.

 

The Lincoln
Saltdogs of the independent American Association named Marty Scott manager.  Scott served briefly as the Mets’ interim AAA
manager in New Orleans
last season.

 

There are
now links on the right side of the front page of www.NewbergReport.com to the cover story
that the
Dallas
Observer
did on the Newberg
Report four years ago, and to the
Observer‘s “Fab 50″ Most Powerful People in Metroplex Sports rankings
for 2006, 2007, and 2008.

 

Also, if
you click the image on the front page of the 2009 Bound Edition, you’ll be sent
to a page that gives you almost-full details on the book – all it lacks is the
added special that if you buy at least two copies of the book, you’ll get a
free copy of any previous year’s volume, your choice.

 

As for the
$2 discount special on the 2009 book, that one expires in one week.

 

Should have
final details on the site for the December 10 Book Release Party this week.  Stay tuned.

 

Jamey

 

 

Winner.

I know it wasn’t Michael Young’s best season defensively.  I saw it.

I’m not a metrics guy when it comes to baseball defense, though in Young’s Gold Glove case relying on the numbers, at least some of them, might not have hurt.  He had the American League’s highest fielding percentage at shortstop (trailing only National League Gold Glove winner Jimmy Rollins), led baseball in double plays, and was second in assists and total chances.  You can find a fancy formula like John Dewan’s “revised zone ratings,” which I’m told tabbed Young as the league’s number one shortstop in terms of defensive efficiency.

But in terms of baseball defense, I rely more on my eyes, and yeah, I saw the first-step and range issues.  His dependability was in his ability to make the routine play, and turn two.  What Young lacks in flashiness, he makes up for in steadiness.  And really, that’s true in every aspect of his game, and his character.

He’s going to change positions at some point.  It may be this year, it may be next year, it may be after that.  It’s going to happen, and I suspect he knows it, and understands it.  There’s some merit to the Paul Molitor comp.

And when it happens, the former runner-up Gold Glove second baseman (who should have won) and current Gold Glove shortstop will probably be in the mix to win a Gold Glove at third base.

Especially since he presumably won’t be playing with a fractured finger on his glove hand, and a fractured finger on his throwing hand.  If the Gold Glove is hollowed out, someone ought to shove a splint inside.

Those of you who rely primarily on numbers (and I don’t disparage that — it’s just not my thing on defense) will say Young is an undeserving Gold Glover.  Maybe so.  But I’m not really into baseball awards, for one (MVP awards and Gold Gloves and even All-Star Games aren’t that big a deal to me), and on top of that, the reason yesterday’s recognition was meaningful to me was not because I’d been holding my breath, counting the days until the announcement, but instead because, as a fan of Michael Young for what he brings to the plate and to the field and to the dugout and the clubhouse and the community, I think I know how much it means to him.

That’s because of two things: (1) like last week’s Man of the Year Award and this summer’s All-Star Game nod, the Gold Glove was awarded not because of a set of numbers but because his peers (managers and coaches, in this case) thought he deserved it, a sign of ultimate respect; and (2) when others say he can’t, Michael Young does.  

I’m not objective about Young, and neither was the process that led to this award.  As the first shortstop in the history of award to win a Gold Glove after starting earlier in his career at a different position, I do believe he’s going to a third baseman at some point — and a very good one — but for now, good for him.  

He’s a winner.

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

Catching up.

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Catcher Talk
dominates.

 

  • Lots of Florida speculation. 
    There are multiple reports that the Marlins have expressed interest in Jarrod
    Saltalamacchia and Max Ramirez, and that they are trying to move Scott Olsen, a
    big 24-year-old lefthander with three-plus years of big league experience
    (31-37, 4.63), before they’ll consider shopping any of their bigger rotation
    names who might eventually be available (such as Ricky Nolasco) (various local
    reports, plus Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, and Clark Spencer of the
    Miami Herald, who I don’t think
    is the same Clark Spencer who played baseball with me at
    Hillcrest)

 

  • For what it’s worth,
    I guess I don’t mind taking a chance on Olsen, despite his checkered off-field
    history, but I’m not crazy about the idea of moving one of our catchers for
    him.  His strikeout rates are going in the wrong direction, and his hittability
    and home run rates aren’t good-looking.  There’s some merit in buying low on a
    young pitcher who has shown promise in the past at the big league level – that’s
    one area where Mike Maddux can make an impact – but I’m not sure how much better
    Olsen can be expected to be over the next few years than a few of the young
    starters that we’ve gotten to Arlington and several more who are getting close
    to beating down the door.

 

  • If Cleveland is after Olsen, I wonder what we could get from
    the Indians in a three-way deal that sends Ramirez to Florida.

 

  • The Rangers are also
    talking to Florida about reliever Kevin Gregg
    (Rogers)

 

  • Boston continues to
    have interest in Saltalamacchia (who is now throwing from 120 feet and could
    head off to winter ball in a couple weeks to prove his health) and Taylor
    Teagarden (who I still maintain is probably closest of our four catchers to
    untouchable), while the Red Sox are “pretty split organizationally” on Gerald
    Laird.  Texas is reportedly interested in
    Boston
    righthanders Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, plus, I suspect, Justin Masterson
    (various local reports, plus Rosenthal, Ken Davidoff of Newsday, and Nick Cafardo and Tony
    Massarotti of the Boston
    Globe
    )

 

  • Milwaukee and Kansas City may no longer
    be in the mix for a Rangers catcher (one local report)

 

  • On the other hand,
    the Brewers are included in a note regarding the availability of Rangers
    catchers suggesting that Boston, Detroit, and Cincinnati are in need of help at the position
    (Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain
    Dealer
    )

 

  • Significant in terms
    of the marketability of the Rangers’ catchers: the Dodgers are now saying
    Russell Martin is not available
    (Keith Law of ESPN)

 

  • If Zack Greinke
    isn’t receptive to a long-term contract extension, Kansas City would make him
    available in trade (Law)

 

  • The Rangers are
    among several teams expected to be in on free agent closer Brian Fuentes (Jon
    Heyman of Sports Illustrated, who
    also suggested Texas will end up with Francisco
    Rodriguez)

 

  • Rangers Director of
    Pacific Rim Operations Jim Colborn will be in Japan
    next week to scout 33-year-old righthanders Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawamaki and
    22-year-old righty Junichi Tazawa (one local report)

 

  • The Angels are trying to get a deal
    done with Mark Teixeira before next Thursday, the last day on which teams have
    the exclusive right to negotiate with their own free agents – after that, “the
    team might go in a completely different direction” (to which I say, “Mr. Boras,
    do your thing – hold out!”) (Rosenthal) 

 

 

 

salt2.jpg

 

A few other
notes:

 

Mike Maddux’s contract is evidently for two
guaranteed years and a club option for a third, and reportedly for “more than
$500,000″ per year, while Milwaukee had offered him something just short
of $500,000 per year after having paid him $450,000 annually until his contract
expired last week.  Maddux’s annual deal is, according to a local report, among
the three highest of any pitching coach in the game (but it sounds like he was
already in that territory with the Brewers).  St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan makes
$750,000 per year.

 

Director of Player Development Scott
Servais will head to the Rangers’ Dominican Republic Academy next week, and among his
objectives is to assess the progress Joaquin Arias is making with his arm
strength.  Arias could report to the Dominican Winter League
soon.

 

Servais will also assist bench coach Jackie
Moore in working with the club’s catchers in 2009.

 

Jose Vallejo, as noted before, will likely
move around the infield in 2009, with an eye toward helping the major league
club eventually as a super utility player with plus speed.  He’s a lock to be
added to the 40-man roster later this month.

 

The Rangers are bringing a dozen young
pitchers to Arlington this month for a conditioning camp
and again in January for a pitchers’ mini-camp.  Among the invitees are Derek
Holland, Neftali Feliz, Brandon McCarthy, Eric Hurley, Doug Mathis, and Tommy
Hunter.

 

Texas won’t
officially exercise Hank Blalock’s $6.2 million option until visiting with him
face-to-face in the next few days.

 

The Rangers intend to discuss a long-term
contract with Josh Hamilton but, in keeping with the organization’s custom,
probably not until January.

 

According to Baseball America, Texas has re-signed a
number of its minor league free agents: pitchers A.J. Murray, Joselo Diaz,
Adalberto Flores, and Alfredo Gonzalez, and catcher Kevin Richardson.  Nowhere
on that list is infielder Drew Meyer.

 

The Phillies fired third base coach Steve
Smith.  Interesting.

 

Toronto claimed
righthander Kelvin Jimenez and lefthander Les Walrond off
waivers.

 

The White Sox released catcher Billy
Killian.  Seattle released lefthander Michael
Wagner.

 

Bill James projects Chris Davis (age 22,
making $400,000) to hit .302 with 40 home runs and 118 RBI in
2009.

 

James projects Manny Ramirez (age 36,
seeking close to $20 million) to hit .301 with 34 home runs and 113 RBI in
2009.

 

James projects Teixeira (age 28, seeking
$20 million) to hit .299 with 36 home runs and 126 RBI in
2009.

 

 

Jamey

 

 

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