Keep an eye on the Marlins.

Florida has an impressive rotation, which at the moment features Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller.

And rumors were rampant yesterday that talks between the Marlins and Giants are heavy on a trade that would send Florida third baseman Jorge Cantu to San Francisco for lefthander Jonathan Sanchez, a pitcher I’ve been enamored with in this space for a long time.

Might Florida be zeroing in on a way to get a Rangers catcher?  While the Rangers wouldn’t be interested in a catcher-for-Cantu trade, this could be a way for the Marlins to essentially get exactly that done, by involving a third team — and flipping Sanchez to Texas.

Or maybe it would free another rotation member up for a deal with Texas.  Nolasco, Volstad, Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Miller don’t all fit if Jonathan Sanchez is around.  Max Ramirez won’t be enough to get one of those six, but the point is that if the Marlins make this Giants deal, they’re no longer in a position to make their starting pitchers untouchable.

This one is very much worth watching.

The White Sox have traded righthander Javier Vazquez (and left-handed reliever Boone Logan) to Atlanta, pending physicals, for a package reported to include blue-chip catcher prospect Tyler Flowers and three other legitimate prospects, infielders Brent Lillibridge and Jon Gilmore and lefthander Santos Rodriguez.  

Why does this matter?  Vazquez makes $23 million over the next two years.  Kevin Millwood is set to make the same amount over the next two years (with the $12 million due in year two voidable if he doesn’t pitch at least 180 innings in 2009).  Vicente Padilla is set to make $24 million over the next two years (assuming the $12 million club option for 2010 is picked up in lieu of a $1.75 million buyout).

The point is not that Millwood or Padilla has as much value as Vazquez (though the disparity shouldn’t be huge), but instead to suggest that the return Chicago is getting, particularly the inclusion of Flowers, helps set the market if teams who come up empty in free agency turn to Texas asking about one of its veteran righthanders.  Good development.

One local writer suggests that Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark is expected to fill one of two vacancies on the Rangers farm, either the minor league pitching coordinator post vacated by the loss of new Seattle pitching coach Rick Adair or the AAA pitching coach position that Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins held for three years.  (Keith Comstock, who served as the Rangers’ Arizona League pitching coach in 2007 and as the organization’s rehab pitching coordinator in Surprise this season, replaced Hawkins as the Oklahoma pitching coach when the latter was promoted to big league pitching coach in August).

Cleveland hired Rangers East Coast Crosschecker Doug Harris away to be a major league pro scout.

Like with Adair, the loss of Harris is disappointing, but another clear indication that the industry understands what a good job Texas is doing in its scouting and player development programs.

Milwaukee named Lee Tunnell its minor league pitching coordinator and Bob Miscik manager at AA Huntsville.  San Diego named Jimmy Jones pitching coach of the Arizona League Padres.  San Francisco added John Castleberry to its scouting staff.

Baseball America will reveal its top 10 Rangers prospects on Monday.

But Monday is also the day the Winter Meetings begin, and there’s a chance that BA’s top 10 list will only be a discussion footnote next week.

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

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