November 2010

Yorvit Torrealba, and Servais time.

So much came together for Texas in 2010, but if you’re in charge of putting the roster together you can’t get too sentimental, can’t be seduced by what happened, in specific roster spots, if unemotionally you don’t believe it’s likely to happen again.  

There were moments of magic behind the plate for Texas last year, as a non-roster journeyman acquired toward the end of camp to stash away at AAA and a veteran contemplating retirement as he was acquired in July paired up to give the Rangers a strong dose of stability and their share of big hits.  But Jon Daniels and his crew obviously felt that Bengie Molina, despite his desire to play at least one more year, wasn’t a good bet to repeat, and that Matt Treanor remains a candidate for backup duties but not more.  

The fact that Yorvit Torrealba was signed Monday, while A.J. Pierzynski remained on the market and Russell Martin was a day away from a possible non-tender, makes it pretty clear that he was a catcher that Texas had targeted, not a “best of what’s left” flier.

And let’s not make too much of what Texas got from Molina and Treanor (and Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia) last year.  They hit a scrawny .212/.288/.317 (big league catchers hit .249/.319/.381 overall).  Threw out a roughly league-average 23 percent of would-be basestealers.  We all love the intangibles, and those two will always be part of this franchise’s good history, but the Rangers can be better at catcher.  They think Torrealba, for the next two years, will help them do that.

If you take a look at the similarity scores on Baseball-Reference.com, you’ll see that the player in baseball history whose career through age 29 and the player whose career through age 30 most resembled Torrealba’s through the same ages (at least offensively) was the same guy: Rangers Senior Director of Player Development Scott Servais, who was certainly heavily involved in the evaluation process as Texas determined which catchers to target this winter.  More on Servais in a bit.

The other interesting thing about those age 29 and age 30 seasons for Torrealba is that they happened in Colorado, for manager Clint Hurdle.  Hurdle was involved in the whiteboard sessions this winter, too, before he took the Pittsburgh job, and his input on Torrealba was obviously positive.

Here are some objective pluses: This year, in what was Torrealba’s age 31 season, San Diego went 53-36 when he started behind the plate.  In all other games (all Nick Hundley starts, incidentally), the Padres were one win over .500 (37-36).  

Torrealba was credited with a 37 percent kill rate in the running game, but that’s a little deceiving.  Of the 22 runners (out of 60) caught stealing on his watch, nine were actually picked off by the pitcher.  Torrealba actually threw out 13 of 51, a 25.5 percent kill rate that still was better than Molina’s (21.8) or Treanor’s (20.0), and for what it’s worth, his catcher’s ERA of 3.14 was not only best in baseball in 2010, but the best since Paul LoDuca’s 2.73 CERA in 2003 (catching a stalwart Dodgers staff).  

If you’re into the deep metrics, Beyond the Box Score unveiled its 2010 catcher defense rankings three weeks ago, factoring in fielding and throwing errors, passed balls and wild pitches allowed, and effectiveness in the running game.  Torrealba was judged to be sixth-best in the game in 2010, Treanor number 40, Molina number 68.

Torrealba doesn’t throw as well as he did when he broke into the big leagues, due in part to a shoulder injury that cost him half of the 2006 season and led to surgery that September, but he still gets high marks for his footwork, a quick release, and his accuracy.  More importantly to the Rangers, he’s a catcher whose ability to handle the staff and call games Hurdle trusted.  Asked about his game yesterday, Torrealba said: “The last couple of years, my hitting has been getting better.  But I just want to be there behind the plate, controlling the game and building confidence from the pitcher to the catcher.”

That’s what the Rangers prioritize from their catchers.

On the offensive side, Torrealba posted a .721 OPS this year (.343 on-base and .378 slug), slightly lifting his career mark to a catcher-respectable .708.  He hit .271 for the season, with power that played up in the second half, though his batting average dipped.  Interestingly, he did significantly more damage in generally pitcher-friendly Petco Park (.312/.394/.429) than he did on the road (.234/.294/.333).  

Torrealba’s best month at the plate was July, when he hit .417/.500/.542 (helping San Diego to its second-best month in a season spent primarily atop the NL West) and likely would have been the Rangers’ top trade target behind the plate that month had the Padres not been in a race themselves at the time.

Texas is committing $3 million to Torrealba in 2011 and another $3.25 million in 2012 to be this team’s starting catcher, even though he’s started half his team’s games behind the plate only twice in 10 big league seasons – 105 games for Hurdle’s World Series Rockies club in 2007, and 89 for the surprising Padres last year.  Both of those very good teams counted on a number of relatively young pitchers.

(He would have carried a much bigger workload than his 61 starts in 2009 if it weren’t for the abduction in Venezuela of his 11-year-old son.  Held for ransom, Yorvit Jr. was released, unharmed, two days after the June 2 kidnapping, but Dad didn’t return to action for the Rockies until five weeks later, and even then he was eased back into the lineup, playing only seven times in July.)

San Diego signed Torrealba to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in February – a $750,000 base with a $500,000 buyout to void a $3.5 million mutual option for 2011.  Remember that bit about mutual options that we discussed in the context of Vladimir Guerrero a few weeks ago – odds are that the Padres arranged Torrealba’s deal that way in order to effectively defer $500,000 of the $1.25 million they were guaranteeing him, with no intention on either side that the mutual option would be exercised.  

The Padres did offer him arbitration, but as a Type B free agent, all that means is that they’ll get a supplemental first-rounder now that he has signed elsewhere – Texas won’t forfeit any of its own picks.

The Rangers – who reportedly outbid both the Rockies (who didn’t want to go more than one year, as they have Chris Iannetta and a couple legitimate catcher prospects nearly ready) and the Mets, if not others – are apparently expecting only 90 to 110 starts out of Torrealba.  

Treanor could end up being the man signed to handle the rest of the load.  It’s unlikely that Texas will entrust number two duties to Teagarden, preferring instead to have him playing every day on his final option for AAA Round Rock, and the recent non-roster deal given to journeyman Kevin Cash – who played briefly for Round Rock (then an Astros affiliate) at the start of the 2010 season – is probably more of a Toby Hall-type flier than a Treanor-type opportunity.

Back to Servais.

He didn’t cross paths with Torrealba in Colorado, where Servais played (2000) and worked (2005) until he was hired by Texas in November 2005, weeks before the Rockies acquired Torrealba from Seattle.

But they did cross paths.

After eight seasons with the Astros and Cubs, Servais signed with San Francisco in January 1999.  When he went to camp with the Giants that spring, among the Giants’ top catching prospects was Torrealba, who at age 20 had reached AAA the previous summer.  Servais recalls a big arm but what stood out more was the kid’s advanced ability, even at that age, to work with pitchers several years older, and the confidence and energy he brought to the field. &nbsp
;

It stuck with Servais, whose final days as a player came in 2002, when Torrealba beat him out for the job to back up Giants starting catcher Benito Santiago.  Servais played briefly that spring for San Francisco’s AAA club in Fresno, moving on to AAA Colorado Springs for half a season before retiring in June.  It was then that Servais’s baseball career transitioned from playing to scouting and player development, and on Monday the player who essentially ended Servais’s big league career was reunited with him in Texas, unquestionably with his strong recommendation.

This is not a roster move that made much of a media splash, locally or otherwise, but it’s a solid move to stabilize things behind the plate.  To reinforce that notion, you have to look beyond the numbers, and 2010 should serve as a reminder of just that, as those who watched this team every day know that the tandem of Bengie Molina and Matt Treanor gave this club far more than just average numbers throwing runners out and below-average offense.  Texas hasn’t had any real stability at catcher since Gerald Laird held things down for a couple years, and that’s primarily what the Rangers expect from Yorvit Torrealba: stability, experience, and durability over something far less than 140 games.

It’s a measured, informed decision, as most moves made by this front office are.

COFFEY obsession.

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

Not to be confused with Brewers journeyman reliever Todd Coffey, the TROT COFFEY is a mailing list-only update on various trade and free agent rumblings unearthed, if not hatched, by the media:

[Web post of this typically mailing-list-only feature today . . . .  For future COFFEY reports, you can sign up for the free mailing list by clicking the link on the top menu at www.NewbergReport.com.]

?    According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the market for Cliff Lee is expected to “heat up” this week, possibly leading to a deal during the December 6-9 Winter Meetings; agent Darek Braunecker tells Olney that it’s “probably fair to say we’ve got a half-dozen teams in the mix”

?    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes this morning, in the context of the increasingly prevalent belief that Texas and Kansas City match up best on a possible Zack Greinke deal, that “[o]ne name often mentioned as trade bait” is outfielder Engel Beltre, who is hitting .380/.396/.400 in the Dominican Winter League (no walks, two hit-by-pitches, 10 strikeouts, one extra-base hit in 50 at-bats all over the lineup, though primary in the nine hole)

?    Cafardo adds that if the Rangers don’t retain Lee, they could sign closer Rafael Soriano and move Neftali Feliz into the rotation, a speculative suggestion that the Chicago Tribune‘s Phil Rogers also ran out there three weeks ago

?    According to a local report, the interest level that Texas has in catcher A.J. Pierzynski is less than what it was when the club considered trading for him during the summer (before landing Bengie Molina)

?    Rogers believes the Rangers “are becoming a more realistic option” for Paul Konerko, who would cost Texas the number 26 overall pick in the June draft to sign – though the club would get the number 31 overall pick from the Yankees (plus a supplemental first-rounder) if New York signs Lee

?    Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports “spoke with a couple people in the industry who expect Konerko to sign with either [the] White Sox or Diamondbacks”

That last pair of COFFEY drips sort of raises a point that goes beyond the toppled salt shaker.  

This is the time of the year when a tremendous amount of groundwork is being laid between baseball operations departments, and an extremely small amount of reliable news is out there . . . which doesn’t stop anyone.  There’s no stove hotter than baseball’s, and no time of year when it’s more awesome than it is now, save perhaps the final week in July.  

We love this stuff, and reporters feed on that.  The best of them miss, the least dependable nail it from time to time, and we eagerly consume it all, which is not anything to apologize for, as long as we treat it with the proper skepticism and context.

It’s obvious how to treat these when stories or tweets are raced into cyberspace at about the same time, running contradictory information out there.  But we should probably put as much weight into the uncontroverted reports as well.  It’s prima facie stuff.  Super-rebuttable presumptions.

One year ago today, I shared these three COFFEY notes, each from a respectable national writer:

?  Florida is “very willing to trade Josh Johnson right now for the right package”

?  Florida should be able to land “two [Major League]-ready guys, plus two solid prospects at the Double-A level” for Johnson

?  “Tis the season when agents try to spin news.  So here is reality: Josh Johnson isn’t going anywhere.  2010 @ $4M is good business for Phish.”

All in the same day.

The final one came from Peter Gammons, and the point is important.  There’s a reason that the second half of November brings far more TROT COFFEY rumor dumps than standard reports every year.  Teams aren’t talking publicly right now, and if they are, it’s probably more because they want a certain story floated out there than because they’re trying to help a hard-working journalist out.

And, as Gammons noted, agents are doing the same thing, and in greater volume.

All those Cliff Lee stories the last few weeks?

If Lee wants to pitch for the Yankees, his agent wants (and should want) Texas involved in the bidding.

If Lee wants to stay in Texas, his agent wants (and should want) the Yankees negotiating as well.

With all apologies to the writers we all choose to trust, “baseball people” who are talking to them don’t know where Lee is going to sign.  Some have more dependable opinions than others, just like writers, but Lee knows the answer to the question today (probably), Braunecker knows the answer (probably, but maybe a degree or two less so than Lee), and beyond that, Lee’s family and anyone else he wants to entrust the answer to fit in the category of reliable sources on November 28.  And they’re not talking.

I’ll keep rolling these COFFEY’s out there.  I dig the hot stove as much as anybody, and have ever since the Peter Gammons and Joe Falls Sporting News columns that landed in my mailbox (the one that was made of metal and sat outside the house) 30 years ago, two weeks (not two seconds) after they were written.  

But there’s a reason the COFFEY’s are outnumbering standard Newberg Reports five to one right now.  

In about a week, we’re going to get an onslaught of news flashes and reports that will take hours to write and will have no bullet points, and no photographs of dented salt shakers.  

For now, however, while GM’s and their teams of advisors are as busy as ever, it’s behind the curtains, and so what we’re left to do as fans of The Stove is take our seats, a good bit further back in the theater than the mainstream media, locked in on the manufactured previews and waiting for the lights to dim and the real show to begin.

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Thanksgiving table discussion points: Thad Bosley.

A Thad Bosley random note dump for you (because if I don’t do it, who will?) . . . .

Back in September, I wrote a column for MLB.com about the 1990 Oklahoma City 89ers, the Rangers’ AAA affiliate that won only 58 games, losing 87, but whose roster of players included future coaches Ron Washington, Steve Smith, Brad Arnsberg, Randy St. Claire, Wayne Rosenthal, John Russell, Chad Kreuter, Mike Berger, Steve Buechele, Scott Coolbaugh, Gary Green, Dave Engle, Nick Capra, and Darryl Motley, on a club managed by Steve Smith, who would go on to coach third base on Buck Showalter’s Rangers staff.  

Several of those players saw time with the big club that season, where among their teammates were future owner Nolan Ryan, future agents Bobby Witt and Scott Chiamparino, future coaches Charlie Hough, Julio Franco, Bill Haselman, Mike Stanley, Pete Incaviglia, Mike Jeffcoat, Jack Daugherty, and Craig McMurtry, and two members of Washington’s current big league staff: Gary Pettis and Bosley, the Rangers’ new hitting coach.

Bosley was a member of the Oakland coaching staff from 1999 through May 2003, the first year as first base, outfield, and baserunning coach before he served as A’s hitting coach the next four years, each of which were playoff seasons (that all ended with first-round eliminations).  Washington was the Oakland third base coach during Bosley’s entire tenure with the A’s.

Among the players that Bosley was traded with or for during his 14-year big league career were Bobby Bonds, Brian Downing, and, on the eve of the 1987 season, Jim Sundberg.

Bosley was a member at one point of a 1980s funk/soul/disco band called Ballplayers, along with fellow former Ranger Lenny Randle.  Whether he’s more proud of that or his 3 for 10 with two walks in his career against Ryan is something only he can answer.  

Bosley never faced Mike Maddux, as the two worked in opposite leagues for five overlapping seasons, prior to the onset of interleague play.  He was 1 for 5 lifetime off Andy Hawkins.

Bosley played for Oklahoma City in 1989, a club on which the leading hitter was Coolbaugh, who reportedly interviewed this week for the position that Bosley was ultimately awarded.

Bosley’s final big league action was a pinch-hit appearance for Texas on May 31, 1990 (a 3-2-3 double-play ground ball induced by Red Sox closer Jeff Reardon that went Carlos Quintana to Tony Pena to Quintana).  The Rangers’ hitting coach at the time was Tom Robson, who I believe is the only other man before Bosley to have both played for the Rangers and served as its hitting coach.

Bosley was released by Rangers GM Tom Grieve two days later, on June 2, 1990 (a move likely announced by new Vice President of Public Relations John Blake), which was two days before the club used its 10th-round draft pick on University of Montevallo outfielder Rusty Greer, who was recommended by Rangers area scout Rudy Terrasas, who was just fired as Mets scouting director by new GM Sandy Alderson, who was Oakland’s GM and then President through the end of the 1998 season, after which the A’s hired Bosley as a coach.

So there.

Arbitration decisions due Tuesday.

Tomorrow’s the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their own free agents in order to lock in their right to draft pick compensation should the players sign elsewhere.  

A team losing a Type A free agent (ranked by the Elias Sports Bureau to be in the top 20 percent in their position grouping, according to a classified formula that only David Ortiz has access to) that it offered arbitration to (or that signed elsewhere before tomorrow’s deadline) gets two picks as compensation: the signing team’s first-rounder the following June if that team drafts in the back half of the round or its second-rounder if it drafts in the front half, plus a “sandwich pick” that’s not actually forfeited but instead part of a manufactured supplemental round between rounds one and two.

A team losing a Type B free agent (ranked in the 21-40 percent grouping) that it offered arbitration to (or that signed elsewhere before tomorrow’s deadline) gets a sandwich pick – the player’s new team forfeits nothing.

Last winter Texas had no Type A free agents, and two Type B’s, Marlon Byrd and Ivan Rodriguez.  The Rangers offered arbitration to each (I explained in a report on December 1 why even the Rodriguez offer was no surprise), netting a sandwich pick when they signed with the Cubs and Nationals.  With those picks, Texas drafted and eventually signed Florida high school righthander Luke Jackson and University of Connecticut third baseman Mike Olt.  

It’s a different situation this off-season, as Texas has no Type B’s – but four Type A’s: Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Frankie Francisco, and Bengie Molina.  (The club also has three no-compensation free agents: Jorge Cantu, Cristian Guzman, and Matt Treanor.)

Interestingly, the Rangers probably would have preferred that Guerrero and Molina and particular would have been Type B’s.  Even though the return compensation is one premium pick instead of two, a Type B designation would have meant no disincentive for another team to sign the player.  A team tentatively interested in Guerrero or Molina as Type A’s might decide surrendering a first- or second-round pick for the player isn’t worth the signing, whereas a Type B designation wouldn’t affect the signing team at all and would virtually assure Texas the sandwich pick in each case if the player signed elsewhere.  And to complete the picture, Texas may not want to offer Guerrero or Molina arbitration because of the risk that they’d accept it, as the arbitration process would probably generate a 2011 salary for each that exceeds what the Rangers would want to pay.

The deadline for free agents to accept arbitration offers is a week from tomorrow.  

The easy decision is on Lee, who the Rangers will obviously offer arbitration to (no downside), and who will obviously decline the offer.  Texas will either sign Lee, or get the Yankees’ first-rounder and a supplemental first.  (The only exception, assuming New York is the team he were to leave for, would be if the Yankees also signed Jayson Werth or Rafael Soriano, as they’re the only two Type A’s with higher rankings than Lee.  If the Yankees signed Werth and Lee, for instance, Philadelphia would get their first-round pick in June, and Texas would get their second-rounder.)

(Anecdote: Arizona signed Rangers free agent Todd Stottlemyre after the 1998 season, which normally would have resulted in the Rangers receiving the Diamondbacks’ second-round pick along with the sandwich pick – but Arizona also signed Randy Johnson and Greg Swindell that winter, meaning Houston got the Diamondbacks’ second-rounder, Boston got their third, and the Rangers got their fourth.  Interestingly, though, Texas made the best pick in June, as the Astros took high school catcher Jay Perez [who never reached the big leagues] with the second-round pick, the Red Sox took high school lefthander Rich Rundles [six big league innings] with the third, and the Rangers took Kevin Mench with the fourth.  The Rangers drafted Colby Lewis with the sandwich pick they got for the loss of Stottlemyre.)

Guerrero and Molina, tougher calls.  Francisco’s not a slam dunk, either, though assuming the Rangers aren’t concerned that there could be long-term effects from his ribcage strain, he’ll probably get an offer.  Especially given the way that the middle relief market has been set with Joaquin Benoit’s Detroit contract, Francisco’s market value is likely greater than his arbitration value, even with the draft pick forfeiture attached – and the Rangers would presumably be willing to take him back on a one-year, arbitration-driven salary if he were to accept the club’s arbitration offer by November 30.

One other factor: Day One of the 2011 draft is expected to be much stronger than it was in 2010.  The prospect of adding multiple picks in the top round or two (and paying the seven-figure bonuses) will be more appealing this coming year, and not just because Texas will likely have more money to spend.

There’s also the matter of whether other teams will offer arbitration to their own free agents and how that could affect the Rangers’ plans.  Texas is already reported to have interest in Type A free agent Victor Martinez, for instance, and he would cost the club’s first-round pick to sign; the Rangers may have heightened interest in other Type A’s who are not offered arbitration and thus wouldn’t cost a pick.  Last winter, Darren Oliver fit that description.  Could someone like Magglio Ordonez this time around?

More on all of this once the Rangers and everyone else make their free agent arbitration decisions, due to be submitted to the league tomorrow night.

Thoughts on the signing of Barret Loux.

Here’s the thing.  Should we be celebrating the fact that Texas has found a way to add the sixth overall pick from last June’s draft and start focusing on what the other four rotation spots will look like in three years?

Should we be clearing schedules for those shoulder and elbow surgeries that many are calling inevitable for that first-rounder who just jumped at third-round money, wishing we could get that $312,000 back to pay three-fourths of someone’s minimum salary on the 2011 roster?

Nowhere close to either extreme. 

There’s a difference between taking Miami righthander Kiki Bengochea in the 11th round (2002) and paying him what was then a high-third-round signing bonus ($550,000), and signing Texas A&M righthander Barret Loux, the sixth pick in the first round, for what was late-third-round money.

Two rolls of the dice.  Totally different risk/reward.

I’ve never seen Loux pitch.  Even if I had, I wouldn’t pretend I’ve got a handle on what his ceiling could be, where the reward level is. 

I don’t read MRI’s.  Even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t sit here and tell you how stable Loux’s physical situation is, where the risk level sits.

But even before Arizona, by all accounts, reached for Loux (who agreed to a pre-physical, below-slot bonus of $2 million) at number six in June, the draft expert industry projected him as a consideration by more than one club drafting later in the first round.  Maybe not at a $2.34 million slot like Arizona’s, but some had him in the mix as high as 13th overall ($1.656 million slot) and a strong consideration at number 23 ($1.26 million slot). 

Texas is paying Loux $312,000 – a smaller amount than it paid eight other draft picks this year that we know of – to see if the shoulder and elbow belonging to someone many considered to be a first-round talent can hold up.  And if the arm doesn’t, and surgery is needed?  Ask C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis if that means it’s time to find something new to do.

A half a dozen of these reports could be written about the saga that began with the Diamondbacks’ selection of Loux on June 7 and ended with Bud Selig’s August 17 ruling, following Arizona’s decision to back out of the handshake deal, that the 21-year-old would become a free agent on September 1.  No sense in rehashing all that here. 

The important thing, as far as a Rangers-centric view is concerned, is that tests administered before Arizona would sign Loux revealed damage in both his elbow (he’d had bone chips removed in 2009) and shoulder (which had cost him two months of action as a high school senior).  Neither issue had interrupted his 2010 Aggies season (11-2, 2.83, .202 opponents’ average, 136 strikeouts [seventh most in the NCAA] in 105 innings, Third-Team All-America), but he couldn’t pass Arizona’s physical. 

The Diamondbacks had the choice between attempting to sign Loux for less money, or walking away, compensated with the number seven overall pick in what promises to be a stronger 2011 draft.  Easy choice.

The Rangers, with no real downside, stepped in and emerged from what was reported to be at least a dozen interested teams with Loux, who may have turned down larger offers from at least a couple teams – and took substantially less than the $800,000 Detroit offered him as its 24th-round pick in 2007, when he was coming out of Houston Stratford High School. 

Why is that?  Could Loux (pronounced like “loud” but with an x at the end, I think) have headed to the independent leagues in an effort to reestablish his market for 2011, instead of signing at a huge discount?  Suppose so.  But maybe he felt better about the protection of his arm, the training and conditioning and medical support, that a big league club – Texas in particular – could offer him now. 

Loux went back to College Station this fall, not to prepare for the 2011 Aggies season (he was ineligible to do so, having hired an agent to negotiate with the Diamondbacks) but to work toward his finance degree and throw for big league scouts.  (He’d joined the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League at the end of July but I don’t believe he ever saw any game action.)

The is not the same situation as Tanner Scheppers’s a year ago, and Loux is not the talent that Scheppers is.  Even if healthy, he wouldn’t fit among the Rangers’ top 10 prospects (which I’ve ranked in the 2011 Bound Edition as Martin Perez, Scheppers, Jurickson Profar, Engel Beltre, Robbie Erlin, Michael Kirkman, Luis Sardinas, Robbie Ross, David Perez, and Wilmer Font) and maybe not even in the back half of the top 20 (Jake Skole, Jorge Alfaro, Fabio Castillo, Joe Wieland, Matt Thompson, Luke Jackson, Christian Villanueva, Miguel De Los Santos, Mike Olt, Omar Beltre).

But it’s another talented arm to add to the system, and at third-round money the risk is hard to get too worked up about.  There’s risk in paying three times as much to a healthy 16-year-old from Venezuela, too, or tens of millions to a Japanese club and its player to bring him to the States.  They’re all gambles, on some scale.

Nobody knows what will become of Loux (with apologies to Big Papi), and whether his path will get interrupted on the way to the big leagues, temporarily or worse, but given the size of the investment, I’m a lot happier that his path begins not with Los Angeles or Oakland, not with Tampa Bay or New York, not with San Francisco or Philadelphia, but with the Rangers.

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http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

 

Zack on deck.

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This report would be
much longer if this were a Royals newsletter.

 

One league executive tells ESPN’s Buster Olney: “I have no
doubt they’re going to trade him this winter.”

 

They
are the Royals.

 

Him?  Zack.

 

It makes too much sense to get all skeptical or
grain-of-salt on the idea.

 

For one, Cliff Lee will only choose one team, and Zack Greinke,
who didn’t turn 27 until the day before Texas eliminated the Yankees to earn
its first World Series berth, is on at least one tier above Jorge De La Rosa
and Carl Pavano, who stand fairly well alone as the next-best free agent
starters on the market, a crop that’s pretty thin overall, especially with Ted
Lilly, Kiroki Kuroda, and Jake Westbrook having re-signed with their 2010 clubs. 

 

It would make sense from a timing standpoint for the Royals
to take advantage of that.

 

Greinke is locked up through 2012.  Kansas City could trade him a year from now, but
at the moment that winter’s free agent crop looks stronger than this one: Mark
Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Joel Pineiro, Wandy Rodriguez, and, yes, C.J. Wilson could
be on the market after the 2011 season. 
So could Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt, if St. Louis and Philadelphia decline
$15 million and $16 million options for 2012.

 

Even if interested teams evaluate Greinke ahead of, say, a
healthy Pineiro, the choice between trading two or three blue-chip prospects and
another couple pieces for one year of Greinke on the one hand, and getting
three or four years of Pineiro without having to forfeit anything but a draft
pick?  Some teams, particularly those
whose farm strength would be turned upside down after a Greinke trade, might
choose the latter.

 

There’s also this: Kansas City has the best farm system in
baseball.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin
Goldstein has already said so. 
Baseball America
probably will when it delivers its farm system rankings later this winter. 
BA‘s J.J. Cooper said
this week
that first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Wil Myers, third baseman Mike
Moustakas, and lefthanders John Lamb and Mike Montgomery are “the best top five
among all of this year’s Top 10s, and that will be reflected when the Top 100
comes out.”

 

But none has reached Kansas City, and it’s unlikely any will
start the 2011 season with the Royals, with the possible exception of
Moustakas.  The other four are expected
to begin the year in AA.  Best case
scenario, they all arrive in Kansas City sometime or another in 2012, when Greinke
will be riding out the final year of his current contract, before leaving for
monster money that the Royals won’t be able to afford paying, just as their own
window of contention draws within sight.

 

Olney was told by “[a]t least two rival GMs” that “Texas is
the best match for Kansas City” should the Royals choose to trade Greinke
now.  Joel Sherman of the
New York Post
wrote: “The team to watch is the Rangers, particularly if Lee goes to the
Yankees.”  T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, in a
Tuesday article whose subhead reads: “Club trying to land starter, could use
deep farm system as bait,” doesn’t mention Greinke by name but writes: “The
Rangers would rather look at an impact pitcher [than a mid-rotation type].  With their deep farm system and their new
financial resources, they no longer have to settle for second- and third-tier
material when making offseason decisions.”

 

Unless Florida shockingly relents and discusses Josh
Johnson, or Seattle takes the public relations risk of trading a second ace to
Texas in the space of half a year, Greinke is who Sullivan is talking about.

 

Remember also that Greinke has hinted at an aversion to
playing in a massive market, and there have been reports that the Yankees and
Red Sox are among the 15 teams his contract allows him to block trades to over
the next year.  There are teams out there
who can afford the $27 million he’ll earn the next two seasons.  But some of those teams won’t be able to get
around his 2011 no-trade clause.

 

And as we talked about last
week
, it would stand to reason that Greinke will push for a trade in July,
if not before, because after the 2011 season goes away, so does his no-trade clause,
meaning Kansas City would be able to ship him to New York or Boston or anyone
else next winter, or in July 2012, and he wouldn’t be able to prevent it.

 

The consensus among writers is that to trade for Greinke it
would take something similar to the packages it took for Texas to get Lee and
Philadelphia to get Roy Halladay (or Atlanta to get Mark Teixeira), and in Kansas
City’s case probably one that’s heavy on young pitching.   

 

OK, here we go.

 

First, a quick rundown of the Greinke trade proposals I’ve thrown
out there the last two-and-a-half years (note that I wasn’t necessarily
advocating the trades for one side or the other, but instead imagining what it might
take for Texas to get a deal done):

 

June 20, 2008: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley, John
Mayberry Jr., and Warner Madrigal for Greinke (who was then 6-4, 3.33 for the
season, and 27-39, 4.40 for his career)

 

August 27, 2008: Saltalamacchia, Harrison or Hurley, Mayberry
or Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Arias, and the Royals’ choice of a lower-level pitching
prospect – Zach Phillips or Carlos Pimentel or Miguel De Los Santos or Geuris
Grullon or Julio Santana or Matt Nevarez – for Greinke and reliever Ramon
Ramirez

 

May 7, 2010: (1) Tommy Hunter or Martin Perez; (2) Wilmer
Font; (3-4) either Julio Borbon and Max Ramirez, or Cruz and Engel Beltre; (5) Leury
Garcia; and (6) Brennan Garr for Greinke and reliever Juan Cruz

 

Notice the stakes, at least in my baseless little exercise,
keep getting higher.

 

Today?

 

Look again at that peerless top five Royals prospects and
you’ll recognize where Kansas City is relatively deficient, developmentally: up
the middle, which is where Texas has killed it in the acquisition of minor
talent the last few years.  Yes, there’s
2010 first-rounder Christian Colon (number six on the
BA
Royals list), and he’ll be fast-tracked, but there’s some thought that he’ll
eventually have to move from shortstop to second base.

 

How would you feel about: (1) Derek Holland; (2) Martin
Perez; and (3-4) either Jurickson Profar and Craig Gentry, or Leury Garcia and Engel
Beltre, for Greinke and out-of-options backup outfielder Gregor Blanco?

 

By the way, that story about Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and Chuck
Greenberg flying to Little Rock on Monday to have a very long lunch with Cliff
Lee and his wife and agent at the Copper Grill & Grocery may be wholly
unrelated to all the above, the idea of which fires me up to no end.

 

 

===========================================================

 

Final_cover_Newberg 2011_Cover Image.jpg

 

Click the book cover for details on the 2011 Bound Edition
of the Newberg Report.

 

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
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and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
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and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Reaction to the latest Cliff Lee story.

Cliff Lee blah blah blah blah Texas heat blah blah gossip, whee!! blah blah blah heat heat heat blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Yankees birthright blah.  Blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah.  Blah blah C.C. blah blah blah.  Blah blah heat blah heat blah heat blah heat.  Blah heat.  Blah blah blah heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah discombobulation – blah blah blah – blah.  

Blah blah preorder the Bound Edition blah blah blah blah blah.  Blah blah!  

Blah blah blah blah mismatch blah blah deserves blah blah pinstripes blah blah perfect fit blah blah best interests of the game blah blah Rangers are a hockey team blah blah heat! heat! heat! HEAT! blah blah Daniels still wants to be a Met blah blah Cowherd ahoy!  Blah blah six seven six seven six seven option Yankees Yankees Yankees blah.

Blah blah blah?  Blah.

Blah blah, blah blah.

Eduardo Nunez blah Ivan Nova blah oh well blah blah blah.  Cliff Lee Plan B Cliff Lee.  Blah blah not desperate blah (desperate).  

Unruly Yankee fans blah blah taunts blah blah projectile beer blah blah projectile saliva projectile schmaliva blah blah anomaly blah blah Jeter! blah blah blah.  Muggings Veiled family atmosphere.  Group hug.  Jeter!!  Blah!!

Cowboys Jones Vegas Giants Eli Dumbface.  Jeter.  

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah heat blah blah blah heat heat blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah Rally Minka.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

Bulletin: Lots of teams like Cliff Lee.

The list of teams interested in Cliff Lee continues to swell, with the Phillies, Cubs, Angels, Red Sox, Brewers, Nationals, Dodgers, Mets, and Astros now evidently joining the Rangers and Yankees.  If your brain’s a bit fuzzy first thing in the morning, let me do the math for you:

There are 30 teams interested in Cliff Lee.

It’s going to be the Rangers or Yankees.  It benefits teams like the Nationals and Astros to tell their fans they’re in the hunt.  It benefits Lee and agent Darek Braunecker for cash-laden teams like Boston and the Angels to get involved.  Other than that, there’s nothing to see here.  Move along.

Count on Lee making his decision between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And, in the meantime, count on stories reporting that the Reds and Tigers and Newark Bears are kicking the tires.

Derek Jeter.  Gold Glove.  Yep.  Sure did.

Interesting, maybe: Texas went to battle in the playoffs with three players who signed as undrafted free agents out of college: Bengie Molina, Darren O’Day, and Clay Rapada.

Expect Zack Greinke to be traded between now and the end of July, if for no other reason than he may push it aggressively himself.  If it’s true that he doesn’t want to pitch under the spotlight in New York or Boston, he loses control over his next stop between this August 1 and the end of the 2012 season, when his current contract expires.  

From now through July 31, Greinke has the right to block a trade to 15 teams (down from 20 the last two years).  (He can actually exercise the partial no-trade clause through the end of the season, but a player of his caliber is extremely unlikely to be traded after July 31, not only because he’d have to reach the team with whom Kansas City wants to deal on revocable waivers, but also because any player coming back to the Royals that’s on a 40-man roster at the time would have to reach Kansas City on waivers as well – though the latter may not be as difficult a proposition if the Royals are near the bottom of the standings.)

Greinke’s no-trade hammer disappears after the 2011 season, making him tradeable without limitation in 2012, the final year of his contract.  He has some control over his next home for these next nine months, and it sounds like he might be the kind of player who might decide to push the issue in that timeframe.

Kevin Goldstein ranks Blake Beavan number 9 and Josh Lueke number 15 in an “overall shallow [Seattle] system.”

Clint Hurdle, one of two finalists for the Pirates’ managerial job, will interview with the Mets for their skipper post today, as will new Blue Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu.  Boston bench coach DeMarlo Hale interviewed with the Mets yesterday.  

Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports that outfielder Jeff Francoeur is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent this week, which is not really a story.  Texas was never likely to go to arbitration with Francoeur, who earned $5 million in 2010, though the Rangers will probably show some interest in bringing the 26-year-old back.

It turns out that Seattle, thought at one point to be the frontrunner to land negotiating rights with Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, decided after its scouting process not to put in a bid on Iwakuma at all, according to John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse.  Oakland submitted the prevailing bid, reportedly $17 million, while Texas was rumored to be in the mix as well.  The A’s are now in the midst of a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with the 29-year-old (the $17 million went to Hisashi’s 2010 club, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles).

The Rangers’ minor league free agents, according to Baseball America: righthanders Travis Chick, Jesus Colome, Warner Madrigal, Doug Mathis, Mark Prior, Elizardo Ramirez, and Michael Schlact; catchers Emerson Frostad, Kevin Richardson, and Elio Sarmiento; infielders Matt Brown, Esteban German, Hernan Iribarren, and Gregorio Petit; and outfielders Brandon Boggs, Endy Chavez, Willy Taveras, and James Tomlin.

The Round Rock Express, the Rangers’ new AAA affiliate, will host Texas in an exhibition game on March 30 at Dell Diamond.

Buck Showalter hired Mark Connor (special assistant in player development) and Wayne Kirby (outfield and baserunning coordinator) away from the Rangers, making them Baltimore’s pitching coach and first base coach.  They’ll be missed.  The back fields in Surprise will never be the same without Kirby holding forth.

Texas signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Luis Marte for a reported $215,000 bonus.  

Cincinnati outfielder Laynce Nix refused an outright assignment to the minor leagues and is now a free agent.

Philadelphia outfielder John Mayberry Jr. lasted two at-bats in his first Arizona Fall League game before suffering a leg injury.  He goes into 2011 with one remaining option.

San Diego named Bob Skube hitting coach for AAA Tucson and Jimmy Jones pitching coach for AA San Antonio.

I was part of a panel discussion a month ago that the Dallas Morning News and SMU put together on the future of Dallas sports and how they’re covered (including “new media”).  The panel was scheduled to include Tim Cowlishaw, Brad Sham, SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini, and Nancy Lieberman, but when Nancy had to cancel, they asked a hundred people to replace her before getting down to me on the list.  It was a ton of fun to do.
 
The DMN put about half of the video from the event up on their website a few days ago, at this link:
 
http://www.dallasnews.com/video/dallasnews/hp/?bcid=653274787001
 
(If you want to skip ahead, my portion starts at about 20:50, and Brad’s very kind words about the Newberg Report are at about 30:50.)

This just in: The Chiba Lotte Marines are interested in Cliff Lee.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
 

2011 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report: THE COVERS

I’m resending this because I wanted to share with you guys the front and back cover of the book, which was finalized tonight by the great Marty Yawnick of Type A Design.  Thanks also to photographer Jim Cowsert (via Brad Newton) for the front cover shot, and McCall Money and Scott Lucas for the player photos on the back (plus Brad for the ghosted photo of the manager and GM on the back).

My publisher would appreciate me reminding you that this one’s gonna make a damned fine coffee table book for all those baseball fans on your holiday shopping list . . . .

THE 2011 BOUND EDITION
OF THE NEWBERG REPORT

    
Bound_Edition_2011_FC.jpg           

Bound_Edition_2011_BC.jpg

We are now taking preorders for the 2011 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report, my 12th annual book on the Texas Rangers.  It’s well over 300 pages commemorating the 2010 World Series season, easily the greatest and most compelling in the history of this franchise.  It’s all chronicled in the book, in daily, exhaustive, emotional detail.  For any Rangers fan, this book will be one to look back on for years and years, no matter what happens with this franchise going forward.

The 2011 Bound Edition, with forewords written by Chuck Greenberg and Brad Sham, not only looks back on 2010 but also serves as a primer on what you can expect from this organization for years to come.  Nowhere can you find more information and analysis on the players that the Rangers are developing as future members of the major league team and, in some scenarios, as ammunition for trades such as the one that made Cliff Lee a Texas Ranger in July.  More than 1,500 of you on this mailing list are past customers of the Bound Edition, but for those of you who are relatively new to the Newberg Report, here is what you can expect from the book:

THE FEATURES

The book picks up right where the 2010 Bound Edition left off, taking you from October 14, 2009 to November 3, 2010 and containing every report I wrote in that span.  It’s the most thorough account you’ll find of the many twists and turns that the 2010 season took, and of the implications of the personnel moves that highlighted it.  Not just a complete record of the Rangers’ season, the book includes a feature section comprised of more than 50 pages of new material that won’t ever appear on the website or in any e-mail deliveries.  Included in that section are rankings and analysis of more than 70 Rangers prospects, broken down by position.

The day-by-day journey the book takes through the magical 2010 campaign, from the off-season through the World Series, makes the 2011 Bound Edition a seriously outstanding holiday gift.  So, you know, buy lots of them.

The glossy front and back covers are perfect for autographs.  And as we always do, we will put together at least one book release party, and probably two, where you can bring your books and get them signed by Rangers players and officials.

THE PRICE

The 2011 Bound Edition is $25.00 per book plus shipping ($4.95 for the first book, $2.00 for each additional book).

Because I have to front the costs (and for obvious reasons we’re printing more this year than we ever have before), if you plan to buy copies of the book, I’d be grateful if you were able to preorder.  The plan is to have the books ready for delivery in time for the holidays.

I also have all the previous editions of the Bound Edition for sale.  The price breakdown is as follows:

    *      2011 Bound Edition – $25.00 per book (plus shipping: $4.95 for first book, $2.00 for each additional book)
    *      1999/2000 through 2010 Bound Editions – $15 (shipping is on me for the past editions)

SPECIALS

    *      A gift set of all 12 Bound Editions is available for $150, which is a $40 discount

ORDERING

You can order by credit card through PayPal.  To do that, click here (or type in http://www.newbergreport.com/buythebook.asp), and it will take you a few seconds.  Just type in the quantity you want and your email address, and click the “Pre-Order Now” tab under the book cover graphic.

You can also order by check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” at:

            Jamey Newberg
            Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
            Thanksgiving Tower
            1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100
            Dallas, TX 75201

Regardless of your method of payment, please make sure to include your mailing address, and specify how many of each book you want.  
 
I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s book, primarily because of the amazing story we all got to live through this season.  I’m extremely biased but, trying to pretend to be slightly objective, I think this is the kind of book – this year especially – that any Rangers fan’s library should include.  I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

Thank you, as always, for your support of the Newberg Report.

Jamey

Hurdle could jump.

Clint Hurdle is not only one of two finalists for the Pirates’ managerial job but also a candidate with the Mets, the only other team without a skipper at the moment.  According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, Hurdle is interviewing with New York, as are Terry Collins, Don Wakamatsu, and Bob Melvin.  Others who have been mentioned as candidates include Chip Hale, Wally Backman, and Dave Jauss.

Fox Sports Southwest is re-airing Wednesday’s Rangers Rally tomorrow afternoon at 3:00.  The hour-long program features remarks to a crowd of thousands by Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, Ron Washington, and a number of players, including Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler.  I’m not sure if the re-airing will include some of the highlight packages that were shown at the event, but they did a great job with highlights from the 2010 season and the playoffs.

In case it wasn’t clear from yesterday’s stories, righthanders Doug Mathis and Brandon McCarthy and infielder Esteban German apparently refused their outright assignments and are now free agents.

Oakland signed righthander Willie Eyre to a minor league contract.

Texas graduated a number of its top prospects to the big leagues in 2010, and traded 10 minor leaguers in July.  The Rangers may not hold onto the number one spot in the farm system rankings this winter, but guess what?  In Baseball America’s rankings of the top 20 prospects in each of the minor leagues, from rookie ball up to AAA and based on consultation with league managers and pro scouts, Texas had 18 players show up on at least one of the top 20 lists.  No other organization had more than 15.

Teams’ exclusive window to negotiate with their own free agents closes tonight at 11 p.m. Central, officially opening free agency.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Yankees are set to get their holiday shopping underway, and “could place their first bid on [Cliff] Lee very soon, perhaps within the next 72 hours.”

If you want to get your own jump on the holidays, you can preorder a book about the 2010 Texas Rangers season.

===========================================================

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

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