December 2011

Stuff.

A little more Yu Darvish fallout, as we gather ourselves at the rest stop between last week’s sealed bid Twitter-frenzy and the contract negotiations process that probably won’t ramp up until after the New Year . . . .

There have been multiple reports that Toronto’s bid for the right to negotiate with Darvish was at least $50 million, and other subsequent stories that the Blue Jays were “not anywhere close” to the prevailing $51.7 million bid submitted by the Rangers.  Whatever the truth is, it probably benefits the Jays to let the perception that they bid low proliferate, as a submission of at least $50 million that didn’t exceed the $51.1 million Boston paid to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago would have been sort of foolish, and a bid over $51.1 million that fell short of the $51.7 million Texas bid would have set off a barrage of second-guessing that wouldn’t let up unless and until Darvish were to prove at some point to be a poor investment.  (To be fair, you could say the same thing if the Texas bid was a tick short of Toronto’s.)

We may never know for sure what the Jays (or Yankees or Cubs) bid.  And it doesn’t really matter.  Especially in Texas.

Bob Nightengale (USA Today) points out that the Rangers should draw 3 million fans for the first time in 2012 (after a franchise-record 2,946,949 in 2011), which seems like a good bet as long as the club is in the mix all season.  The potential impact of Darvish as a Ranger in terms of revenue opportunities is sort of mind-blowing, from ticket sales to sponsorships to merchandising.

With a January 18 deadline for Darvish to sign, chances are probably slim that something gets done before Fan Fest on January 13-15, but if they do agree to terms by then, can you imagine how many Darvish jerseys and T-Shirts would sell at the Arlington Convention Center that weekend?

As for what the contract might look like, one AL executive suggested to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) that it could take “C.J. Wilson money,” something in the neighborhood of the $77.5 million over five years that the former Ranger is getting from the Angels.  (For what it’s worth, Heyman reports that Texas, which made no formal offer to Wilson, was “only willing to pay [the lefthander] $60 million over four years.”)

For what it’s worth, Franz Lidz, the Sports Illustrated writer who broke the story shortly after the submission deadline that the prevailing bid exceeded the Matsuzaka number, believes that Darvish is seeking five years and $75 million.  Heyman echoes that projection.

From Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) regarding the likelihood of Texas being able to strike a deal with Darvish and his agent Arn Tellem, who also represents Chase Utley, Hideki Matsui, and NBA stars Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook: “Expect the usual back and forth, but Tellem is a deal-maker and Darvish can’t turn back now.  The Rangers will pay the pitcher far more than he would earn if he returned to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.  What’s more, Darvish ‘loves’ the Rangers and looks forward to joining a winning organization, according to one baseball source.”

One thing to expect, assuming the Darvish contract is for fewer than six years, is that he’ll have free agency rights at the end of the deal, rather than arbitration eligibility (and club control) that the standard big leaguer with fewer than six seasons of service time would face.  That’s a provision that Tellem secured for Matsui when he originally signed with the Yankees, and I believe Koji Uehara, for example, is exempt from the arbitration process as well.

Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) notes that when the Rangers submitted a bid (reported to be $27 million) for the Matsuzaka negotiation rights in 2006, they had zero full-time employees devoted to scouting in the Pacific Rim.  Today, Morosi points out, they have four.

According to Baseball Prospectus writer John Perrotto (and others), Texas “had a scout at every one of [Darvish’s 28] starts this season.”

Going by the Major League definition of a quality start, by my rough calculation Darvish had 69 of them in 77 starts the last three seasons.

If Texas elects not to skip starters early in the season and is able to stay in rotation through the first six weeks, and if the Angels do the same, the clubs’ Number 3, 4, and 5 starters should face off in Arlington on Friday through Sunday, May 11-13.  (If the Angels take advantage of opportunities to bypass their Number 5, they could send their 1-2-3 starters out against Texas.)

If the Rangers decide to give the Opening Day start against the White Sox to Colby Lewis and the Game Two start to Derek Holland, certainly conceivable, and run Darvish out there for Game Three, then you can imagine Darvish and Wilson facing off here on May 11.

Buster Olney (ESPN) heard from a “rival high-ranking executive” that if Darvish had gone to Toronto, the “smart money [was] on [the] Rangers to be the team to land Gio Gonzalez” from Oakland.  Danny Knobler (CBS Sports) suggests that the A’s were hoping for that result because they believed they could have gotten more from the Rangers for Gonzalez than they accepted from the Nationals.

The Darvish angle aside, I’m glad Texas didn’t give up more for Gonzalez than Washington did.

Some other COFFEY-type stuff . . . .

Olney, for one, doesn’t think the Angels’ loud off-season will result in a playoff berth in 2012.  He has, for the moment, Texas as the AL West winner and the Yankees as the Wild Card.

Morosi suggests that Texas “might be willing to move lefthander Matt Harrison . . . in order to acquire a more established pitcher.”

Heyman suggests that Texas remains “a threat” to sign Scott Boras client Prince Fielder, perhaps as “insurance against the possibility of losing [Josh] Hamilton, who is eligible for free agency after next year.  While the Rangers want to keep Hamilton, they want to do it with a shorter contract than he will likely want.”

According to Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM), “sources close to Fielder acknowledge Texas and Toronto [are] still in on” the first baseman.  Interestingly, Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) writes that the Rangers “are still believed to be the favorites to land” Fielder, with the Cubs and Mariners denying interest.

Drew Davison (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) tweeted a few days ago that the Rangers “should know by Christmas if [their] No. 1 choice for Josh Hamilton[’s] accountability partner can do it.”  Davison added that “[i]t’s not a current player,” meaning someone other than David Murphy is evidently the organization’s preference.

Still no word on who that might be, though.

According to Morosi, “[b]aseball officials with expertise in Latin America believe the Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Tigers, Marlins and White Sox will pursue [Cuban outfielder Yoenis] Cespedes next month.”  Most other stories have placed Texas firmly on the sidelines of that chase.

Veteran reliever Manny Corpas, who rehabbed with Texas last summer after September 2010 Tommy John surgery, signed a big league contract with the Cubs, though Heyman reports that the Rangers did offer a big league deal as well and, according to Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News), Corpas gave Texas the right to match Chicago’s proposal.  “His agent handled it professionally,” Assistant General Manager Thad Levine told Fraley.  “We weren’t prepared to make the investment [the Cubs] made.”

According to Jerry Crasnick (ESPN), Roy Oswalt’s market is picking up “now that he has told clubs he only wants a one-year deal.”

Rosenthal tweets that Texas remains interested in A’s closer Andrew Bailey, who is also on Boston’s and Tampa Bay’s radar, among others.

Baltimore (of course) signed Endy Chavez to a big league deal for 2012 with a $1.5 million base.

Jason A. Churchill (ESPN), who is based in Seattle, suggests that the Yankees “don’t have enough to give the Mariners for Felix Hernandez,” an observation obviously different from saying Seattle won’t trade King Felix.

Texas had a productive draft in 2006 (Chris Davis [5th round], Jake Brigham [6], Craig Gentry [10], Derek Holland [25], and Danny Ray Herrera [45]), but not so much in the first round, where the selection of lefthander Kasey Kiker came immediately after the Giants and Diamondbacks chose Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer, two righthanders reportedly near the top of the Rangers’ board.

To be fair, the remainder of the first round that year has been largely disappointing (only Ian Kennedy [21] and Daniel Bard [28] have done much of anything in the big leagues), but with Thursday’s release of Kiker, his Rangers chapter comes to a quiet end.  The Alabama product was beset by a severe loss of command and velocity the last couple seasons.

The Rangers also released righthander Andrew Doyle, lefthanders Paul Strong and Juan Grullon, catcher Carson Vitale, infielder Jimmy Swift, and infielder-outfielder Mitch Hilligoss.

Infielder Greg Miclat, acquired from the Orioles to complete the Taylor Teagarden trade, cut his Panama Winter League season short due to a strained ribcage muscle, but he’s expected to be healthy by time camp opens in February.

Thanks for the tremendous surge in book purchases over the last week, during which time we also had more than 200 new folks sign up for this mailing list.  The holidays may have been a big reason for one, but the Darvish development is surely to credit for the other, a microscopic indication of what is going to be an absolutely huge opportunity for the Rangers off the field as well as on it.

Can’t wait for baseball.

It’s Not All About Yu: Trading up.

When news broke Saturday afternoon that San Diego had managed to move Mat Latos to the Reds for righthander Edinson Volquez, first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, and righthander Brad Boxberger, the dozens of emails I immediately got predictably looked very much like the ones earlier this month triggered by reports of what Oakland demanded from Miami in exchange for Gio Gonzalez and what the White Sox told the Yankees it would take to get John Danks:

What would an equivalent package from the Rangers look like?

I don’t like reaching for comps like that – even though it’s an exercise that Padres GM Josh Byrnes was theoretically engaging in as he surveyed his options leading up to the Latos trade – but if you’re one of those who sent me a question along those lines, there’s two reasons I might not have answered.

First, matching players up like that isn’t apples to apples.  (Texas has nothing close to a Grandal equivalent at catcher – and the Reds would have been asked to put a shortstop in the deal if they had one like Jurickson Profar.)  A deal with Texas would have looked different, no matter how hard you try to lay an Alexi Ogando, Mitch Moreland, Mike Olt, and Neil Ramirez (or Tanner Scheppers) transparency over the Cincinnati foursome.

Second, if you’re going to bundle Ogando, Moreland, Olt, and Ramirez together in one deal, you’re not going to do it for Mat Latos.  The Marlins aren’t going to trade Mike Stanton, probably not even if Felix Hernandez changed his name to “Gio Gonzalez,” and if the Yankees ever deal Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos together, they’re going to target someone more valuable than Danks.

We talked about this back on July 19, in a report titled “Asset allocation” that ended with this: “When cash is the cost, the question is whether you’re willing to give it up to get the deal done.  With the outlay of prospects, though, the analysis goes further, as you have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to give it up now.”

If you’re Texas, you just don’t go to that level for Matos.  And if you’re San Diego, a package of Ramirez, Matt West, and Tomas Telis – arguably a fair offer in a vacuum – doesn’t come close to getting it done, considering that haul that the Reds put on the table.

Let’s say Chicago, asking New York for Montero and Banuelos, tells Texas that one season of Danks will cost only Profar and Martin Perez.  The Rangers respond with an offer of Luke Jackson, Leury Garcia, and Ryan Strausborger.  In unison, Williams tells Jon Daniels to wish Robyn a Happy New Year while JD sends similar wishes Jessica’s way.

Yes, Williams (Danks) and Billy Beane (Gonzalez) and Theo Epstein (Matt Garza) and Andrew Friedman (everyone but Matt Moore) have to be thrilled with what Byrnes flipped Latos for yesterday.  But that doesn’t mean teams have to pay their price for their starting pitchers.  Just as Texas could have offered C.J. Wilson the financial package the Angels offered him but opted not to, the Rangers don’t have to trade Derek Holland, Profar, David Perez, and Jorge Alfaro for James Shields just because that’s what it might cost to stay in the game.

And here’s the bigger point: Texas could trade Matt Harrison, Ramirez, Moreland, Leonys Martin, and Jordan Akins to the Cubs for Garza and Sean Marshall and survive it both at the big league level and on the farm.  They could.

But maybe you too saw that MLB Network roundtable discussion a day or two ago when the analysts speculated that Seattle (not positioned to win in the next couple years) and Tampa Bay (with its tremendous rotation depth) could conceivably take calls on Hernandez and David Price, just to see what they might be able to get in this market that’s full of pitching-hungry contenders but almost totally void of frontline options.  Hernandez in particular is probably worth what the Reds gave up yesterday plus what the Padres gave up.  For three years of the King, Profar would presumably have to be in play.

Check out what San Diego managed to do yesterday, and ask yourself if Jack Zduriencik and Andrew Friedman’s instant reaction could have been anything other than to wonder what they might be able to turn King Felix and Price into right now, with the current landscape being what it is.

And it’s another reason why this Yu Darvish thing is so intriguing.  Maybe he’s Price, maybe he’s Latos, maybe he’s Volquez or Chan Ho Park.  But he won’t cost prospects or draft picks, and the way this trade market has developed, while Darvish is going to cost a ton of dollars, he won’t cost a ton of young players.

(If you weren’t on Twitter yesterday afternoon, Franz Lidz of Sports Illustrated reported that the prevailing bid for the right to negotiate with Darvish apparently exceeds the $51.1 million that Boston paid Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Seibu Lions in 2006 . . . and with a stack of stories speculating that Toronto was thought to have prevailed with a bid between $40 million and $50 million . . . then perhaps someone else actually submitted the high bid.)

(Hold me.)

But back to the part about paying a fortune in prospects.

If the Rangers traded Ogando, Moreland, Olt, and Ramirez for Latos (something they never would have done), would they have been better in 2012?  Most likely.  Would they have survived at the infield corners the next however-many years without Moreland and Olt?  Sure.  Is there enough pitching depth on the way that the pipeline would have withstood the loss of Neil Ramirez, especially if the big league rotation were strengthened in the meantime?  Yes.

But if the Latos-Gonzalez-Danks-Garza market is joined by Hernandez or Price now, or Clayton Kershaw or Josh Johnson or Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or Matt Cain either seven or 12 months later, where would Texas be if Olt and Ramirez and more had already been moved for someone like Latos, or Perez and more were shipped to Chicago for one year of Danks, or Leonys Martin was put in a deal for a starter who wouldn’t come to camp as a lock to get the Opening Day nod ahead of Colby Lewis or Holland?

(By the way, it’s too soon to see how this will play out, but going forward, theoretically, there could be fewer impact players traded in July and more traded in the winter a year before they would reach free agency, because teams will no longer get draft pick compensation for players they own for less than a full season.  In other words, if the White Sox trade Danks now, or if Milwaukee trades Greinke now, or if San Francisco trades Cain now, their new teams would have the right to premium draft picks if they were to lose the pitcher a year from now.  But if those pitchers are not traded until this summer, there would be no future draft picks attached to them.  Therefore, you might expect that the teams owning those players could get better offers for them now than they can anticipate in July – though that could be offset by the added urgency of the trade deadline market.  Hard to say right now, but it’s surely part of the trade talks going on right now.)

I’ve found myself getting into a “patience” talk with a lot of you in the last few weeks, mostly due to the Rangers’ relative silence so far this winter while the Angels in particular have loaded up, in their rotation and in their bullpen and at first base and at catcher.  It’s early.  (Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, remember, were January acquisitions.)  And lots of market jams will begin to free up once all but one team is eliminated Tuesday in the Darvish chase.

But a whole different kind of patience is called for here, as we discussed back on July 19 – the importance of taking extreme care with those single-use commodities like Perez and Olt and Alfaro, because once you put them in a deal for a very good big league starting pitcher, you’ve lost the chance to package them later in a championship-level trade for a transcendent one.

Better to wait for that deal that has other teams’ fans asking what their equivalent package would have been – and coming up empty.

 

Derek Holland and Yu.

Derek Holland narrowly missed qualifying for arbitration this winter, falling a couple weeks short.  It sounds like Texas would like to make sure he never qualifies.

A couple hours after our book release party ended tonight, with Holland accommodating every autograph request and posing for every photo and answering every fan question, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted that, according to sources, the Rangers were working on a five-year contract with the lefthander, a deal that would cover 2012, his three arbitration seasons of 2013-2015, and his first year of free agency in 2016.

Holland has been to three or four of our parties, and in some ways he’s changed dramatically (his physical appearance, for one), other ways not at all.  He’s still got that solid mix of an unshakable confidence and a stern refusal to be satisfied or overly impressed with where his game is.  It might not be as important a combination as a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider, but it’s part of what can make a very good pitcher a great one, and I love where Holland’s career is headed.  The Rangers, evidently prepared to extend the 25-year-old the same type of early commitment that they’ve given hitters like Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Hank Blalock, obviously do as well.

Holland and Scott Coolbaugh were really great – big thanks to John Blake and Taunee Taylor for arranging for them to join us – and I really appreciate the hundreds of you who came out to Sherlock’s despite the lousy weather.  Nice job filling up those Cowboy Santa’s boxes with toys, too.

We don’t yet know who submitted the high posting bid on Yu Darvish this afternoon, but odds are it will leak before Tuesday’s official announcement.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN/XM, minutes ago, Texas was one of four teams to bid, joining the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Cubs, though it’s unclear whether his list is meant to be conclusive, or whether other clubs like Washington and perhaps Seattle could be involved as well.  Bowden believes MLB will announce in the morning which team’s bid prevailed.

By time you’re reading this, then, we may know whether Texas is that team, in which case it will have 30 days from Tuesday (or from whenever Nippon Ham accepts the bid, I suppose, if the Fighters don’t wait until Tuesday) to hammer out an agreement with Darvish to pitch for Texas for a bunch of years, and a lot of money.

But there’s another 25-year-old pitcher that the Rangers have apparently already started that process with, a pitcher who’s accomplished far more in the Major Leagues than Yu Darvish has but who you get the sense will never act like it, not now and not in the spring and not five years from now – regardless of what happens between now and then.

What they’re now saying about Yu.

Tucked within just about every Yu Darvish article lately there’s been at least one extra nugget for you to latch onto or dismiss, the latest a note in Jeff Passan’s Tuesday night Yahoo! Sports story – retweeted overnight by Darvish’s agent Don Nomura – that suggests the righthander’s preference to pitch for a West Coast team “is ‘very strong’ and ‘might cause him to reconsider’ [whether to leave Japan] if an East Coast team wins the posting auction.”

Passan adds that “the sentiment that Darvish will return to Japan next season, most executives believe, isn’t 100 percent posturing.”

And then there’s this from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “The Rangers . . . aren’t expecting to land [Darvish] and might not even submit a bid.  They are committed to the business model, which doesn’t have room for a high-risk, high-dollar acquisition this off-season.”

I think it’s reasonable not to expect Texas to prevail on Darvish, but soon enough we won’t have to spend any more time speculating, or reading published speculations.

A couple hours after the Commissioner’s Office tells all interested clubs late this afternoon to put their pencils down and turn their Darvish scantrons in, we’ll gather at Sherlock’s in Arlington to hang out with a pitcher born a few weeks after the Japanese righty, a lefthander with a Dutchstache and explosive off-season hair and an immediate upside we don’t have to speculate about at all.

The book release party for the 2012 Bound Edition gets rolling at 6:00 tonight at Sherlock’s (254 Lincoln Square, a few blocks west of Rangers Ballpark), with Derek Holland and Rangers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh joining us for autographs (limit two per Ranger, please) and some fan Q&A.  We plan to go until 9:00 or later, but please come early to meet Coolbaugh, who may not be able to stay for the entire event.

We’ll have the 2012 and 2011 books for sale at the party (cash or checks only), and we’re also collecting new, unwrapped toys to help support the Cowboy Santa’s Toy Donation Program that the Rangers are sponsoring this year.

Looking forward to seeing you all out there tonight, to hang with Holland and Coolbaugh and celebrate Rangers baseball, as the Darvish conversation shifts from sealing to ceiling, with one team settling in as part of the story rather than an ever-changing pool of supposed favorites to sit at the table opposite the enigmatic righthander.

Forget Yu.

Ten quick things:

1.  FORGET YU:  Most in the national media thinks Texas is, at worst, one of three teams with the best shot at bringing Yu Darvish to camp in two months.  Gotta say, I’m not seeing it.

As I said yesterday, while C.J. Wilson’s Angels contract didn’t seem that outrageous, I have faith that the Rangers had sound reasoning to not go to five years at $15.5 million annually on the proven lefthander.  Are they going to commit at least that many years to a pitcher who hasn’t faced a big league lineup and hasn’t worked on an American rotation schedule and hasn’t regularly used the differently sized Major League ball?

Let’s assume they would – and believe me, from what I’ve seen of and heard about Darvish (limited), I’d love to see him here.  But assume Texas would be willing to give five (or more) years to the 25-year-old, even though you might conceivably argue that his younger body might not include a younger arm than Wilson’s, and that there’s no way he’s better conditioned than Wilson and that there’s no basis for believing he’d be as suited for Rangers Ballpark as Wilson proved he was.  Assume length of contract is not an issue.

Let’s say that the scattered reports that Darvish will demand $20 million per year are baseless and untrue, and that he wouldn’t even expect Wilson money.  Let’s say what’s important to Darvish (who makes just under $6.5 million per year in Japan) is that he gets more than Daisuke Matsuzaka got five years ago from Boston – six years and $52 million ($8.67 million AAV).  Let’s call it six years and $60 million.  (Even though ESPN’s Jim Bowden predicts Texas will sign him for four years and $75 million.)

And let’s say Texas, not wanting to go 5/77.5 for Wilson (and again, as we discussed yesterday, there’s absolutely no reason to assume Wilson would have taken a mere match from the Rangers), would go 6/60 for Darvish.  He’s younger, the AAV is lighter, they might even think he’s a better pitcher right now.  Let’s say (1) 6/60 is a number Texas is comfortable paying Darvish and (2) 6/60 is a number Texas believes Darvish would take, and (3) the Rangers really, really want Darvish here.

OK, now what bid are you going to seal to feel confident that you’re the club that gets that chance to negotiate with Darvish until late January?

More than the $51.111111 million that Boston posted for the Matsuzaka rights?

Less?

The unusually inactive Yankees are downplaying interest, but their rotation needs are arguably greater than the Rangers’, and they have added incentive to make sure that the Blue Jays (as heavily rumored as anyone on Darvish) don’t get him.  Yankees GM Brian Cashman said yesterday: “I am ready to rock and roll.  The Yankees are open for business.”  Mm-hmm.  Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) expects the similarly quiet Red Sox to be in the mix.

Call it $40 million.  Might not be enough in the sealed bid process, but let’s say that’s the number Texas thinks it would take, and that the club is right.

As Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) wonders, “If Rangers wouldn’t go to $80 million on C.J. Wilson, why would they go to $100 million total investment on Darvish?”

Grant “expect[s] a bid from [the] Rangers on Darvish, just expect[s] it to be middle of [the] pack.”  Me, too.

Trading for a proven number two type, using part of a deep prospect inventory to secure two or three years of a far more predictable commodity, seems like a more likely plan for Texas, which Grant pointed out will commit millions this winter to a number of arbitration-driven raises (Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Matt Harrison, Mike Adams, David Murphy, and Mark Lowe are eligible) plus Ballpark improvements.

Take a look at what the Rangers’ payroll stands to be this year, at this moment, before additions.  It projects (via those arb jumps) to be over $110 million.  Paying (hypothetically) a $40 million posting fee plus the first $10 million or so of a long-term contract right away seems unlikely to work.

Would like to be wrong about this, but I don’t see the Rangers playing real big on Darvish.

2.  NEXT OF KINS:  There are reports this morning that the club has been in talks with Ian Kinsler about a long-term extension that would keep him here beyond 2013, when the club has the option right now to pay him $10 million after paying him $7 million in 2012.  There have been various rumors of a club interest in extending Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli (whose club control expires after 2012) as well, but the Kinsler story is the first to describe what appear to be actual discussions.

Says Kinsler: “I want to stay here.  I was drafted by the Rangers, and I want to be a Ranger.  You never know how long it’s going to take.  I think the sooner the better for them, and the sooner the better for me.”

Excellent.

3.  MUCH MOORE:  Love what the Rays did with young lefty Matt Moore, he who has to his credit all of 19.1 big league innings, more than half of which came in the series against Texas in October.  Five years, $14 million, plus 2017 and 2018 and 2019 club options that can push the deal to eight years and $39.75 million (or more, based on workload incentives).

Fantastic.

4.  ANOTHER THING THE ANGELS DID TO THE RANGERS ON THURSDAY:  When it became clear on Wednesday night that Wilson was going to sign with the Angels, it set Texas up to end up with the 19th pick in the June draft, forfeited to them by Los Angeles.  With the Angels signing Pujols as well, that pick instead goes to St. Louis, and Texas gets Los Angeles’s second-round pick, which will probably end up somewhere in the range of 70th to 75th overall.  Texas still gets a supplemental first-rounder, maybe around number 34, but man.

19/34 vs. 34/70.

That bites.

5.  KING’S RANSOM:  ESPN’s David Schoenfield wrote a column suggesting Seattle ought to trade Felix Hernandez, who will be a free agent after 2013, with almost no chance of the Mariners being contention-competitive in the two intervening seasons.  It’s a conversation I’ve struck up a few times myself in the past week.

He’s the one guy (well, he and the unavailable Clayton Kershaw) who I’d allow the other team to pick its choice of any three Texas prospects for.  We could haggle over prospects four and five and six.

I’d hope that Seattle ownership would let GM Jack Zduriencik move King Felix, but it’s probably unlikely.  And even if ownership would be open to the idea, the fact that Justin Smoak hasn’t quite lit things up (even though Blake Beavan has been pretty solid) doesn’t help if the question is whether it’s OK to trade with Texas and keep Hernandez in the division even though that’s one of the two teams you’re chasing.

6.  CBA: F:  We’ve talked about this already, and I’m sure I’ll get into it more later on, but let’s say next winter, there’s an opportunity to trade (as an example) Jurickson Profar, Neil Ramirez, Jordan Akins, Tanner Scheppers, David Perez, and Nomar Mazara for Kershaw.  Forget the merits of the deal for a second.

Under the new CBA, the next Profar and next Ramirez and next Akins (if he even chooses baseball) and next Scheppers and Perez and Mazara are going to be a lot less likely to be scouted and signed by one organization, so a few years from now, an effort to trade for the next Kershaw is necessarily going to take a deeper bite into of a franchise’s farm system.

The result of the changes in draft and international expenditures is that, in order to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, there are going to be fewer alternatives to simply spending like the Yankees and Red Sox, which most clubs can’t even think about doing.  Going forward, it’s apparent that smart, tenacious, creative scouting as a way to beat the monoliths will be less rewarded.  Better off to have the deep pockets that market shares and geography help to ensure.  As far as competitive balance is concerned, Major League Baseball is choosing to become the NBA.

7.  BOOK RELEASE PARTY:  The book release party for the 2012 Bound Edition is this Wednesday, December 14, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub & Grill in Arlington (254 Lincoln Square, a few blocks west of Rangers Ballpark).  The private party will be non-smoking – definitely kid-friendly.

Those of you who have preordered should have received your books by now, or certainly will before Wednesday.  You can still order books online at any time, and we’ll also have plenty of books on hand at the party.

This year, we are NOT requiring that you buy a book in order to get autographs at the event.  Derek Holland will be with us, and we might have another surprise guest or two that night.  Time permitting, I expect we’ll do Q&A in addition to autographs.  I’ll update you when I can.

8.  BOUND EDITION SHIPMENTS:  If you haven’t ordered books yet and are thinking about buying some to give as holiday gifts, they’re now shipping within a day or two of your orders.

9.  NEW T-SHIRTS:  We now have a third available T-Shirt design, courtesy of Brian Maines of Johnny Velvet tees.  All three designs, which come in all sizes, are available at the Newberg Report e-Store.

10.  MAY 29, 2010:

 

Unfortunate for the Angels.

Unfortunate for the Rangers.

C.J. Wilson, Lost.

Having plenty to focus on at my real job on Thursday was very welcome.  Perfect distraction from what had been a disappointing baseball wakeup call.

But now I’m sitting at my desk preparing to write about baseball and it’s not as easy to distract myself from the emotional cauldron that hasn’t dissipated much from Thursday morning.

I spent a half-hour last night, while half-watching TV with the kids, working up this awesome idea that I would take C.J. Wilson’s beloved “Lost” and tell the story of his six full seasons in Texas in Sunday Sports Section gimmick fashion, using the taglines for the TV show’s six seasons as headers (Season 1:  Survival Is Not a Game . . . Season 2: Everything Happens for a Reason . . . Season 3: Find Yourself . . . Season 4: The Wait Is Over . . . Season 5: Destiny Calls . . . Season 6: Destiny Found), until it struck me that that awesome idea was banally awful.

I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist tossing in Desmond’s “See you in another life, brother,” and I can promise you that Hurley telling Ben in the series finale, “You know, you were a real good number two,” to which Ben responded, “You were a great number one,” would have been square-pegged in somehow, but I can’t run away from this by goofing around.  Every time I thought on Thursday about what I wanted to say in this space about Wilson and Albert Pujols choosing the Angels, I kept coming back to the final words of the news flash I’d sent out at 10:15 AM:

Know what? 

Bring it.

Look, there’s nothing about Thursday’s turn of events that I’m happy about.  But there was this surge of adrenaline coursing through me all day, and still now, the kind that I used to feel after a final exam or a jury trial that would frequently lead me to grab the keys and head to the batting cages, so I could work some of that energy off.

I want Opening Day, now.  I want May 11, at home against the Angels, now.  I want September 18, 19, and 20, and 28, 29, and 30, now.

Now.

It’s strange.  Losing the World Series to the Giants a year ago was a new, unwelcome feeling for Rangers fans of any duration.  Game Six and Game Seven against the Cardinals were once again new, far more unwelcome.  This is different, too.

I think we as Rangers fans grew up a little yesterday.  Maybe.

If the Mavericks do lose Tyson Chandler, as appears to be imminent, it will hurt, but the fact that a title was won while he was here mitigates things a bit.  (Different scale, but St. Louis winning ought to make the Pujols defection at least marginally less awful to stomach for Cardinals fans than it would have been had Texas prevailed.)

But Wilson leaves after one of the most harrowing defeats in pro sports championship opportunity history, and on top of that joins forces with the annual enemy, adding injury to injury to injury.

This is a new type of pain.  Texas has lost Scott Servais and others from off the field this winter, no surprise.  Chances are that if Thad Levine had taken the GM interview offered by the Astros, he’d be gone, too.  This isn’t like Mark Teixeira moving on because he didn’t want to be here anymore, or Kevin Brown or Kenny Rogers leaving for a better chance to win.  Wilson, like Servais, was in demand because he’s not only very good at what he does but because he was an integral part of a team that’s been to the last two World Series and is poised to be in the mix for a while, and in both cases it was the rival Angels who poached the club they’re chasing, giving one a chance to advance his career, the other a chance to basically come home.

Am I worked up about that?  You bet I am.

But I’m not all that torqued at Wilson himself.

C.J. Wilson’s situation is a lot like Cliff Lee’s.  And nothing like it at all.

Both decided to go home, in one form or another.  They’d earned the right, for the first time in their careers, to choose where they’d play next and, standing out as the best among starting pitchers on the open market, had lots of options.  Neither ran away from the Rangers so much as they decided, given what was available, that going home made more sense.  Got no beef with that.

But real differences between the two made Thursday morning unlike the Monday night nearly a year ago when Lee chose the Phillies.

Wilson grew up in this organization and became a big leaguer here and a pitcher worthy of a $77.5 million investment.  He was a junior college pitcher with a 2-10, 6.87 record who was scouted well and a minor league Tommy John survivor who was developed tremendously by Texas, an erratic reliever who was transformed into a workhorse starter worthy of an All-Star selection and assignments on Opening Day and ALDS Game One and ALCS Game One and World Series Game One.

Far different from Lee, who was pitching for his fifth organization after his fourth trade when he made all of 15 regular starts and five playoff starts for Texas.  Lee, by no choice of his own, has worked for teams in Canada and the Midwest and in the Northeast and in the Northwest and in the Southwest before opting to go back to the Northeast.  Wilson has been a Texas Ranger every one of the 430 times he has taken the mound and looked back at the right field foul pole to ground himself in a professional baseball game.

Until now.

But just like I will never root for Lee’s failure – except when he’s in the dugout opposite the Rangers – I will never boo Wilson, and don’t wish failure upon him (even if I hope for another notch in the “L” column every time his team plays).  That’s crazy.  Both lefties were huge parts of the best seasons this franchise has ever given us, and both left behind younger Texas pitchers who learned from them (including, obviously, Wilson from Lee), and in that way their legacies will live on, and not just nostalgically.

When the red-gloved Wilson faces Texas, I will put everything I have into hoping the Rangers rip him a new one, just as if he were Jered Weaver or Chris Carpenter or Matt Moore or Charlie Furbush.  And even if I hope Wilson’s team loses every time he pitches – not because he’s pitching but because of who he’s pitching for – I’m good if he leaves with a 2-0 lead in the eighth every time out, having fanned 11 and walked two and scattered three (unlucky) base hits, only to see the Los Angeles bullpen cough it up.

Texas has won the pennant the last two years.  Los Angeles won the Winter Meetings this week.

Did the Angels narrow the AL West gap?  No question.  Did they close it?  Play the games.

The Texas offense is still better, in spite of Pujols and Chris Iannetta.  The Los Angeles rotation is still better, especially with Wilson migrating west (an argument can certainly be made that the Angels’ fourth starter would be the Rangers’ first).  Texas has the much younger core and the much stronger farm system inventory to work with.

Anything that reduces the Rangers’ chances of winning is unwelcome.  But this rivalry is good for the game, and will add something to Rangers-Angels that has largely been only circumstantial until now, that is, existent only in years when both clubs were strong.  This isn’t New York-Boston, but the Rangers have never had a real, tangible, combustible rivalry – never – until now.

(The late-90s run-ins with New York don’t count, because rivalries have to raise temperatures on both sides, not just one, right?)

This will be good for baseball, and as much as we’d like to have avoided it, it’s going to add something real to regular-season Rangers baseball, too.

You know, you have to beat the best teams in baseball to earn a championship.  Sometimes that includes the teams you play the most.

So now what?  Does Texas take some of that prospect supremacy and convert some of it to respond to Pujols-Wilson?  Not unless that was the plan if Pujols had stayed in St. Louis and Wilson had gone to Miami.  Karl Ravech of ESPN tweeted yesterday: “Next move is for Texas.  GM Jon Daniels may be [the] best in [the] business.”  But then added: “Be patient in Texas.”

And the last part is the point, though it runs counter to my feral impulse that has me still thinking about that trip to the cages.  This is about two different things.  Deciding not to sign Wilson at whatever the cost would have been to do so is one.  Wilson choosing the Angels is another.  Letting one influence the other can get you in trouble.  Whatever the course is, stay the course.  The folks at 1000 Ballpark Way know what they’re doing.

I didn’t think it would have been smart to give Lee seven years, or six.  While I don’t cringe at the contract the Angels used to land Wilson, I trust that the Rangers – who know Wilson better than the Angels or anyone else – had reasons not to go to the same lengths (which of course assumes without evidence that a Texas match would have won the day, which may not be the case).  Texas long ago earned my faith as far as player evaluation and setting and following a blueprint are concerned.

How the Rangers really feel about Yu Darvish will reveal itself soon enough (by Wednesday afternoon, to be specific).  Whether they believe Mike Olt has more value as a trade chip or at a lesser position here (first base or corner outfield) or – maybe most to the point – as a piece to hold onto until the exact right starting pitcher is made available is something we may not know for a long time, even though I’m sure it’s discussed most days upstairs in the Center Field offices.  The prospect of Prince Fielder in Texas is going to get a massive amount of talk show and blogosphere play while Scott Boras lets the process drag out.

This winter is far, far from over.

Part of me is firmly reassured by that place on the calendar, while the other part of me is the one that would very much like to be at the Ballpark with 50,000 of you and 25 of them before I have to think about my next meal.

C.J. Wilson was a huge reason that this team has the been the final American League team standing the last two years, and while I’m saddened to see his run here come to an end, the importance of what he did here ever since signing for slot out of the fifth round more than a decade ago, a pitcher taken 141st in the country and paid accordingly ($200,000) to make a run at extending a childhood dream past Draft Day, doesn’t go away for me.

No Rangers pitcher in the last 10 years worked harder at overcoming injury and conditioning himself and doing everything possible to get the most out of his physical tools on a pitching mound.  Wilson may have given radio montage-mashers lots of material during his time here (and man, did he do that), but at the same time he helped a whole lot of local kids not as fortunate with their health as most, and he set a tremendous example for lots of young Rangers pitchers hoping to reach new levels as consistently as he did, setting that example on the days he pitched and, maybe more importantly, on the four days in between.

I’d be OK if you didn’t read the next dozen lines, recklessly shoehorned (for reasons that are only thinly apparent even to me) from the very final scene of “Lost” into a baseball story written by a baseball fan restless for the next baseball game:

J:  You . . . are you real?

C:  I should hope so.  Yeah, I’m real.  You’re real, everything that’s ever happened to you is real.  All those people . . . they’re real, too.

J:  They’re all . . . they’re all dead?

C:  Everyone dies sometime, kiddo.  Some of them before you, some . . . long after you.

*          *          *

J:  Where are we?

C:  This is the place that you . . . that you all made together, so that you could find one another.  The most important part of your life, was the time that you spent with these people.  That’s why all of you are here.  Nobody does it alone.  You needed all of them, and they needed you.

J:  For what?

C:  To remember . . . and to . . . let go.

J:  She said we were leaving.

C:  Not leaving, no.  Moving on.

J:  Where are we going?

C:  [smiling] Let’s go find out.

I’m not really sure what made me think that exchange belonged here, but something about it sort of resonates for me, and aside from the text itself there’s the (yeah, forced) symmetry between the final act of those characters in a series that had for six seasons (over 2004-2010) one of the great runs of television in my time and the conclusion of the run of one of the more unique characters in Rangers history, and certainly one of the franchise’s premier pitchers, a run that also lasted those requisite six seasons (over 2005-2011) that enable a big league ballplayer to leave, to move on, to go find out.

There’s a whole lot left to find out as far as baseball goes around here: What comes next this winter, what the Rangers are going to be without Wilson, and what the Angels are going to be with him, and with Albert Pujols.

It’s not supposed to be easy.  And the more challenging it gets, the sweeter it is to prevail.

The next time C.J. Wilson trots out to the mound in Rangers Ballpark, it will be the bottom of the first rather than the top, and if I’m there I will stand up and applaud, thanking him for what he did here, before I sit down and lock in on the first of what will be dozens of Wilson-Kinsler showdowns over the next however-many years.  Once the umpire crouches, my single-minded focus will be on Wilson getting roughed up, because I’m a Rangers fan.  But I don’t wish bad things for him.

Just for the Angels.  Because I’m a Rangers fan.

I’m still going to have to work through the irritation that there’s not a first pitch to settle in for tonight, or next month, or the next, but I know that my gut reaction to Thursday’s news, which persists after a day of reflection, will still be in place on Opening Day, and on May 11, and for the rest of the year and as far into the future of Rangers-Angels as I can imagine:

Bring.  It.

A thought.

Sudden thought, crystallized after jumping around the back of my head for a while, and one that you’ve probably already considered . . . .

With all these nebulous tweets from the national media about how busy and how crazy these Winter Meetings are primed to be, and given both the lack of top-tier free agents and the number of teams apparently prepared to spend, it seems like we might have a throwback, old-school, wheel-and-deal marketplace shaping up.

It wouldn’t surprise me if a good number of clubs not quite feeling it for 2012 might try to take advantage of the current landscape by running some impact players out on the relatively thin market to see what sort of premium they can extract in high-end pre-arbitration players and minor leaguers . . . which could convert a sellers’ market into somewhat of a buyers’ market for those teams particularly flush in those types of young player assets.

Stated another way, much as Atlanta found itself targeted (along with two or three other clubs) by the Rangers in July 2007, I wonder if Texas might find itself fielding as many calls as it places this week on opportunities to be on the opposite end of a Mark Teixeira-type trade.  Part of the reason the Rangers traded Teixeira exactly when they did (a season and a half away from free agency) was an exploitation of market timing – and I wonder if the more or less unimpressive free agent crop could have teams with impact starters and impact bats at least checking around to see what they can flip their own players for . . . and pinpointing Texas, with its farm system depth and its money to spend, on its list (regardless of size) of the teams to check in with.

Just a thought.

Shiny new things.

Pitchers Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Michael Kirkman.

Catcher Taylor Teagarden.

Infielders Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young.

Outfielders Julio Borbon, Nelson Cruz, Craig Gentry, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy.

Those 14 players are all that remain from the 40-man roster as it stood two years ago today, as Jon Daniels and his crew were preparing to build the roster that would get to the first of the club’s two World Series appearances.

Change is the rule in pro sports, especially in baseball, and extra-especially in the case of the Daniels Rangers.  If you’re like me, that’s one of the cool things about being a fan of this team.  There’s no room for complacency.

Admit it: Anytime you see some sort of news flash that Texas has been involved in a trade, the adrenaline kicks in.  Even if the deal turns out to be Gabe Kapler and Jason Romano for Todd Hollandsworth and Dennys Reyes, or Jose Marte for Dustin Nippert, or Tim Smith for Danny Gutierrez, there’s something energizing about a baseball trade.  We like shiny new things.

When you get an email from your fantasy baseball or football buddy titled, “Trade idea,” come clean: Everything else gets put on hold.

The Rule 5 Draft pumps you up more than it should.

You spent more time with Twitter on July 31 than you did with your family.  Same will probably be true this coming Monday through Thursday.

And by “you,” I mean “me,” of course.

If an exact replica of C.J. Wilson – same age, same repertoire, same track record, same personality, same contract demands – were to leave his last team and sign with Texas for X years and Y dollars, I suspect that a huge majority of the faction that, for some weird reason, can’t wait for Wilson to leave would be leading the excitement parade for the new acquisition.

It was exciting when Rafael Palmeiro blossomed in Texas.  And when Will Clark was brought in to replace him.  And when Palmeiro was brought back to replace Clark.

The reason that this newsletter got rolling 13 years ago was because baseball fans like reading about prospects.  Prospects signal change.  Prospects are shiny new things.  Even when they’re Kelly Dransfeldt, whom Royce Clayton was simply placeholding for.  Or Cesar King, who was going to make the eventual loss of Pudge easier to cope with, or Ruben Mateo, or Jovanny Cedeno.  Oh, Jovanny Cedeno.

I’d be very sad without Kevin Goldstein and Keith Law and Jonathan Mayo and Baseball America and Jason Parks and Jason Cole and John Sickels in my life, writing authoritatively about prospects, some of whom may belong to Texas at the moment but won’t once the Winter Meetings are wrapping up a week from now.

Being on the seller end of the Mark Teixeira trade and Eric Gagné trade and Kenny Lofton trade and Gerald Laird trade was a blast.  But being on the buyer end of the Cliff Lee trade and Bengie Molina trade and Mike Adams trade and Koji Uehara trade and whatever comes next?  Much better.

Simply knowing that Greg Maddux will wear a Rangers uniform (will brother Mike surrender number 31 to him?) in February and March, and imagining the potential impact a few casual conversations could have on a handful of young Rangers starters, has fired many of us up.  So has Thad Levine’s decision not to interview for the vacant GM job in Houston, a decision that almost feels like change given the sense the last couple days that Levine landing that job was a fait accompli.

On the subject of shiny new things, the Newberg Report website has undergone a significant facelift, thanks to the energy and talent that Don Titus and Brian Rhea put into the project over the last couple months.  We have launched this morning.  Give it a spin if you have the time.

I haven’t written much lately, for a few reasons.  I needed a little break after the intensity of October and the November rush to get the book done.  Lately there’s been more COFFEY fodder than news.  I screwed my back up.  And there’s a sense, as we’ve come to expect every July and every winter from this front office, that things are about to get very newsworthy.  So I’ve been conserving my energy.

That list of 14 players at the top could be shorter in a week.  Teagarden is out of options, and if another spot is needed due to additions to what is now a 38-man roster, he could be designated for assignment.  It’s conceivable that Harrison could be moved in a deal for a frontline starting pitcher like Matt Garza, or that Kirkman could be included in a deal for an impact reliever like Andrew Bailey.  Maybe the right team comes calling with the right player and wants Borbon or Murphy.

You never know with this team.  Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish and C.J. Wilson all seem, at the moment, like remote possibilities at best.  But so did the likelihood of Thad Levine staying in Arlington.  Few saw Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera for Josh Hamilton coming four winters ago.

Hope the new website look works for you.  Let me know if you have any thoughts on making it better.  We thought this was the right time to launch it, given that this is one of the times carved out each year on the baseball calendar for all kinds of shiny new things, and for the promise of moving forward and leaving behind whatever had grown, at least in perception, a little dull.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers