January 2012

Roy Oswalt. Wait, Roy Oswalt?

Still not feeling all that well, so I’m going to try and hit on a bunch of things very briefly, and probably just superficially.

The addition of Yu Darvish meant that Texas, already well heeled in rotation depth with Scott Feldman around, would be moving Alexi Ogando, who made the All-Star Team as a first-time starter in 2011, back to the bullpen.  Acceptable.

Now there are rumors spreading wildly that Roy Oswalt may be down to choosing between a one-year, $5 million offer from the Cardinals (with some suggesting he might be asked to relieve), according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Joe Strauss, and a $7 or $8 million offer (with added incentives) from Texas.  MLB.com’s Peter Gammons spoke to three GM’s about Oswalt; two believe he will sign with the Rangers, the other with the Cardinals.

Assuming Oswalt would be asked to start here – and for that level of money you’d have to believe that would be the plan – then Matt Harrison ends up in the bullpen as well, which would certainly improve the relief corps but reduce Harrison’s value, and arguably might not even improve the rotation, particularly given Oswalt’s health question.

As we discussed on December 22 (“Yu Darvish and the potential chain reaction“), there could always be a step-two plan to trade Harrison – considering what Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill and even Tyler Chatwood brought in trade this winter – with a one-year commitment to a veteran like Oswalt designed to hold a rotation spot down until someone like Michael Kirkman or Neil Ramirez or Martin Perez is ready a year from now.

Last night’s Oswalt speculation came a year to the day after Texas traded Frankie Francisco for Mike Napoli, a deal that nobody could have expected would have the impact it did.  Some thought the move was made to give Texas a replacement for Michael Young, who was rumored to be on Colorado’s radar.  Otherwise, it wasn’t fully clear where Napoli would get all his at-bats.

That’s not what the Rangers had planned, though, and whether Texas is in on Oswalt (if that’s true at all) because they want Harrison to give them a more valuable left-handed relief weapon than they think they can find on the open market, or because they have a deal lined up to take advantage of the very healthy trade market for controllable starters, or because they aren’t counting on having another absurdly healthy year from the rotation and want more quality depth there, we know this much:

Whatever the immediate plan is, the Rangers have mapped things out several steps ahead of it.

And for what it’s worth, I’m not buying that the Strauss report is anything more than his own speculation, at least as far as the Texas offer is concerned.  Hard to believe that Oswalt, given his apparent interest in Texas (and lengthy relationship with Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux) and his back issues, wouldn’t have already grabbed it.

Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) says Oswalt has already rejected Detroit’s overtures, hasn’t responded to Boston’s offer, and may be considering Cincinnati as well – though the Reds’ non-roster deal with Jeff Francis would seem to shut that door.  He adds that for Oswalt to sign with Texas, he’d have to do it “at their price” since “he’s not really a fit.”  (Does $7 or $8 million plus incentives sound like a club-friendly deal?)

Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) includes Washington, Cleveland, and Milwaukee as interested parties.

Incidentally, recall that the Phillies declined to offer arbitration to Oswalt, a Type A free agent, and accordingly he won’t cost a draft pick to sign.  In fact, no Type A’s remain on the market now that Prince Fielder has signed.

Ben Rogers (ESPN 103.3 FM) hears that the Rangers and Dodgers were the two clubs that Scott Boras gave final shots to on Fielder once Detroit put nine years on the table.

Koji Uehara’s veto of an apparent deal to Toronto (one of six teams on the no-trade clause he negotiated with Baltimore) is disappointing.  The Jays have one of the game’s best farm systems and thus, theoretically, they’d be more willing to part with Prospect X than if that same player were in the Orioles system, for instance.  (One Japanese outlet suggested the Jays return for Uehara would have been an unidentified minor league position player.)

Also, a little trade leverage is lost when one less interested club is involved – though according to T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), Uehara continues to draw “considerable interest from other teams.”

Toronto signed Francisco Cordero only after the Uehara deal, whatever it was, fell through.

Sullivan adds that teams are asking about Feldman but Texas would probably have to pick up part of the $7.1 million he’s due in 2012 (which counts the $600,000 buyout to void a $9.25 million option for 2013) in order to deal him.  Seems like that wouldn’t make much sense for the Rangers unless the salary relief or the return were significant.  He fills an important role here.

Karl Ravech (ESPN), who says Oswalt will choose Texas or St. Louis, has the Rangers along with the Red Sox as the finalists for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, an interesting suggestion in that the Rangers have been linked to Cuban teenagers Jorge Soler (an outfielder) and Gerardo Concepcion (a lefthander) but not as far as I can recall to the 26-year-old Cespedes.  (Again, though, the Rangers almost never betray their intentions on these things.)

Rosenthal and others have the Cubs and Marlins at the top of the list for Cespedes, who was officially declared a free agent yesterday (though he still needs a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can negotiate with clubs), while Danny Knobler (CBS Sports) hears that the outfielder doesn’t want to play for Miami (which MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro hears is untrue).  Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) ranks the Orioles and White Sox behind the Cubs and Marlins as his most likely destinations.

According to Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com), Concepcion’s top suitors appear to be the Rangers, Yankees, Cubs, and White Sox, while the Marlins, Phillies, Giants, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Royals have shown interest as well.  Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein projects him as a back-of-the-rotation type.

MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, published last night, includes Jurickson Profar (7), Perez (29), Mike Olt (43), and Leonys Martin (89).

Baseball America’s top 10 Rangers prospects: Darvish, Profar, Perez, Olt, Martin, Ramirez, righthander Cody Buckel, catcher Jorge Alfaro, third baseman Christian Villanueva (who saw some instructional league time at second base), and second baseman Rougned Odor.  Righthander Matt West would have been 10th had Darvish not signed.

BA’s Best Tools:

Best Hitter for Average          Profar

Best Power Hitter                   Olt

Best Strike Zone Discipline    Profar

Fastest Baserunner                  Leury Garcia

Best Athlete                            Jordan Akins

Best Fastball                           Darvish

Best Curveball                        Perez

Best Slider                              Darvish

Best Changeup                        Miguel De Los Santos

Best Control                            Buckel

Best Defensive Catcher          Kellin Deglan

Best Defensive Infielder         Profar

Best Infield Arm                     Garcia

Best Defensive Outfielder      Engel Beltre

Best Outfield Arm                  Akins

Goldstein pinpoints Olt and Tanner Scheppers as two prospects who saw their stock rise this winter based on performance and scouting reports.

John Sickels ranks Toronto’s farm system as the best and the Rangers third, but he said he’d have Texas at number one if he counted Darvish as a prospect.  Sickels has Seattle fourth, Oakland 10th, and Los Angeles 18th.

Nearly 11,000 people attended Darvish’s press conference in the Sapporo Dome on Tuesday, during which he said: “I want people around the world to say that Darvish is the world’s best pitcher.”

AP

I’ve recommended the Joe Sheehan Newsletter to you before and will do so again, this time in order to shoehorn in some very cool things he said in Monday’s edition, in which he featured five baseball books he’s got on his coffee table, including this one:

The Newberg Report: 2012 Edition.  If there was a Jamey Newberg and a Scott Lucas for every single team, that would be amazing.  As is, there are just the two, and the work they do covering the Texas Rangers and the team’s farm system is fantastic.  This book is a collection of Newberg’s work over the previous year, as he follows the Rangers with the passion of a fan and the mind of an analyst.  This isn’t a dispassionate breakdown, although his MLB.com work – also included here – tends to lean a bit more towards the neutral.  In the collected Newberg Reports, you get great information about 17-year-olds you’ve never heard of playing in Instructional League . . . and the visceral excitement that comes from watching your team’s future stars as baseball embryos.  For someone who has never shied away from invoking the language and the emotions of a fan in his own work, Newberg’s heart-on-sleeve writing is what makes the Newberg Report work.

There’s original material as well, including an exhaustive ranking of the top 72 prospects in the Rangers’ system and an in-depth look at the team’s challenges in assembling its 40-man roster.  Angels, Mariners and Athletics fans may not get quite the kick out of the book that others do, but believe me, the bound edition of the Newberg Report is not just for fans of the Texas Rangers.

By the way, so much good new stuff at Scott’s website.  You should give it some of your time.

Florida signed utility infielder-outfielder German Duran to a minor league deal.  Righthander Michael Schlact signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.

How would Rangers history have changed if Pudge Rodriguez hadn’t walked into Doug Melvin’s office on July 31, 1997, and prevented the deal that would have sent him to the Yankees for rookie catcher Jorge Posada and Class A righthander Tony Armas Jr. (and possibly Class AA lefthander Eric Milton) hours later?

That’s what I thought about when I saw clips of Posada’s retirement presser yesterday.  That, and he and Jorge Fabregas both look like Victor Rojas.

Hopefully I’ll feel better whenever Roy Oswalt chooses between Texas and St. Louis, and I can weigh in with a little more energy, and substance.  I’m not sure yet whether I want this supposed competition to turn out differently from the World Series, but I do feel pretty sure that if the Rangers are hoping to land the righthander, it’s likely part of a bigger plan that’s laid out on a whiteboard that none of us can see and perhaps that none of us have fully visualized.

Investing in Yu Darvish.

The euphoria of the posting win a month ago led to 30 days of constant speculation on the sidelines of a game we weren’t able to see play out.  Even on Wednesday, as the final hours and minutes drew down, what felt like adrenaline was probably little more than the restlessness over a process that was going to take every last minute to complete.

For an entire month as the Rangers and Yu Darvish’s representatives danced behind closed doors, this felt like a slam dunk, and truth be told, the only real elation I felt when the announcement was made at 3:56 p.m. yesterday was because it was over, and we could move on.  It felt more like the final out of a comfortable, methodical (and lengthy) 7-2 victory than December 19’s extra-inning walkoff grand slam.

I listened to the Daniels-Ryan-Nomura-Tellem press conference, I watched MLB Network as they roundtabled the impact on the Texas pitching staff, I sorted through hundreds of emails and tweets.  But the moment that the reality of this thing sunk in was when, late last night, I updated the 40-man roster by typing, in between the words “Jake Brigham” and “Miguel De Los Santos,” the words “Yu Darvish.”

Oh, man, that was cool.

The Mavericks brought Detlef Schrempf and Uwe Blab into the NBA in 1985, and the Sixers drafted Christian Welp a couple years after that.  Though all three played collegiately in the States, the two seven-footers in particular gave life to a stigma that the German game didn’t translate well.  But Dallas was unfazed when, nine years after Blab and Welp were already out of the league, it engineered a 1998 draft day trade for the ninth player selected, German seven-footer Dirk Nowitzki.

Just because Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideo Nomo were disappointments, and Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were worse, doesn’t mean Darvish is destined to follow suit.  Someone’s got to be the best, and just as Nowitzki broke the stereotype in the NBA, Texas believes Darvish can be that guy, too.

It’s a comparison, Darvish to Nowitzki, that Arn Tellem made during yesterday afternoon’s press conference, as the agent whose NBA clientele may be more impressive than his MLB stable told the media that he hopes Darvish can be to the Rangers what Nowitzki has been to the Mavs, not so much as a player who breaks the mold but instead one who can help lead a franchise to its first title.

I’m not going to take the time to reissue my thoughts on Darvish as a Ranger – you can go back and read them here and here if you’re so inclined – but I’ll say this: The Rangers have earned a lot of trust on the scouting front the last few years, and they’ve been on hand for just about every game Darvish has pitched (and done mind-blowing amounts of off-the-field homework) the last couple years.

If they believe in the player – like Don Welke doing a double-take when he saw an 18-year-old Neftali Feliz throwing easy gas for the Gulf Coast League Braves, or A.J. Preller squinting his eyes and seeing a pitcher in Dominican Summer League A’s outfielder Alexi Ogando, and there are dozens of other examples – then I’m fully comfortable with the organization’s assessment that Yu Darvish is worth the dollars and the years and responsibility that it’s investing in him.

Kevin Goldstein believes Darvish tops out as a Number Two, “with [an] outside shot at [being a] One,” and I trust Goldstein’s assessments, too.  But they’re largely based on what big league scouts share with him, and maybe there are lots of scouts underestimating what Darvish could be, just as the vast majority of scouts who turned reports in on Jurickson Profar recommended to their bosses to chase him as a pitcher.

Not that Darvish as a Two would be all that bad a thing.

Maybe the Rangers, whose exhaustive efforts on Darvish went far beyond sitting behind the plate with a radar gun (as Jon Daniels put it) and included developing a relationship with the player and his family to the point at which Darvish hoped they would win the negotiating rights, did enough work on Darvish that they have as reliable a feel for how his game will translate in the States as they would with an All-American college outfielder raking with an aluminum bat or a first-round high school talent pitching against teams without so much as a community college prospect.

Then again, we’re talking about a $108 million investment in Darvish’s case, including that $51,703,411.00 check that the Rangers will write to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters within the week.  It’s an amazing step-out by ownership, an awesome display of determination to win and trust in the recommendations of the franchise’s baseball people, starting in the Pacific Rim with Jim Colborn and Joe Furukawa and moving up the chain of command to Preller and Josh Boyd, and Welke and Daniels, and others from the organization who killed it to get to know this player, between the lines and away from the ballpark.

I’d bet on them, too.

The contract isn’t exactly a six-year, $60 million deal, as originally reported.  There’s apparently $56 million guaranteed (none of it deferred), with incentives that can kick in at least another $4-10 million (depending on which reports are accurate), and the deal gives Darvish a conditional right to opt out after five years, though the terms of the condition weren’t specified.  According to a couple reports, the righthander must place high enough in the Cy Young Award voting in certain unspecified seasons to void the final season and take free agency after the fifth year; other reports refer to a “series of demanding performance clauses” that would trigger the opt-out provision.

Regardless, from the club’s perspective, tack the posting fee onto the guaranteed portion of the contract and Darvish becomes, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out, “the most expensive right-handed pitcher in baseball history.”  The only pitchers who cost more to sign were lefthanders C.C. Sabathia ($161 million), Johan Santana ($137.5 million), Barry Zito ($126 million), Mike Hampton ($121 million), and Cliff Lee ($120 million).

Interestingly – but maybe not coincidentally? – Darvish and Japanese actress Saeko (who were married on 11-11 in 2007) submitted formal divorce papers (by mutual consent) to the ward office in Tokyo yesterday and announced it publicly.  The couple had reportedly been discussing a split for 14 months, finally formalizing it on Wednesday.

A divorce and a marriage the same day, and now Darvish will board a plane and arrive in the Metroplex tomorrow.  On some level, here comes the circus.

Meanwhile, the story line, inevitably, turns to the Prince Fielder issue, and consequently to Josh Hamilton.

But I’m not interested in focusing on any of that, at least not at the moment.  Five weeks from today Yu Darvish is going to emerge from the clubhouse at 15754 North Bullard Avenue in Surprise, in a Rangers uniform with an “11” on the back and a cap with a “T” on the front, stretching alongside Feliz and Ogando and Derek Holland, as Daniels and Preller and Nolan Ryan and the Maddux brothers look on, with swarms of cameramen and massive expectations hovering over everything Darvish does, and I’m pretty damn fired up about that.

In the meantime, the only player that the Rangers have under contract for the 2017 season will be introduced tomorrow evening to the local media and, thus, to the rest of us.  The process to get to this point was tedious and, ultimately, maybe even a little anticlimactic, but now you get the sense that the monotony is over, and if the Rangers are right about this, something very, very special could be on the verge of unfolding, right in our backyard.

Darvish Day.

I waited all day Tuesday, a bit under the weather, for the news.  But alas, there was no Mike Flanagan/Mike Edwards awesomeness in this year’s arbitration submissions.

So that wait is over, and there’s another one to turn our attention to today.

And there will probably be another one after that, but let’s not take our eyes off the ball.

Grab your queso and a day’s supply of your favorite beverage, put the dog in his Rangers Snuggie, and settle in.  It’s Darvish Day, with the final buzzer set to sound at 4:00 Central, eight hours from now.  The month-long game has drawn down to the final possession, with the outcome still on the line.

The game clock is now showing tenths of a second, and we rise to our feet.  Wolf Blitzer has his eye-black on, Dick Clark is bundled up, Prince Fielder is too nervous to touch his vegetarian Grand Slam.

Keep your email and Twitter feed nearby.

Big day.

Hamilton & Darvish updates, and trivia answers.

Two notes of interest to pass along tonight.

First, according to multiple reports, Josh Hamilton’s father-in-law, Michael Dean Chadwick, has decided not to serve as Hamilton’s accountability partner this season, due to “family considerations.”

Second, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News predicts that Texas and Yu Darvish will settle on a deal that pays between $10 million and $11 million per season, and that Darvish’s proposal of a five-year term would include a provision preventing Texas from offering him arbitration thereafter.  It’s become a fairly standard provision for veterans coming over from Japan, one that permits them to take free agency at the end of their initial contract rather than remain subject to club control until they’ve amassed six years of service.  Hideki Matsui and Koji Uehara negotiated that provision into their initial big league deals, and I’m sure there are other examples.

Texas would reportedly prefer to commit Darvish to a six-year deal.

One way or another, this will get done by 4:00 Wednesday afternoon.

Trivia answers from the weekend:

SATURDAY

Name the former Rangers big leaguer born in:

Afghanistan                          Jeff Bronkey                         Aruba                     Sidney Ponson

Curacao                                Andruw Jones                      Germany               Craig Lefferts

New Brunswick                    Matt Stairs                            Nicaragua             Vicente Padilla

Nova Scotia                          Rick Lisi                                Virgin Islands       Jerry Browne

Netherlands/Holland          Bert Blyleven, Rikkert Faneyte

Panama                                 Roberto Kelly, Carlos Lee, Einar Diaz, Ruben Rivera, Bruce Chen

Name the two father/son combinations who played in the big leagues with Texas:

Mike Bacsik and Mike Bacsik Jr.

Sandy Alomar and Sandy Alomar Jr.

Name the two brothers and a second cousin (two coaches and a player) who were with Texas in the big leagues:

Jerry, Johnny, and Sam Narron

There is a first name that only four players in big league history have had.  All four played for Texas.

Esteban Loaiza, Esteban German, Esteban Yan, Esteban Beltre

Four current big league managers suited up as players for the Rangers – one with the big league club, two with minor league clubs, one in big league spring training only

Ned Yost, Ron Washington, Ron Roenicke, Mike Scioscia

SUNDAY

Four players have had three different stints with the Rangers (that is, they had time with other organizations in between each Texas stint).  Name them.

Darren Oliver, Kenny Rogers, Ruben Sierra, Bill Haselman

One coach has had four different stints with the Rangers.  Name him.

Jackie Moore

This former Ranger had 24 fingers and toes.

Antonio Alfonseca

Five former Rangers had last names ending in “___owell.”  Name them.

Oddibe McDowell, Roger McDowell, Jay Powell, Roy Howell, Jay Howell

There is one existing big league franchise that the Rangers have never made a trade with.  Name it.

Tampa Bay Rays

At least five former players who played in the big leagues with Texas now work for Scott Boras.  Name them.

Bob Brower, Scott Chiamparino, Calvin Murray, Kurt Stillwell, Don Carman

Two other Boras soldiers were minor leaguers with the Rangers.  Name them.

Spike Lundberg, Jim McNamara

He’s played in more than 1,000 big league games and stolen more than 300 bases and had two different stints in the Rangers’ farm system without ever reaching the big leagues in Texas.  Name him.

Scott Podsednik

Bill Madlock, Vic Harris, Juan Beniquez, Steve Barr, Craig Skok, and John Poloni: What does this list of players represent?

They were the players involved in the three trades Texas made involving Fergie Jenkins

 

Wouldja?

Thursday on Twitter, I threw this out there:

Propose the biggest-impact Rangers trade you can.  Can happen any time next 24 mths.  Specifics – team & all players.  Mine in upcoming report.

Filter to implement before you click “send” – make sure it’s a deal you’d make if you were the other team.

There were tons of responses, many of which were strong – but some of which were major violations that were clearly never run through the stated “filter.”

I was going to wait a few days to post mine.  Figured I’d let Fan Fest pass, wait until the Yu Darvish deadline expired Wednesday, and maybe post my proposed trade sometime around a week from now.

But something happened on Friday to change my mind on the timing, and it wasn’t the viral afternoon reports that Prince Fielder was spotted (as first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale) at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, apparently meeting with the Rangers at Fielder and Scott Boras’s request.  (According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, one club executive hypothesized that Fielder could end up with a six-year contract that he can opt out of after three seasons, maybe at $22-24 million per year, and that the Rangers, Nationals, and Cubs could lead the pack.)

But that wasn’t what made me decide to write this report today rather than a week later.

When I heard last night that the Mariners and Yankees had hooked up on a killer old school trade, swapping righthander Michael Pineda (and minor league righty Jose Campos) for slugger Jesus Montero (and righty Hector Noesi), a deal whose merit will be debated for years unless Pineda or Montero gets hurt, I couldn’t avoid it any longer.

First, a few thoughts on the Pineda-Montero trade:

1.  The Yankees win, as far as I’m concerned.  Can’t believe Pineda was available at all.  And Montero’s going to be a great hitter, but take a look sometime at what Safeco Field did to Adrian Beltre’s slug.  That ballpark isn’t kind to right-handed power hitters.  To give up a potential number one with all that inexpensive club control for nearly any hitter, especially one without defensive value, is hard to get my head wrapped around.

2.  All that said, I’m not exactly rejoicing to get Pineda out of the division.  The thing is, for the foreseeable future, New York is a much bigger threat to Texas, given what the Rangers want to be, than Seattle is.

3.  It’s something I’ve written about a hundred times, and will half a hundred more, but I still can’t believe the Mariners traded Cliff Lee to Texas for the Justin Smoak-led package rather than the Yankees’ Montero-led package.  (From the July 10, 2010 Newberg Report: “I’m pretty sure I’d take Montero ahead of either [Smoak or Chris Davis], even if he eventually has to move from catcher to first base.  Given the choice between a 20-year-old whose ceiling might be Miguel Cabrera and a 23-year-old who could be [Justin] Morneau, I’ll take the younger guy, whether he’s a catcher or not.”)

Now the Mariners have both.  But as one club executive told Olney last night: “If [the] Mariners liked Montero so much, how come they didn’t just trade Cliff Lee for him? . . . Pineda is worth more.”

That’s because Pineda (who turns 23 next week and held right-handed hitters to a .184 batting average last year, lowest among right-handed starters in all of baseball) has five years of control remaining.  Lee had under three months left on his contract when Seattle traded him.

No, Texas didn’t have the hitter to match Montero this time and get Pineda.  (Jurickson Profar?  Debatable.  Presumably the Mariners preferred the surer bet, as Montero steps into the middle of the lineup right now.)

Of course, I didn’t think Texas had the hitter to match Montero in 2010, either.

4.  Poor Smoak.  Montero may catch some now but he’s eventually going to be a first baseman – and Smoak is eventually going to be traded.

Well, maybe that won’t be so bad for him.

5.  It’s just stupid that the Campos-level prospect went to New York in the deal, rather than the other way.

6.  Great trade for the Yankees, who also reportedly signed righthander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal.

7.  Bring it.

Now, for the hypothetical trade thing.  I asked you all to cook up a monster deal involving Texas over the next two years, the parameters of which were simple: Make it a trade you could argue for on both sides.  David Murphy, Michael Kirkman, and Julio Borbon for Tim Lincecum doesn’t qualify.

Things to think about:

Contract status at the time of your deal.

Team needs.  Here and for the other team.

And not just immediate needs.  Long-term needs, too.

The ability of each team to survive what they’d be giving up – would they be able to address holes left by the trade internally, or would it force another trade or an expensive free agent add?

If one team is giving up a player it would be on the verge of losing to free agency, you have to weigh the return against the one or two premium draft picks it would presumably get if it just held the player through the contract.

Think about P.R./marketing impact on both sides.  This isn’t fantasy league.

And then, after weighing all those things, go back to the most important and maybe least appealing part of this exercise:

Ask yourself if the other team makes your deal.

Here’s mine:

On December 12, 2013, the Texas Rangers trade shortstop Elvis Andrus, lefthander Martin Perez, righthander Cody Buckel, and third baseman Christian Villanueva to the Los Angeles Dodgers for lefthander Clayton Kershaw and catcher Gorman Erickson.

See you at Fan Fest in a couple hours.

Maps and legends.

On January 5, 2011, Texas signed free agent Adrian Beltre, a step-out move much bigger than most anticipated the club making.

A year later, the Rangers got together with the Rockies on a move much smaller than anyone, a few years ago, would have believed.

We talked last week about the Rangers’ disappointment in Round One of the 2006 draft, when Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer were on their board but were taken with the two picks immediately before their turn came up and they selected Kasey Kiker at pick number 12.  Later in the round Ian Kennedy and Daniel Bard were drafted, but the greater regret that year was that neither Lincecum (the player that Baseball America mocked going to the Rangers) nor Scherzer got to them and they were left to take Kiker, who they liked, just not as much.  Kiker was released last month.

But the painful hindsight on that draft isn’t anywhere near the level that the Rockies are left with.  Yesterday they unceremoniously traded their 2006 first-rounder, righthander Greg Reynolds, to Texas for 2006 third-rounder Chad Tracy, in a deal involving two 26-year-olds born a day apart and going nowhere with their original organizations.

In 2005, Colorado lost 95 games, matching its inaugural 1993 season for the worst record in franchise history.  The reward was the second pick in the 2006 draft.

In Jim Callis’s final BA mock draft that year, hours before the first pick, he wrote this about the Rockies’ expected plan at Number Two overall: “Rather than make [Evan] Longoria the fourth straight infielder they would have selected with a top-10 choice, they [have become] enamored with Stanford righthander Greg Reynolds.”

Kansas City took righthander Luke Hochevar first.  Colorado then took Reynolds.  Longoria went third, Brandon Morrow went fifth, Clayton Kershaw went seventh, and Lincecum and Scherzer went 10th and 11th.

It was a terrible draft for the Rockies, who have eight hitless at-bats (catcher Michael McKenry) and 94 disappointing innings (Reynolds) to show for their entire 50-pick crop.

Texas got nothing out of Kiker but did manage to find Chris Davis (5th round), Craig Gentry (10th), Derek Holland (25th), and Danny Ray Herrera (45th), plus Jake Brigham (6th), who was just added to the roster in November.

Colorado finished that 2006 season with the second-best farm system in baseball according to BA.  Texas was 28th.

The Rockies fell to 7th the next year, and 20th the year after that.  Meanwhile, Texas moved up to 4th, and then 1st.  Drafting had a lot to do with the directions both teams were headed, and find themselves now.

While Kiker never got close to Texas, Tracy put himself on the fringes of the map, even though his defensive profile was watered down over the years.  Drafted as a catcher and stationed there in his first season, he was primarily a left fielder in 2007, and mostly a first baseman since, with lots of DH duties mixed in the last two seasons.

It’s been the bat that has kept him in play, with consistent .800-range OPS production and decent power from the right side.  He set a Frisco franchise record with 107 RBI in 2009 and a Round Rock franchise mark with 109 RBI last year – not all that useful predictively but an indication that he’s shown a knack for getting runs home.

Still, when the Rangers were widely known to be searching for a right-handed bat off the bench for playoff roster consideration last summer, Tracy was never summoned for so much as an audition.  He was left unprotected for the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Rule 5 Drafts, and not chosen.  It always felt like a safe bet that he would eventually be moved to Colorado (as long as his father Jim remains the manager), if not by trade then maybe a year from now when he’ll have minor league free agency rights.

Reynolds appeared early on to be fulfilling the expectations tied to his $3.25 million signing bonus, at the time the highest ever handed out by the Rockies.  Assigned after signing to High A Modesto (a couple hours east of his alma mater Stanford), he was effective (2-1, 3.33) over 11 starts in the hitter-friendly Cal League.

The big righthander (who had several offers to play quarterback at Division I-A colleges) then went 4-1, 1.42 in eight starts for AA Tulsa in 2007, limiting Texas Leaguers to a .180 batting average, but he

succumbed to surgery in August for rotator cuff inflammation.  Had his season not been cut short, reports are that he would have been summoned to Colorado for the stretch drive in what was the Rockies’ lone World Series season.

Reynolds was assigned to AAA Colorado Springs out of camp in 2008, and after a run of four effective starts (1.89 ERA over 19 innings) he was a big leaguer in mid-May.  But his 11 Rockies starts didn’t go so well (2-6, 6.71), and he was back in AAA before coming back to Colorado in September for three appearances (13 runs in 4.1 innings).

Shoulder and elbow problems limited Reynolds in 2009 and 2010, and in 2011 he bounced back and forth between AAA (6-7, 6.81) and Colorado (3-0, 6.19), recalled five different times during the season.  The Rockies ran him through waivers in October and he went unclaimed.  Colorado outrighted him to AAA (on the day that Texas eliminated the Rays in the ALDS), and three months later he was quietly shipped to Texas for Tracy.

Reynolds is a guy who came out of college with the ideal pitcher’s frame, a clean delivery, an ability to locate his sinker-curve-change mix, and big-game pedigree, all of which added up to a war room decision to pass on Longoria because the Rockies had third baseman Garrett Atkins in place and had taken infielders Ian Stewart, Chris Nelson, and Troy Tulowitzki atop the previous three drafts (and because they didn’t believe Longoria would transition well to second base, as some felt he could).

If they were committed to a college pitcher, the Rockies could have stayed in California and taken Morrow or moved up the coast to select Lincecum or into the Midwest and chosen Scherzer.  They could have gone the high school route for Kershaw, or ignored their organizational depth charts and taken Longoria, who was Tulowitzki’s college teammate and the player they acknowledged was the top talent on their board.

But they took Reynolds instead, and injuries and a perpetual inability to miss bats have limited his career.  Texas is taking a shot here on a player that it doesn’t need to commit a 40-man roster spot to (which, more so than the playoff run, explains why the Rangers didn’t put in a claim when he hit the waiver wire in October).  All the club had to invest in this no-risk roll of the dice was the agreement to move its own stalled prospect, days after we might have seen this coming when the Rangers not only re-signed AAA first baseman Brad Nelson but also purchased AAA first baseman Brandon Snyder from the Orioles.

Longoria, Kershaw, and Lincecum are on lists as short as you want to make them of the best in baseball at their positions.  Colorado chose Reynolds instead of each of them, paid him more than any of them were paid to sign, and had a 7.47 ERA over 94 big league innings, a hole at third base, and the son of their manager to show for it.

The door isn’t shut on Reynolds’s career – or Tracy’s or Kiker’s, for that matter – but yesterday’s back-page transaction illustrates how difficult scouting and player development is, how risky pitchers’ arms are, and, whether Reynolds ever does anything in Texas or not, how fortunate baseball fans are when their teams are not only relentless but also very good at finding young baseball players and turning lots of them into big league commodities, even when some portion of them inevitably fall victim to the cruel attritions of the game.

Prospects for a Happy New Year.

It was a fantastic year of Texas Rangers baseball, the best one yet.  And another tremendous month of book sales to finish out the year, and I thank you all for that.

The calendar’s no reason, of course, that you can’t still grab a Bound Edition or T-shirt for yourself or the Rangers fans in your circle.  The word “Darvish” even shows up 22 times in the book, even though the story ends three days after the final baseball played in 2011, more than six weeks before Nippon Ham announced it would post the 25-year-old righthander.

Darvish doesn’t, however, show up in this year’s Newberg Report serving of black-eyed peas, the annual January 1st disconnect that is the ranking of the top 72 Rangers prospects you’ll find on Page 3 of the book.

Then again, Darvish wouldn’t be on the list now, either, because he’s not yet a Ranger.

And he’d never be on the list, anyway, because even if he’s eligible for Rookie of the Year consideration in 2012, it would seem sorta silly to consider him a prospect at all.

But if you’d like, you can move the first 54 guys down one slot each, removing number 55 Ryan Kelly (who was traded to San Diego a week and a half ago), and plug Darvish in at number 1.

1.         Jurickson Profar, SS

2.         Martin Perez, LHP

3.         Mike Olt, 3B

4.         Leonys Martin, OF

5.         Jorge Alfaro, C

6.         David Perez, RHP

7.         Ronald Guzman, 1B

8.         Neil Ramirez, RHP

9.         Tanner Scheppers, RHP

10.       Jordan Akins, OF

11.       Rougned Odor, 2B

12.       Nomar Mazara, OF

13.       Christian Villanueva, 3B

14.       Cody Buckel, RHP

15.       Luke Jackson, RHP

16.       Robbie Ross, LHP

17.       Matt West, RHP

18.       Will Lamb, LHP

19.       Miguel De Los Santos, LHP

20.       Kevin Matthews, LHP

21.       Jake Skole, OF

22.       Luis Sardinas, SS

23.       Roman Mendez, RHP

24.       Barret Loux, RHP

25.       Engel Beltre, OF

26.       Justin Grimm, RHP

27.       Zach Cone, OF

28.       Tomas Telis, C

29.       Odubel Herrera, 2B

30.       Kellin Deglan, C

31.       Leury Garcia, SS

32.       Victor Payano, LHP

33.       Wilmer Font, RHP

34.       Johan Yan, RHP

35.       Yohander Mendez, LHP

36.       Hanser Alberto, SS

37.       Fabio Castillo, RHP

38.       Mark Hamburger, RHP

39.       Jake Brigham, RHP

40.       Nick Tepesch, RHP

41.       Luis Marte, SS

42.       Jose Felix, C

43.       Kyle Hendricks, RHP

44.       Ryan Strausborger, OF

45.       Justin Miller, RHP

46.       Drew Robinson, 3B

47.       Jared Hoying, OF

48.       Teodoro Martinez, OF

49.       Carlos Melo, RHP

50.       Matt Thompson, RHP

51.       Francisco Mendoza, RHP

52.       Chris Garia, OF

53.       Jose Valdespina, RHP

54.       Wilfredo Boscan, RHP

55.       Ryan Kelly, RHP

56.       Chad Bell, LHP

57.       Joey Butler, OF

58.       Cody Eppley, RHP

59.       Tommy Mendonca, 3B

60.       Chris McGuiness, 1B

61.       Joseph Ortiz, LHP

62.       Abel De Los Santos, RHP

63.       Trevor Hurley, RHP

64.       Ovispo De Los Santos, RHP

65.       Corey Young, LHP

66.       Chad Tracy, 1B

67.       Santiago Chirino, 2B-3B

68.       Ryan Rodebaugh, RHP

69.       Geuris Grullon, LHP

70.       Chris Hanna, LHP

71.       Jimmy Reyes, LHP

72.       Andrew Clark, 1B

Happy New Year.

And Happy Near-Yu.

(And I wasn’t even over-served last night.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers