Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Dave Cameron weighs in on Adrian Beltre.

I really enjoyed the excellent Adrian Beltre write-up that Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing, a Seattle Mariners blog, did for Lone Star Ball a few days ago, so I asked the great Dave Cameron, of U.S.S. Mariner and FanGraphs and ESPN, if he was interested in penning his own Beltre piece for the Newberg Report since, you know, he doesn’t have enough on his plate already.

You can follow Dave at the above websites and on Twitter (@d_a_cameron), but in the meantime here are his thoughts on the Rangers’ new third baseman:

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One of the best things I was ever told was that it takes very little discernment to see what is wrong with a person.  For many of us, our flaws are self-evident, and perhaps with no baseball player is that more true than Adrian Beltre.  Watch him play just one or two games, and you will quickly catch on to a few glaring problems in his game.  

He loves to chase the low-and-away slider, even though he just can’t hit it.  Even when ahead in the count, he’ll chase pitches a foot out of the zone.  He commits to swinging too early, often ending up on one knee when trying to hit a ball in the dirt, because he simply can’t stop his momentum from swinging even by the time he realizes that the pitch is not even close to being a strike.  He’s done all of this his entire career, and to anyone who has watched him for any length of time, it is a complete mystery that he hasn’t corrected any of these flaws.  

If you’re more into the numbers, his flaws can also be spotted quite easily over there.  Despite playing a position where power is usually expected, he’s only hit 30+ home runs in a season once, and that was six years ago.  He doesn’t like to walk, and in fact, he’s only drawn 48 unintentional walks in the past two seasons combined.  He’s posted an OPS under .800 in eight of his 12 full Major League seasons.  In 2009, his OPS was lower than Elvis Andrus’.  And, as is often repeated and you have no doubt been told countless times over the last week, the two best seasons of his career came when he was playing for a new contract.  

Readily apparent flaws.  As I was told, it takes no real skill to identify the problems in Adrian Beltre’s game.  You don’t need to be a well-seasoned scout – anyone can pick apart his game with relative ease.  However, wisdom is often found in looking beyond the obvious and finding the positives in a person, even one with apparent flaws.  When you get past the rough exterior, you often find a pretty good person.  That is also true of Adrian Beltre as a baseball player.  

Just as he has obvious weaknesses, he also has obvious strengths.  He is going to go down in history as one of the best defensive third baseman of all time.  I can’t emphasize enough how much you guys will enjoy watching him charge a slow roller down the third base line or hilariously cutting off Andrus on a ground ball hit right at the shortstop.  His defense is really a thing to behold, and it will quickly become evident just how valuable having a superb defender at the hot corner can be.  

While defense is his calling card, and I listed a bunch of sort-of-scary numbers a couple of paragraphs ago, he’s also a pretty good hitter.  In particular, he does two things well – hit the ball really hard and make decent amounts of contact.  In fact, his offensive profile is pretty similar to that of Ian Kinsler.  Beltre brings a bit more power and a few more strikeouts (while walking about 50 percent less often), but they’re both line drive guys who have enough power to hit them out occasionally while also racking up a ton of doubles.  Neither of these guys are great hitters, but if someone tells you that Beltre can’t hit, ask them if they think Kinsler can hit, because they’re pretty similar at the plate.  

They also share another commonality – unexpectedly good base running.  You don’t look at either of them and expect a ton of stolen bases, but like Kinsler, Beltre is quicker than he appears, and he’s actually a very good base stealer, going 37 for 44 over in thefts over the last four years. He goes from first to third as well as any player in the game who might be expected to hit cleanup, and he’s intelligently aggressive on the base paths.  I’m sure the Rangers are hoping that he can teach Andrus a few things about that.  

Overall, it’s something of an unusual package, especially at the kind of money he received.  Above average hitter, good baserunner, great defender at a corner position – this just isn’t the kind of skillset that people generally consider to be all that valuable, preferring classic lumbering sluggers and generally only giving defense some real credit if it comes from a shortstop or center fielder.  The statistical crowd often derides Beltre for his inconsistent offensive performance and his lack of plate discipline – after all, no group in history has ever been more fond of the ability to stand still as statheads and their affection for walks.  The more traditional sector of fans focus on the other weaknesses in Beltre’s resume, and often buy into the claim that he only puts up numbers when money is on the line.  He has few supporters on either side of the spectrum, making him an easy target for criticism.  

However, both sides should look beyond their prejudices.  The statistical crowd is just now beginning to accept the value of defense, and metrics that incorporate that part of Beltre’s game show that he’s been one of the best overall third baseman in baseball for quite some time now.  As far as the argument about Beltre and contract years go, I showed how that narrative is missing some facts last week (link: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/adrian-beltre-is-not-motivated-by-contract-years/).  While Beltre is not a perfect player, and there are legitimate criticisms to be made about aspects of his game, the overall package is quite valuable, and Rangers fans should be excited about watching him play.  

Beyond just his value on the field, however, Beltre is remarkably easy to root for.  He is quirky in ways that are hilarious and entertaining rather than contrived or just plain weird.  He doesn’t wear a cup.  He absolutely hates having anyone touch his head (link: http://bosoxgifs.imgur.com/beltre_head_rubs/).  He appeals his own check-swings.  On pitches when he really can’t decide whether to swing or not, he shuffles his feet like a 14-year-old at the prom.  He smiles all the time and has no problem laughing at himself.  He plays hurt, he refuses to take days off, and he actively mentors young players.  He’s simply a really likable guy, and yet he commands the respect of his teammates by working harder than everyone else.  

Once you get past the hacking, the rest of Beltre’s game is very easy to enjoy.  He’s also remarkably easy to root for, and that feeling will only grow as you come to realize just how unappreciated he is by a great majority of baseball fans.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself vigorously defending Beltre over the next six years – he’ll earn your affection on and off the field.  He makes the Rangers better, but he also makes them more fun.  It’s a great combination, and you guys are lucky to have him.  

Stuff.

A few things I’m thinking about:

1.    Buster Olney (ESPN) is among those reporting that the Angels’ final offer to Adrian Beltre was $77 million guaranteed, which was $3 million less than Texas guaranteed him.  The clean $80 million figure is good for Scott Boras, good for the Union.  The sixth year at another $16 million is significant, no doubt.  

But I do like seeing that the Angels’ guarantee was just $600,000 a year less than the Rangers’ guarantee, an almost insignificant baseball number when you consider that it’s less than one percent of the Angels’ team payroll, closer to one-half of one percent.  Beltre lives in Los Angeles, too.  

For too many years, the Rangers would be right there with other clubs on big free agents and finish second, often used as a pawn to get the ultimate winner to spend top dollar.  Whether you agree with the contract or not, I like that Beltre picked Texas.

2.    According to Peter Gammons (MLB.com), the Rangers offered Derek Holland, Frankie Francisco, Engel Beltre, Cubs minor league catcher Robinson Chirinos, and cash to Tampa Bay for Matt Garza, before the Rays shipped the righthander (along with outfielder Fernando Perez and lefthander Zach Rosscup) to the Cubs for outfielder Sam Fuld and four prospects: righthander Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and Chirinos.  

The Chirinos component to the Rangers’ offer obviously meant he was a key for the Rays and that Texas attempted to get the Cubs involved in its own effort to acquire Garza.  Stories from Bruce Levine (ESPN Chicago) and Ed Price (FanHouse) in November and December suggested that the Rangers and Cubs were in talks that might have involved Chris Davis (and possibly Darren O’Day) on the Texas side, and Chirinos (and possibly righthander Rafael Dolis) on the Chicago side.  So to take the Gammons note a step further, the cost from the Rangers – who were “the other team in it to the end” for Garza, along with the Cubs – might have included Holland, Francisco, Beltre, Davis, and cash.  That’s a lot.  (The Yankees also backed off a Garza deal, according to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, because the Rays’ ask was too high.)

I’m a Garza fan.  But that package would have made me nervous (maybe the Beltre part more than any), considering Garza wouldn’t have been a clear number one on this team.  He’d have been an outstanding addition to C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis atop this rotation, but removing Holland as part of the deal makes you ask the question of how much better you believe Garza will be than Holland in 2012 and 2013, the final two years of control the Rangers would have with Garza.  I’m not able to answer that question with conviction – plus I’m a believer that Engel Beltre can be an important piece here in those two years.

3.    Then again, top prospects have a tendency to disappoint.  Philip Humber was not only a first-round pick out of Rice but the third overall pick of the draft in 2004.  He was traded by the Mets to the Twins as a key part of the four-player package to get Johan Santana before the 2008 season.  He spent more time the next three seasons (two with Minnesota, one with Kansas City) in AAA than in the big leagues, clearing league-wide waivers in April 2009 and again in August 2009 when the Twins designated him for assignment.  The Royals signed him to a minor league deal last winter, brought him to the big leagues in August, and designated him for assignment three weeks ago.  Oakland claimed him.

And then the A’s designated him for assignment yesterday, without having even seen him in camp – so they give Moscoso a roster spot.

4.    Interesting note from Keith Law (ESPN) about what the Rays got from the Cubs: “Starting with the prospects, I love this trade for Tampa Bay.  They got more for Garza than Kansas City did for Zack Greinke, although their package of players is, collectively, further away than what the Royals got.  It looks to me like the Rays focused less on position and more on overall value.”

In other words: Bravo, Tampa Bay.  Not so sure, Kansas City.

(Part of what I wrote when the Greinke trade went down: “The Royals’ haul for Zack Greinke might pan out well, but I’d have this nagging concern if I were a Royals fan that it has a ‘trade for need‘ feel, and that new Kansas City skipper Ned Yost is more familiar with Milwaukee’s young players than any other club’s, and that the Royals’ ask was reportedly lower for interested National League teams than it was for AL suitors.”)  

5.    Do the additions of Greinke (two years of control), Garza (three years), and Shawn Marcum (two years) to the NL Central accelerate the possibility that Houston would trade Wandy Rodriguez?  Two reasons:
 
     a.    St. Louis and Cincinnati were already going to make things tough for the Astros the next few years, and now the Brewers and Cubs have taken aggressive steps as well.  With Rodriguez a strong bet to go away via free agency next winter (sitting near the top of a relatively thin crop of starting pitchers that could include Mark Buehrle, Wilson, and Edwin Jackson), it would probably make sense for Houston to test his market (in the summer, if not now) rather than bank on two 2012 draft picks, neither of which would be positioned before the back half of the first round.

     b.    With Cliff Lee, Greinke, and Garza off the market, and several contenders still looking for a frontline starting pitcher, Rodriguez could be sold high right now – or in July, but that assumes he pitches as well this season as he has the past three years, which includes a ridiculous second half of 2010 while nobody was paying attention: 5-1, 2.11 in 14 starts, 101 strikeouts and 28 walks in 93.2 innings, .204/.268/.331 opponents’ slash.

Maybe the Astros have been quietly shopping Rodriguez.  They should be.

6.    Speaking of the next few years, every time I think about Adrian Beltre at third base and in the middle of this lineup, I get fired up.  

7.    There’s one thing I worry about as far as Wilson is concerned.  He established a lot of good things in 2011.  He was durable, consistent, at times dominant, and proved he could pitch in big games.  But the contract year concerns me – I think Wilson’s DNA makes him a candidate to try and “do too much” (no matter how you define that vague description, I think you know what I mean), and with the departure of Lee’s minimalist guidance (trust your stuff, make ‘em beat you, no need to trick things up) . . . well, I’m a little nervous.

8.    A few notes on righthander Ryan Kelly, picked up from Oakland yesterday for Guillermo Moscoso, who had been designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Beltre:

     a.    The A’s had just acquired Kelly from Pittsburgh two weeks earlier, sending AAA infielder-outfielder Corey Wimberly to the Pirates for him.

     b.    On Day Two of the 2006 draft, Texas area scout Rick Schroeder successfully recommended 19-year-old lefthanders in back-to-back rounds: Walters State Community College’s Lance McClain in the 24th round, and Wallace State Community College’s Derek Holland in the 25th round.  McClain didn’t sign (eventually transferring to the University of Tennessee and then Cumberland University and going to Boston in the 12th round two years later).  Holland would sign with Texas after one more Wa
llace State season, as a draft-and-follow.

Kelly went in the following round, the 26th, to Pittsburgh, who drafted him out of a South Carolina high school.  The Pirates followed him in the spring of 2007 – a season during which he pitched for Walters State, settling in on Senators staff that had just lost McClain to Tennessee. 

Kelly would sign with the Pirates just before the 2007 draft, for $100,000, which was roughly seventh-round money, rather than return to Walters State for the 2008 season . . .

. . . when he would have been teammates with Rangers lefthander prospect Chad Bell, who starred for the Senators in 2008 and 2009 before signing with Texas in August 2009 as its 14th-round pick.

     c.    Schroeder, who is now a Royals area scout, and Rangers area scout Jeff Wood obviously developed some sort of book on Kelly for the Rangers then.  I doubt Chuck Greenberg has his own book on Kelly, but the righthander did pitch for Greenberg’s State College Spikes club (the Pirates’ New York-Penn League affiliate) in 2008, making six starts and two relief appearances (0-2, 6.75) in a season abbreviated by some minor arm tendinitis.

     d.    Kelly also missed some time in 2010 due to a fractured foot (sustained on a comebacker to the mound), but I don’t even see a week of inactivity looking at his gamelogs this past season for Low A West Virginia.  In 37 relief appearances and one spot start, Kelly posted a 4.20 ERA, stranded 14 of 15 inherited runners, and saved four games in five opportunities.  Pitching mostly in middle relief, the lanky righthander (who pitched all season at age 22) fanned 75 and walked only 14 in 75 innings of work, with fairly even ground/air splits and nine home runs allowed.

     e.    Kelly faced Low A Hickory twice last season.  On May 30, the Crawdads tagged him for four runs (three earned) in an inning and two-thirds on five hits, including one of Joe Bonadonna’s three home runs for the year and an Ed Koncel double.  Hickory won the game, 8-0, on a four-hitter spun by Neil Ramirez, Bell, and Braden Tullis, all three of whom could be High A Myrtle Beach teammates with Kelly this spring.

     f.    The Rangers cite command of a fastball touching 95-96 with life (out of a low-three-quarters slot) and the makings of a power curve (which has replaced his slider) when talking about his upside.  The downside includes several arm issues in his four pro seasons, but only one (in 2007) that cost him a disabled list stint.

     g.    I had Jake Brigham at number 38 on my Bound Edition ranking of the Rangers system’s top 72 prospects, and Mark Hamburger at number 68.  Kelly fits a similar profile and probably sits somewhere in between.  He’s probably slated for Pelicans pen work to start the season, with a chance to get to Frisco by the summer.

     h.    This isn’t a significant trade – you’re not going to make one for a player who has been designated for assignment – but an effort to continue stockpiling power arms (in this case, at almost no cost) in hopes that some of them put it all together.

We’ll have a Newberg Report booth at the Rangers’ 2011 Fan Fest two weekends from now (January 22-23, Arlington Convention Center).  More on that soon.

 

40 sleeps.

We’re down to 40 sleeps until Pitchers & Catchers, which is roughly a haircut cycle for me, which drives home how close we are to getting things rolling once again.  Obviously, I’m not used to this “Can we do it again?” mindset, accustomed instead to “Can we finally do it this time?”

Is Texas done reshaping its roster, once Guillermo Moscoso or someone else is dropped to make room for Adrian Beltre?  Maybe.  Jon Daniels said as much as Wednesday’s Beltre press conference, leaving room for the possibility that some other opportunity to improve the club could present itself before camp opens up.  If not, though?  “I’m comfortable with our club,” said Daniels.

Rafael Soriano?  No, says Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, who reports that Texas never was in on the closer at any point this off-season.  (So the Red Sox can rest assured that they’ll get the Rangers’ first-round pick, 26th overall, for the loss of Beltre, and not a second-rounder instead, though Boston might have to worry instead about facing Soriano in the eighth inning if he’s as open to signing with the Yankees as he says he is.)  (On the other hand, Buster Olney of ESPN writes this morning that New York has flagging interest in Soriano.)

Vladimir Guerrero?  Nope, says Daniels.  That door has closed.

But Jim Thome?  Lots of media talk about that possibility yesterday, though it does raise the question of what the plan would be for Michael Young if Thome were brought in for a year.  

Jeff Francis?  Even after the arrival of Brandon Webb ($3 million base, additional $4 million in workload incentives and another $1 million based on days spent on the active roster), Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN count Texas as one of eight teams interested in the left-handed reclamation project.

Matt Garza?  Tampa Bay wants too much.

Andy Pettitte?  New York or Deer Park, it looks like.

Carl Pavano?  No.

The thing is, we really don’t know what could be in store.  The Rangers’ interest this winter in signing Cliff Lee was well publicized (particularly since he was a player the club was trying to retain, rather than go out and get), but aside from that?  The Beltre move came as a relative surprise, without much in the way of strong speculation until the last couple days of negotiations.  Webb happened fairly quietly.  Arthur Rhodes ($3.9 million in 2011, another $4 million in 2012 if he appears 62 times this season and doesn’t finish the year on the disabled list) came out of nowhere, as did Yorvit Torrealba.  

And the trade for Lee.

And the trade for Josh Hamilton.

Player moves rarely get telegraphed out of Arlington these days.  The Daniels concession on Wednesday that he’s comfortable going to war with the roster he has now is as definitive an answer as we’ll ever get from him on his intentions, and even then he threw in the reminder that he’s always looking for ways to get better.  Maybe this winter, maybe during spring training, maybe in July.

At this time a year ago, Texas had yet to sign Guerrero.  Or Colby Lewis.  Or Khalil Greene.  

During camp, Greene’s decision not to report (and the lackluster showing of non-roster signee Ray Olmedo) caused Daniels to claim Hernan Iribarren off waivers, trade for Gregorio Petit (by sending Oakland reliever Edwar Ramirez, whom he’d traded for two weeks earlier), and trade for Andres Blanco.  Saltalamacchia’s health questions led Daniels to trade Olmedo late in camp for Matt Treanor.  The inability of Matt Brown (who was signed a year ago today) or Max Ramirez to seize the role of right-handed corner infield bat on the bench prompted Daniels to claim Ryan Garko off waivers.

During the season, despite not having any meaningful room on the payroll, Daniels traded for Bengie Molina.  And Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.  And Jorge Cantu.  And Cristian Guzman.  And Jeff Francoeur.  

And now, Daniels has acknowledged there’s room in the budget for more roster improvement – though he’s quick to point out that he’s not inclined to spend it now just to hit a spreadsheet number.  It’s there, but at this point any opportunity that presents itself will be weighed not only against present roster options, but also against the possibility of various July possibilities, which you know Daniels and his crew have already mapped out, and possibly laid groundwork for.

Lots can happen amidst these next 40 sleeps.  But you can expect Texas to be aggressive with its roster well into the summer, especially if it’s in contention past the midpoint of the season.

A few things from the Beltre presser:

1.    He’s likely to hit fourth, behind Josh Hamilton and in front of Nelson Cruz, according to Ron Washington, who cited Beltre’s experience as a key factor.  (Recall, however, that Washington penciled Cruz in at number six and Chris Davis at number seven going into Cactus League play a year ago – and signaled an intention to flip those two by Opening Day so Davis could break up the Guerrero/Ian Kinsler/Cruz righty party.  Nothing’s etched in stone.)

2.    For what it’s worth, Beltre’s highest career OPS (.830) has come while batting in the cleanup spot (not counting the 1.512 he has in 15 career at-bats hitting ninth).

3.    This caught me off guard: Even though Beltre has played on winning clubs nine times in 13 years, he’s only been to the playoffs once, in 2004 when the Dodgers won 93 games and the NL West but managed only one victory in the NLDS before St. Louis put them away.  

4.    Daniels said that when he called other executives for whom Beltre had played (in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston), and Rangers players and coaches and trainers and others called their counterparts who had been with those clubs, there was not a single negative word uttered.  Texas was looking for red flags as part of its due diligence.  Found none.

5.    Not only do the Red Sox come to Arlington as the Rangers’ first opponent when the season opens – the Mariners come in right after them.

6.    Beltre’s first big league home run?  Batting ninth for the Dodgers in his sixth big league game, an interleague affair in Arlington on June 30, 1998.  After fouling off Rick Helling’s first pitch with two outs in the sixth and a man on first, Beltre took two pitches outside the strike zone before taking the Rangers’ ace deep to extend the Los Angeles lead to 4-0.  A Fernando Tatis homer in the bottom of the frame was all Texas would muster off Darren Dreifort and Antonio Osuna.

7.    Beltre has hit for the cycle one time in his big league career – on September 1, 2008 in Rangers Ballpark: home run off Matt Harrison, run-scoring single off Harrison, another single off Harrison, double off Luis Mendoza, run-scoring triple off Josh Rupe.  Warner Madrigal got Beltre to ground out to shortstop Michael Young to end Seattle’s ninth in a 12-6 Mariners win.

8.    Beltre called one Rangers player before signing his contract: Not a former teammate.  Not a Dominican countryman.  Michael Young.

9.    I was struck Wednesday by Beltre’s demeanor, and expect him to be among the primary leaders on this team, eventually.  He’s a little cocky (seeming to toy with the media session at times), but more self-assured than self-righteous, speaks both English and Spanish as if he’s done so his whole life, and given his reputation for playing hard and playing through pain, the formula’s there for Beltre to be a go-to guy in the clubhouse – particularly since he’s going to be here for a very long time.

10. &nbs
p;  Julio Borbon will surrender uniform number 29 to Beltre, taking on number 20 and whatever Beltre deems fair consideration.

I wish I’d had the chance to listen to Los Angeles sports talk radio on Wednesday.

According to Heyman, Beltre’s contract contains limited no-trade protection, though no further details were given.  He’ll earn $14 million in 2011, $15 million in 2012, $16 million in 2013, $17 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015, and $16 million in 2016, while that final year’s contract is voidable by the club if Beltre fails to amass 1200 plate appearances in 2014-15 and also fails to reach 600 plate appearances in 2015.  (The sixth year vests if Beltre reaches either number.)  If the sixth year vests but Beltre finishes the 2015 season on the disabled list and a physician mutually agreed upon determines that he’s unable to play at “normal health” by spring training of 2016, Texas will have the right to defer $12 million of the $16 million owed to Beltre in 2016 at 1% simple interest.

David Murphy agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million contract yesterday, avoiding arbitration.

There’s some talk that Kinsler could be looked at atop the order again.

Webb expects to be 100 percent ready to participate in all pitchers’ drills when camp opens.  The Rangers are cautiously optimistic that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

I’m going to buy a P90X system.  For those who have done it, should I just buy it directly from the company, or are there better ways?  I’m not really a craigslist or eBay guy.

The Rangers are bringing back minor league free agent Elio Sarmiento, likely to catch again for Frisco, but saw minor league free agent Doug Mathis depart.  The righthander signed a non-roster deal with Cleveland, getting an invite to big league spring training.  Colorado signed Iribarren to a minor league deal.

The Rangers signed 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Rougned Odor for a reported $425,000 bonus, and two Dominican teenagers, catcher Fernando Vivili ($300,000) and righthander Jose Leclair ($95,000).  

Odor is easily the highest-profile of the three players, connected in the spring with the Yankees before the signing period opened on July 2.  The left-handed batter hit .538/.545/.857 for the Venezuelan Youth National Team in the World Youth Championships in Taiwan this August, with two home runs, a triple, and a double among his 15 hits (though he’s not expected to hit for significant power).  Odor struck out only twice in 28 at-bats in the tournament, and stole five bases in six attempts, though his run tool, while improving in some scouts’ eyes, is still considered only average.  Odor’s uncle Rouglas Odor is Cleveland’s AA hitting coach.

Texas released the following farmhands: righthander Sam Brown, infielder/outfielder Joe Bonadonna, and infielders Danny Lima and Vicente Cafaro, the latter of whom was a player-coach with the Arizona League squad.

Houston released second baseman German Duran.

The Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League exercised their 2011 option on righthander Dustin Brader.

Righthander Yu Darvish renewed his contract with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for one year, getting more than a 50 percent raise to what will roughly be a $6 million deal for 2011 (which will be the largest salary in the league).  Asked whether he expects to be posted a year from now to make his way to the Major Leagues, the 24-year-old responded: “No comment.”  His ERA’s in Japan the last four seasons have been 1.82, 1.88, 1.73, and 1.78, over which time he’s fanned 807 batters in 791.1 innings with a 58-22 record, and if you thought the posting frenzy over Daisuke Matsuzaka four years ago was maniacal, wait until Darvish posts.

And expect Texas to be heavily in on him, whether there’s a Cashman-like shout from the rooftops or not.

Texas to sign Adrian Beltre. Yo.

He’s 31 years old.  He’s coming off a great season but with a less-than-perfect track record.  And yet, with the help of Scott Boras, he’s capitalized on that standout 2010 and landed seven years at massive money.

Yes, seven.  Not six.  

Jayson Werth, that is.

Giving Adrian Beltre six years (the final of which may be voidable based on workload) is a lot.  Giving him $16 million per year over that term is a lot.  But Werth is getting an added year.  And while his first two seasons in Washington will come in under $16 million, and the third will pay that exact amount, he’ll be paid $20 million or more in years four, five, six, and seven – seasons in which he’ll turn 35, 36, 37, and 38 in the spring.

The point is not that Beltre should be viewed as a bargain.  He’s not.  But landing one of the top free agents on a given winter’s market never is.  It’s the cost of doing business at that level, and I think we can all at least feel good that the baseball operations department in Texas gets a green light from ownership to play in that ballpark these days, if it makes baseball sense.

Werth will make $18 million a year on a deal that takes him through age 38.  Carl Crawford, much of whose game is predicated on speed, will make slightly more than $20 million a year through age 36.  Torii Hunter is three years into a five-year deal paying him $18 million a year through age 37.  

If Hunter’s contract prevented the Angels from going beyond their rumored offer of five years and $70 million to Beltre, could Beltre’s deal hinder efforts to lock Josh Hamilton or Nelson Cruz up long-term?  The Rangers said offering Cliff Lee $23 million per year wouldn’t upset the plan to keep this team’s core together, so we have to assume that $16 million per year shouldn’t be an impediment in that regard, either.

Reportedly, the sixth year of the deal (which should be made official today, assuming last night’s physical raised no issues) is voidable by Texas should Beltre not reach specified plate appearance totals in either 2015 or 2014 and 2015 combined (not unlike the final year of Kevin Millwood’s five-year pact with Texas, which could have been voided by the club if he’d failed to pitch 180 innings in 2009, or 360 innings in 2008-09, or 540 innings in 2007-09).

Is Beltre a good bet to stay healthy and sustain his productivity into his mid-30s?  No less so than a frontline starting pitcher at a similar age.  Texas was more intent on adding one of those this winter, but unable to do so, the club went another direction, which in its own way should give a boost to the pitching staff.

Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan said in the aftermath of the World Series that their primary objective this off-season was to put together a stronger roster going into spring training than they had in 2010.  With the loss of Lee and the refusal to meet whatever Kansas City’s demands were for Zack Greinke, the hope is that Brandon Webb can help provide a rotation upgrade compared to the one Texas broke camp with last year.  But it certainly can’t be expected to measure up to the starting five the club finished the season with.

Another way, however, to improve your pitching is to make the defense better, something the Rangers have done a good job of the last couple years and are doing once again with the addition of Beltre, one of the best third basemen in baseball.  Texas may now have the best left side of the infield anywhere, and one of the elite defenses in the game across the board.  

There have been and will be talk show segments about Beltre’s idiosyncracies (foreheads and cups and right knees and check swings), but his makeup isn’t an issue (A.J. Preller and Don Welke should know his character well from their Dodger days), and in fact he’s thought of as a guy who plays hard, and plays hurt.  On a team full of gamers, he should fit in well – particularly with Michael Young sending the message to his teammates that he did, offering to move off of third base to make room for Beltre.

Much is made of Beltre’s two biggest seasons at the plate coming in 2004 and 2010 – both contract years – but there’s some myth to the argument that suggests that he steps things up when he’s playing for a deal and recedes otherwise.

1.    Beltre’s worst season, convincingly, was in 2009, when his five-year pact with Seattle was coming to an end and he was playing for a second mega-contract.  He hit only .265/.304/.379, a level of productivity not far from what Andres Blanco gave Texas in 2010.  It forced Beltre to opt last winter for a one-year deal (with Boston) rather than lock up on a long-term, “buy low” deal with someone.

2.    As Dave Cameron of FanGraphs points out, Beltre was playing for arbitration money in 2002 and 2003, and in each case he had a relatively disappointing season.

3.    Yes, Beltre’s offense in 2004 (.334/.388/.629 for the Dodgers, league-leading 48 home runs, second-place MVP finish) and 2010 (.321/.365/.553 for the Red Sox, league-leading 49 doubles, 28 home runs, top five finish in the league in batting average, slug, OPS, and total bases) was sensational, but Cameron correctly notes that “they are the last two seasons in which he was not spending half of his games hitting in Safeco Field.  Besides perhaps San Diego, there is no place in baseball more difficult for a right-handed pull power hitter than Seattle.”  

4.    During Beltre’s five years as a Mariner, he hit .254/.307/.410 at home, and .277/.326/.472 on the road.  For every 150 road games in that span, he averaged 69 extra-base hits.  For every 150 at home, he had only 49.

5.    Beltre is a career .275/.328/.462 hitter.  Take away his 1,406 at-bats in Seattle, and his lifetime slash is .280/.334/.476.

The bigger drag on Beltre’s numbers has not been the lack of contractual urgency, but the confines in which he played his home games.

To take that point a step further: While Beltre’s lifetime .716 OPS in Safeco Field is his second-lowest among all American League ballparks, his .857 OPS (.306/.336/.521) in Rangers Ballpark is his third-highest in the AL.

Another good sign: Beltre swung and missed at the lowest rate of his career in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Angels – thought by more than one national writer to be poised this winter to sign Beltre and Crawford and Rafael Soriano – were ultimately outbid on Beltre not only by Texas but also, according to Peter Gammons, by Oakland, which reportedly offered him six years and $76 million.  It could be that Los Angeles reaches out now to Vladimir Guerrero to fill its DH slot, but there’s some sentiment that the club may be more interested in an outfield bat that would allow them to give Juan Rivera or Bobby Abreu more time at DH.  But at third base, the club sports the offensively underwhelming troika of Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, and Brandon Wood, while the team it’s chasing now has Beltre . . .

. . . might be in on Soriano (according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) (though perhaps that’s a Rangers effort to make sure the Angels have to overpay for the Scott Boras client) . . .

. . . and has no need, it would appear, for Guerrero.  Young settles in as the Rangers’ primary DH (though Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, for one, doesn’t rule out the possibility that he could still be traded), and he’s expected to see time all ove
r the infield as well.  Gammons suggests that Young could show up in the outfield as well, something he did in college and in one game for Class A Hagerstown in the Toronto system as a second-year pro, but I wouldn’t count on that.  

Young might not fit the same classic DH profile that Guerrero did, but of course neither did Guerrero down the stretch in 2010.  Big Bad hit .278/.322/.426 in the second half.  Young hit .284/.330/.444 for the season.  Young’s post-season slash was a lackluster .254/.275/.343.  Guerrero’s was an abysmal .220/.242/.271.

That makes this as good a place as any to shoehorn this in: Beltre’s career first-half OPS is .755.  Second half: .830.  

There will be Angels fans who claim their club avoided a bad contract by not meeting Beltre’s demands, but make no mistake: it’s been a bad off-season so far for Los Angeles.  (Even if they did sign good guy catcher Kevin Richardson to a minor league contract.)

As Morosi put it: “Beltre is going to help the Rangers.  But he could have transformed the Angels.”

Texas, which added 2011 draft picks at number 33 and 37 overall as compensation for the loss of Lee, will forfeit the number 26 pick (its own) to Boston with the signing of Beltre.

Another player will have to come off of the 40-man roster to accommodate Beltre’s addition.  Righthander Guillermo Moscoso would seem to be the top candidate for removal.

A writer who I respect a ton and who has seen Beltre play as much as anyone else the past six years told me that Beltre’s makeup is “off-the-charts awesome . . . teammates love him” and added this: “You’ll love him – love him.  He’s so much fun to watch on a daily basis, and way better than people realize.”   

I have no doubt about that, defensively.  The bat doesn’t need to come through at 2004 or 2010 levels for Beltre to be a significant asset.  He’s here for five years, possibly six, a good bet to hold down the hot corner and alleviate concerns that the organization had no clear answer coming up from the farm the next couple years.

Would I have preferred that the Rangers were set to go into camp with Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero rather than Brandon Webb and Adrian Beltre?  Of course.  Texas would have preferred it, too.  But that didn’t work out.

Still, the Rangers’ roster is getting stronger today.

And if they really are in on Soriano, with the idea being he steps into the ninth inning and Neftali Feliz moves to the rotation?  

That’s talk for another time, speculation that can be set aside on a day that will include a major press conference in Arlington.

It will be a little strange seeing Beltre jogging out to third base on April 1, not in Red Sox gray but in Rangers red, with Young staying in the dugout until the home half, but it’s something we ought to get used to, considering Beltre is now locked in for a longer term than anyone in the organization, the only player Texas has under contract in 2014, 2015, or 2016, and he’ll be counted on those years, and the ones before it, to help make the Rangers’ pitching better, in lieu (at the moment) of another arm to put at the top of the club’s rotation.

Sacrifice. Leader.

Sometimes there’s a fine line, if any line at all, between news and gossip, between fire and smoke, between what belongs in a COFFEY and what warrants a report.  

On Sunday I set up an alert for Adrian Beltre updates, and despite the lack of any concrete developments the thing has metastasized with such ferocity that I think I disabled the iPhone alarm function worldwide.  

This morning I woke up to 234 new Beltre updates that had landed since I went to sleep.  I’m not going to read any of them, because my Google Reader has no real news to report, and because the day job beckons.  

But there is news of a sort, as Michael Young apparently told the Rangers over the weekend and then the local press last night that he’s willing to move off of third base and into a DH role that would also involve occasional relief duties around the infield.  Mark DeRosa, if you want to imagine a former Young teammate.  Paul Molitor, if you want to think bigger about the path Young’s career is on.

Jim Sundberg is the Rangers’ franchise leader in sacrifice bunts and Ruben Sierra leads it in career sacrifice flies, but Michael Young – say what you will about his competence defensively and whether this voluntary move was prescribed (and when) with his blessing or without it – is its leader in sacrifices, and its leader in being a leader.  

I don’t know if Beltre will end up signing here (though one local report this morning describes a Monday night “sense of optimism that a deal would be reached”), but now it appears the primary and perhaps only hurdle to clear is an acceptable set of years and dollars, and not the potential disruption (probably an understatement) in the clubhouse if Young were to be stripped of his glove against his wishes, or traded.

Young’s fierce pride, his John Locke-esque “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” attitude, sets a tone that fires this team.  He’s a pro’s pro, this franchise’s Roger Staubach, its Troy Aikman, a man who leads because he’s supposed to, not because he insists on it.  

Is there still a direction that this story could take that would lead Young to request a trade, or at least express an openness to it?  Sure, I guess.  But for now he’s put the team ahead of his pride as a ballplayer, a gesture of sacrifice that gives us one more reason to be thankful that, regardless of his role on the field, Young remains the Rangers’ most important man in uniform off of it.  

Michael Young willing to DH.

The implications of
this whole Adrian Beltre/Michael Young thing already had my head ready to
explode the last two days, and now there’s this, in the last few minutes from
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News
:

 

Rangers
infielder Michael Young said Monday night he is willing to move positions for the
second time in three years and the third time since 2004 if it helps the
Rangers land Adrian Beltre.

 

Upon
returning from a 10-day trip to California, Young acknowledged that Rangers
officials reached out to him in the last couple of days to ask him about moving
to DH if the club landed Beltre.

 

“I’ll
do what I have to do to stay on this team,” Young said.  “I’m happy to be here and proud to be part of
this team.  I want to stay a part of it.  If it means getting the bulk of my at-bats as
the DH, then that’s what I’ll do.”

 

The
Rangers have proposed to Young the possibility of moving into a DH/super
utility player role that would allow the club to get Beltre, while also
allowing him to play several infield positions in addition to DH duties.  Young began his major league career with three
years at second, then spent five years at short and the last two at third.  He is the only player in history to start at
least 130 games in a season at second, third and short.

 

MLB.com’s T.R.
Sullivan
has weighed in as well (noting “Young’s willingness to accommodate
the team could pave the way for a deal for Beltre”), as have Jeff
Wilson
(Young: “My motivation is to play for a winning team and to be
extremely productive.  And I want to do
that with the Rangers.”) and Richard
Durrett
(Young: “I want to do what’s best for a winning team.  That’s always been the case and it always
will be.  I’m willing to do what I need
to do to help this team.”).

 

It’s never boring with this team.

Prospects for a Happy New Year.

The book’s only been out for two weeks but we’ve fired well past our previous record for sales of the Newberg Report Bound Edition, which of course has everything to do with the memorable, sometimes crazy, truly great season the Rangers had.  I thank you for buying the book, the 12th one I’ve done and by far the easiest story to tell.

Congratulations to Jason Parks, the best of the blue-chip bloggers that this market has, for getting The Call to the big leagues.  To say it’s well deserved is not enough.  It’s about time.

Finally, the annual Newberg Report plate of black-eyed peas – our own little oddly disconnected tradition – my current ranking of the top 72 Rangers prospects, as laid out (with detailed commentary on each player) in the book (which went to print, incidentally, shortly before Texas signed righthander Barret Loux or shortstop Alberto Triunfel):  

1.    Martin Perez, LHP
2.    Tanner Scheppers, RHP
3.    Jurickson Profar, SS
4.    Engel Beltre, OF
5.    Robbie Erlin, LHP
6.    Michael Kirkman, LHP
7.    Luis Sardinas, SS
8.    Robbie Ross, LHP
9.    David Perez, RHP
10.    Wilmer Font, RHP
11.    Jake Skole, OF
12.    Jorge Alfaro, C
13.    Fabio Castillo, RHP
14.    Joe Wieland, RHP
15.    Matt Thompson, RHP
16.    Luke Jackson, RHP
17.    Christian Villanueva, 3B
18.    Miguel De Los Santos, LHP
19.    Mike Olt, 3B
20.    Omar Beltre, RHP
21.    Roman Mendez, RHP
22.    Leury Garcia, SS
23.    Miguel Velazquez, OF
24.    Eric Hurley, RHP
25.    Pedro Strop, RHP
26.    Kellin Deglan, C
27.    Jared Hoying, OF
28.    Cody Buckel, RHP
29.    Hanser Alberto, SS
30.    Neil Ramirez, RHP
31.    Tomas Telis, C
32.    Zach Phillips, LHP
33.    Justin Grimm, RHP
34.    Teodoro Martinez, OF
35.    Drew Robinson, IF-OF
36.    Wilfredo Boscan, RHP
37.    Odubel Herrera, 2B-SS
38.    Jake Brigham, RHP
39.    Craig Gentry, OF
40.    Cody Eppley, RHP
41.    Jose Felix, C
42.    Chad Bell, LHP
43.    Carlos Pimentel, RHP
44.    Tommy Mendonca, 3B
45.    Chris McGuiness, 1B
46.    Kennil Gomez, RHP
47.    Corey Young, LHP
48.    Chad Tracy, 1B
49.    Guillermo Moscoso, RHP
50.    Kasey Kiker, LHP
51.    Richard Alvarez, RHP
52.    Josh Richmond, OF
53.    Ovispo De Los Santos, RHP
54.    Carlos Melo, RHP
55.    Jordan Akins, OF
56.    Trevor Hurley, RHP
57.    Leonel De Los Santos, C
58.    Danny Gutierrez, RHP
59.    Geuris Grullon, LHP
60.    Chris Hanna, LHP
61.    Jimmy Reyes, LHP
62.    Marcus Lemon, 2B-OF
63.    Ruben Sierra Jr., OF
64.    Randol Rojas, RHP
65.    Ryan Strausborger, OF
66.    Cristian Santana, OF
67.    Shawn Blackwell, RHP
68.    Mark Hamburger, RHP
69.    David Paisano, OF
70.    Joseph Ortiz, LHP
71.    Tyler Tufts, RHP
72.    Beau Jones, LHP
?
Hope your 2010 was excellent.  Best wishes for an even better 2011 for you, your family, and your baseball team.

Casting Webb.

I wrote 2,714 words about the signing of Rich Harden last year, two weeks before the holidays.

I then wrote 129 words about the signing of Colby Lewis, two weeks after the holidays.

It’s fun to think we’ve got it all figured out.  But there’s no way that even the most optimistic on Lewis – and I’m including the baseball people who committed to the acquisition – could have dreamed up the end to his 2010 season (3-1, 2.37 in his final five regular season starts, and then 3-0, 1.71 in four playoff starts), which were as money as the final minute-thirty of “Let Down.”  Or that the most skeptical on a presumably healthy Harden could have expected that big a bag of letdown.

It’s probably safe to plan in your mind for Brandon Webb to deliver less than Lewis did in 2010, and more than Harden, but as for which needle he’ll push toward, beats me.  

Is he the guy who, from 2005 through 2008, averaged nearly 18 wins (best in the game) against just nine losses, posted a 3.23 ERA, coaxed three times as many groundouts as flyouts (best in the game), and carried the heaviest load in baseball, logging 232 innings a year with one of the deadliest sinkers of his generation?  

Or the guy who pitched the first four innings of the Diamondbacks’ season in 2009 but none since, due to shoulder surgery – performed 16 months ago by Rangers team physician Dr. Keith Meister?

Again, almost certainly neither, but somewhere comfortably in between.

Is he Cliff Lee?  Of course not.  You might even argue that in 2006, when Webb won the NL Cy Young, or in 2007 and 2008, when he was twice the runner-up, he wasn’t the dominant force that Lee was for Texas, or that Philadelphia will pay Lee to be for the next five or six years.

But Texas isn’t into Webb for $120 or $135 million.

Is he Zack Greinke?  Well, no.  At 31, he’s four years older than Greinke, is a greater health risk, and never had a season as great as Greinke’s 2009.  

But the Rangers didn’t have to give up Derek Holland or Tommy Hunter or Martin Perez or Tanner Scheppers or Robbie Erlin or Engel Beltre or Jurickson Profar, let alone four or five of them, to get Webb.

Don’t misunderstand me: I wanted Cliff Lee to stay.  (So did Texas.)  I’ve been neurotically relentless for nearly three years about getting Zack Greinke.  (So has Texas.)  I’m not pretending that Brandon Webb is their equivalent (even though I proposed back in February that Texas offer Justin Smoak, Wilmer Font, and Kasey Kiker to the Diamondbacks for a healthy Webb at trade deadline time).

But I’m on record as being thankful that Texas didn’t give up the dollars and years for Lee or the players for Greinke that it apparently would have taken to get one of them here.  

The upside would have been greater with Lee or Greinke.  But so would the downside, in terms of the lasting impact of the cost.  

The thing about adding Webb, in spite of his pedigree, that differs greatly from adding Lee or Greinke is that it feels like the hunt for a number one probably continues.  Easier said than done (as the pursuit of Lee and Greinke has shown), but Webb isn’t someone being counted on to front the rotation.  If they have a press conference this week announcing Webb’s signing, less will be said about his place in the starting five than there was a year ago at Harden’s presser.

There’s a cool thing about this that I’m going to have to get used to.  It used to be assumed that, to sell a coveted free agent pitcher on coming to Texas, the recruitment had to include things like “lifestyle” . . . “great offense” . . . “Nolan Ryan wore this uniform” . . . “year-round golf” . . . or, “We’ll give you $65 million, Chan Ho.”   Now?  There’s Mike Maddux.  There, 75 feet over your right shoulder, is Elvis Andrus.  There, in Webb’s case, is Dr. Meister.

And of course, there’s that fact, which in some instances like this one I find I still have to remind myself, that the Rangers are the reigning American League champions.  

Not a terrible selling point.  

Fellow playoff teams New York and Cincinnati were apparently in on Webb, as were the Cubs and Nationals.  He wanted to be in Texas.

We don’t know the terms of the contract yet, and Webb will have to pass a physical before anything’s official.  (Remember that, in February 2009, the Rangers had agreed to terms on a two-year deal with Ben Sheets before a failed physical killed it.)  

And even if Webb clears that hurdle and signs what is expected to be a one-year major league deal (without a club option for a second season, which benefits Webb), there’s going to be the matter of where his velocity is (he reportedly sat mid-80s in a Fall Instructional League appearance in October, roughly five mph short of his pre-injury levels), where his command is, where his game is.

Shoulder surgeries are scary, trickier to come back from than elbows.  Chris Carpenter came back strong.  So did Colby Lewis and Joaquin Benoit and Curt Schilling and Jimmy Key and Orlando Hernandez and Orel Hershiser and Bret Saberhagen and a young Roger Clemens.  But you don’t have to go back a full generation for a much deeper list, detailing those who were never the same.

If the heavy sinker comes back, it’s obvious that Webb – who has allowed fewer home runs per nine innings (0.63) than any active starter with 850 career innings – could put up tremendous numbers in Texas.  And of course, it must be said that if that were to happen, he could be among the top free agent starting pitchers on the market a year from now (as could C.J. Wilson).  The Rangers in that case would theoretically have in their favor the success that Webb experienced here, and his familiarity with teammates and the Ballpark and the community, and so on.  They thought they had that with Lee, too.

But first things first: There’s a physical to pass, a contract to announce (and two players to be removed from the 40-man roster, to make room for Webb and Arthur Rhodes), and six weeks in Surprise for Webb to reestablish himself.  And then a big league season, if all goes well, in which he maybe takes the ball every fifth day, piling up double play grounders and innings pitched from the back half of the rotation, surpassing cautiously optimistic yet moderate expectations the way Colby Lewis in his own comeback season a year earlier.

Bottom line for me, I guess, is that I’m fine with this move, however it ends up, and I’m glad it wasn’t the Angels or A’s that Webb chose.

As long as we don’t view this impulsively and expect Webb to come in here and take on the responsibilities that would have been expected of Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke, this one has a chance to pay off in its own way.

And if it doesn’t?  The Rangers will be prepared to move on, without much negative impact.  They’re far better able to survive a bad contract than they were at this time a year ago, and even then I’d say they had a pretty nice season despite the wasted commitment to Rich Harden, a pitcher who for various reasons was being counted on to carry a heavier load than Brandon Webb is now.

Those are my thoughts, at least, in a zippy 1,282 words.

Texas signs Arthur Rhodes.

Starting pitchers Cliff Lee, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jon Garland, Brandon Webb, Zack Greinke, Jorge De La Rosa, Josh Johnson, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Jeff Francis, Andrew Miller, Matt Garza, Joe Blanton, and Ricky Nolasco.
 
Relievers Kerry Wood, Rafael Soriano, Mark Prior, Bobby Jenks, Yoshinori Tateyama, Heath Bell, and Jonathan Papelbon.

Catchers Victor Martinez, John Buck, A.J. Pierzynski, Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo, Bengie Molina, Russell Martin, Matt Treanor, Yorvit Torrealba, Welington Castillo, and Robinson Chirinos.

Infielders Paul Konerko, Lance Berkman, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre.

Outfielders Carl Crawford and Carlos Beltran.

Designated hitters Adam Dunn, Vladimir Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Hideki Matsui, Jim Thome, Troy Glaus, Marcus Thames, and Manny Ramirez.

That’s four dozen players who have been mentioned in the TROT COFFEY offerings in the four dozen days since the season ended, having been tied to the Rangers to one degree or another by local or national writers weighing in on free agent possibilities and trade rumors.

Know who’s missing?  Arthur Lee Rhodes.

How long before Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera for Josh Hamilton did we hear that Texas was in on Hamilton?

A few hours.

Even though we later found out that talks with the Reds spanned more than a month, and as many as 15 player combinations.

Bad for stove temperatures.

Good for doing business.

Rhodes, who turned 41 two days after Texas earned its first World Series berth, will enter his 20th big league season in the spring, and has been one of the game’s most effective left-handed relievers since Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2007 season.  In 2008 (Seattle and Florida), 2009 (Cincinnati), and 2010 (Cincinnati), the Waco native scattered 37 earned runs (2.32 ERA) on 103 hits (.204/.280/.292 slash) and 47 unintentional walks in 143.2 innings, fanning 138.  In those three years he’s surrendered an average of only 10 extra-base hits per season.  Only 17 of the 100 baserunners he inherited scored.  Only six players stole successfully. 

At the conclusion of his record-setting 33 consecutive scoreless appearances last year (30 innings, 13 hits, 10 walks, 28 strikeouts), Rhodes had an ERA of 0.28.

He was actually better against right-handed hitters (.182/.289/.245) in 2010 than against lefties (.214/.230/.393).  That’s generally not the case with Rhodes, but at the same time he’s not just a left-on-left specialist.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports that the one-year deal with a vesting option for 2012 (usually set up to lock in as long as he handles a healthy workload in the first year) will pay Rhodes “about $8 million” if he pitches that second year.  He’s a Type A free agent, but since the Reds didn’t offer him arbitration, he doesn’t cost Texas a draft pick. 

A bullpen with Rhodes and Darren Oliver from the left side (neither needing to be worked as hard as Oliver was last year – Rhodes hasn’t exceeded 55 innings since 2002, while Oliver hasn’t had a season with that light a workload in the same span), complementing Neftali Feliz, Frankie Francisco, Alexi Ogando, and Darren O’Day from the right side, has a chance to be really good.  Among others competing for spots will be Mark Lowe, Tateyama, Clay Rapada, Pedro Strop, and Mason Tobin, and possibly Tanner Scheppers, and the list goes on from there.

Even if Feliz or Ogando isn’t transitioned to the rotation, as we saw in October, you can never have enough bullpen depth.  Every inning that the reliable Rhodes gets lessens the responsibility and the load on someone else. 

What the Rhodes signing could mean for Matt Harrison and Michael Kirkman (assume that Derek Holland wins a rotation spot), each of whom has minor league options, is impossible to say for now.  This staff isn’t yet complete.

And it’s damn near impossible to draw a bead on how Texas is going to go about completing the staff. 

While it might be less entertaining not to be able to sift through days and weeks of rumors pegging the Rangers as finalists to acquire this pitcher or that one, giving us all kinds of time to dream on how things might shape up, I’ll take the surprise instead, and the competitive advantage that might come along with it.

 

Bag dump.

Lots of little stuff to get to, so let’s just dump out the bag . . . .

Take a look sometime at the state of third base across the league.  It’s not pretty.  When I was a kid, third base was a glamour position, maybe the one spot on the field that was chock-full of plus defenders who could carry a lineup offensively, too.  There are still those who fit the mold (particularly in the AL East), but there are also plenty of teams running year-to-year stopgaps out there, with not a lot barreling in from the farm.

The point is this: Everyone, including Michael Young, knows that at some point before Young’s contract (2009-13) expires, he will move off of the hot corner.  Maybe to first base, maybe even to second (with Ian Kinsler switching places?), possibly to DH with defensive spot starts at several positions scattered in.  

The more difficult question, thornier than “Where?,” is “When?”

I don’t know whether all the media banter about Adrian Beltre and Texas is cooked up by Scott Boras, or maybe even allowed by the Rangers to circulate in order to force the Angels to spend uncomfortably to sign the 31-year-old (they’ve already pulled their five-year, $70 million offer off the table, supposedly, though they’re apparently not closing the door).  But I leave room for the possibility that there’s something there, perhaps less because the organization isn’t willing to go another year with Young at third base (where he at least seemed to get better as the 2010 season progressed) than because the market analysis (which I haven’t done myself) points to Beltre being the most sensible available option over the next couple years.

One of the things that makes Young a great leader for this team is also going to make this issue a tricky one.  He’s fiercely proud, obstinately so, unaffected – if not motivated – by criticism.  Just like his move off of shortstop, his move off of third base will be received as a criticism, even though even he’d admit that Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre are roughly unrivaled as defenders.  It won’t be an easy conversation, whether it’s this winter or next, or the one after that.

The timing of the conversation, and the transition, may depend, more than anything, on the “Who?,” namely, what player might be asked to take over at third base, and when that player might be available.

Norm Hitzges suggested on the radio yesterday that Texas and Brandon Webb might have been closing in on a deal but that the Rangers put those talks on hold because of the possibility of a “major trade.”  No more specifics than that.  Randy Galloway adds this morning in print that Jon Daniels seemed optimistic about something yesterday, which “maybe said something about the Rangers being almost ready to pop something substantial someday soon.”

We’ve talked about this a bunch: I do like that Texas operates quietly.  I like it a lot.

A thought: If Texas trades for a frontline starter, it wouldn’t be surprising for Derek Holland or Tommy Hunter to be in the deal . . . in which case you might still want to sign someone like Webb.  Or Jeff Francis.  Not sure it’s an either-or.

As for Webb, a pitcher who could be a tremendous fit here if he’s healthy, some reports suggest the Cubs are backing off a bit while the Nationals remain in the mix, while other stories say pretty much the opposite.  

The Royals’ haul for Zack Greinke might pan out well, but I’d have this nagging concern if I were a Royals fan that it has a “trade for need” feel, and that new Kansas City skipper Ned Yost is more familiar with Milwaukee’s young players than any other club’s, and that the Royals’ ask was reportedly lower for interested National League teams than it was for AL suitors.  

Irrational, maybe, but there’s something about that deal that feels like Kansas City sort of “settled,” limiting itself by more than just the partial no-trade clause it agreed to include in Greinke’s contract.  I’m fully prepared to retract that if Jake Odorizzi and Alcides Escobar turn into Greinke and Andrus, as some dream, if Lorenzo Cain is truly blooming late, if Jeremy Jeffress has it screwed on straight and turns into a late-inning force.  But for now it seems a little underwhelming.

Fascinating: The Royals apparently have no player under contract past 2011.  Obviously dozens of players under team control, but no player is on a multi-year deal past this season.

I haven’t done the research, but here’s an interesting note from Rich Levine of Boston’s CSNNE.com: For now, there are now eight Cy Young winners pitching the NL.  And just two in the AL.  

Righthander Seth McClung signed a minor league deal with Texas that will pay $700,000 if he makes the big league roster, with another $700,000 in incentives.  The 29-year-old didn’t pitch in 2010 after failing to make the Marlins staff out of spring training.

Texas also gave minor league deals to outfielder Endy Chavez and infielder Brian Barden.  McClung, Chavez, and Barden got invites to big league camp, joining righthander Ryan Tucker, catcher Kevin Cash, infielder Esteban German, and outfielder Doug Deeds in that regard.

The Rangers signed righthander Yhency Brazoban to a minor league deal, with no big league invite.  The 30-year-old, after five big league seasons with the Dodgers, started the 2010 season in the Mexican League and finished the year in AAA with the Mets.  

Texas also signed outfielder Hirotoshi Onaka, a 22-year-old out of International Pacific University in Japan, and released lefthander Michael Ballard and catcher Chris Gradoville.

Texas signed Andrus’s older brother Erold to a minor league deal.  The 26-year-old outfielder, who came up in the Yankees system and spent a couple years in the Rays organization, played independent league ball with the Florence Freedom (Frontier League), York Revolution (Atlantic League), and Tijuana Cimarrones (Golden Baseball League) in 2009 and 2010.

The Rangers also gave minor league deals to lefthanders Zach Jackson (rumored to be part of Milwaukee’s July 2007 offer to Texas, along with Tony Gwynn Jr., for Eric Gagné before the Rangers sent the reliever to Boston for David Murphy, Engel Beltre, and Kason Gabbard) and Kevin Gunderson (nephew of former Rangers reliever Eric Gunderson), as well as righthander Derek Hankins, infielder Omar Quintanilla, and outfielder Salvador Sanchez.

Texas signed Dominican shortstop Alberto Triunfel, a Boras client and the younger brother of Seattle prospect Carlos Triunfel, for a reported $300,000.  

It doesn’t seem right to me that Rich Harden (Oakland) got the same one-year, $1.5 million guarantee that Kerry Wood (Cubs) got.  Wood reportedly turned down far more money to return to Chicago.

Joaquin Arias cleared league-wide waivers, and the Royals outrighted him to AAA.

In Japan, Chan Ho Park signed a one-year deal with the Orix Buffaloes, and Kelvin Jimenez signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Corner infielder Matt Brown (Minnesota) and lefthander Mike Hinckley (Toronto) signed minor league deals.

Washington named Randy Knorr manager at AAA Syracuse.  Boston named Arnie Beyeler manager at AAA Pawtucket, Bruce Crabbe manager at High A Salem, and Dick Such pitching coach at Low A Greenville.  Pittsburgh named Gary Green its minor league infield coordinator.  The White Sox named Gary Ward hitting coach at High A Winston-Salem.  Colorado named Joey Eischen pitching coach at Low A Asheville.  The Cubs named Barbaro Garbey hitting coach at High A Daytona, Jeff Fassero pitching coach at Low A Peoria, Desi Wilson hitting coach at Short-Season A Boise, and Jason Dubois hitting coach at the club’s rookie-level Arizona League club.

The Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier Lea
gue traded righthander Jared Locke to the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League (for outfielder Jeff Grose).

The Round Rock Express and Frisco RoughRiders will play each other in exhibition games on April 3 (in Frisco) and April 5 (in Round Rock).  

Here are Scott Lucas’s photographs from last Thursday’s book release party at Sherlock’s.  And Scott’s updated organizational depth chart.

Grant Schiller’s writeup of the event is here.

Done with the dump.  Based on suggestions from the local media, maybe the next report will pack a little more punch.

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