You’re Philadelphia.

You’re Philadelphia.

You’re coming off three bad seasons, each worse than the last, and you’ve made the decision that there’s not much you can do to force the current window back open, and to even envision a window opening a couple years down the road, you have to impactfully replenish a flagging farm system that’s been firmly situated in the league’s bottom third those same three years that you’ve failed to post a winning record at the big league level.

Jimmy Rollins, gone.

Marlon Byrd, gone.

Those are your Gagne and Lofton trades.

There’s still a Teixeira Trade to be made.

There are two key differences, of course, between what Ruben Amaro Jr. faces with Cole Hamels and what Jon Daniels had on his hands with Mark Teixeira in 2007.

First, this is the winter, not July when teams in the race and staring at a two-month sprint to 162+ tend to act a little more desperately and with less of a stubborn attitude when it comes to parting with minor league assets.

Second, Daniels in 2007 was leading a relatively new front office group that had laid the groundwork with ownership for a teardown plan at the time he was hired, and the pitch that spring was more about timing than about the overall concept.  Amaro, on the other hand, surely is just trying to survive.  The first three seasons of his tenure as Phillies GM went very well, the next three not so much.

A year ago Jack Zduriencik in Seattle was thought to be on a hot seat, needing to win to save his job.  He did, and did.

Amaro has no real chance to win in 2015 (a reality he’s clearly accepted, having moved Rollins and Byrd and Antonio Bastardo already this winter for prospects).  The test he needs to pass is to overhaul the talent base, to repopulate the top two tiers of his farm system, to restore hope in a franchise that’s likely going to make it four straight seasons without clearing .500.

Amaro can’t get this wrong.  He can trade Hamels now.  He can trade Hamels in July.  He can opt not to trade Hamels.

And he not only has to choose the plan correctly, but in the case of the trade categories, he has to trade him well — far better than he traded Cliff Lee (2009) and far better than he came out net in his two Hunter Pence trades (2001/2012).  Tack on the questionable mega-contracts he’s handed out — Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon foremost among them — and the track record stacks up poorly.

Amaro can’t get this wrong.

Texas had the game’s number 28 farm system, according to Baseball America, entering its 2007 teardown season, and that ranking was published a few weeks before the club traded its top prospect, John Danks, to the White Sox.  The next four in the system: Eric Hurley, Edinson Volquez (who’d spit up his big league looks in 2005 and 2006), Thomas Diamond, and John Mayberry Jr.

That group was no worse then than Philadelphia’s is now, though the additions of Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, and Tom Windle in the Byrd and Rollins trades help.

If Amaro trades Hamels, he’s going to get three or four prospects, and it’s a safe bet that at least two of them will push Lively, Eflin, and Windle further back in the sentence.

Hamels hasn’t asked to be traded, and though no-trade clauses are in many cases just levers to guarantee a club option or secure some other sort of added compensation, let’s assume the clubs Hamels cannot block a trade to — reportedly the Braves, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, Cardinals, Nationals, and Rangers (though Bob Nightengale [USA Today] says the Rangers and Yankees are the only AL clubs, which would mean the Angels are in fact on his no-trade list) — are the ones whose systems Amaro has whiteboarded and nearly memorized at this point.

Add the Red Sox, who are among the 20 teams Hamels has on his no-trade list (after they were not on his list a year earlier), because every national writer is.

According to Jim Salisbury (CSNPhilly.com), the teams showing the most interest in Hamels are the Rangers, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Padres.  For Texas, St. Louis, and San Diego, Hamels is a four-year, $96 million pitcher.  For Boston, assuming it would need to guarantee the lefthander’s 2019 option to get him to allow a trade to go through, he’d be a five-year, $110 million guy.

As for what Philadelphia is seeking in return for Hamels, one National League GM told Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) two weeks ago that the Phillies “want everyone’s top guys and you can’t blame them.  But I think they’re getting more realistic.  The team that can offer them prospects and a Major League-ready player or pitcher will get him.”

The articles that talk about the Padres’ interest routinely mention outfielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Austin Hedges, and righthander Matt Wisler.  Surely A.J. Preller wouldn’t part with all three for the San Diego native, though (1) he’s demonstrated zero attachment to the prospects he’s inherited, and (2) you would think he’d need more of a financial subsidy from the Phillies than the other three teams, which would mean he’d theoretically have to part with more talent than a team not insisting on as much cash to help pay Hamels.

The stories about Boston and Hamels talk about catcher Blake Swihart, second baseman-outfielder Mookie Betts, righthander Matt Barnes, and corner bat Garin Cecchini.  Most, however, believe the Red Sox consider Betts basically untouchable.

St. Louis: righthanders Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales, and outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.  Not all four, but certainly two and maybe three.

Texas?  Salisbury suggests the Rangers “will be very protective of hitters Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara” but “do have a top catching prospect in Jorge Alfaro.”  The Ticket’s Norm Hitzges suggested yesterday that the Phillies would want Gallo and Alfaro and more, or a package headed by Gallo and Rougned Odor and Jake Thompson.  Not happening, and not happening.

(Daniels said on MLB Network Radio Friday afternoon that while he’s still looking to add a starting pitcher before spring training, there’s no truth to any speculation that he’d trade both Gallo and Alfaro for Hamels.)

It’s reasonable to assume that the Phillies, if Salisbury’s note on Gallo and Mazara was triggered by some intel that any talks between the clubs have moved beyond those two, would expect Alfaro to be paired with either Thompson or Chi Chi Gonzalez, and then another player or two from the tier that includes pitchers Luke Jackson, Luis Ortiz (as a player to be named later), Andrew Faulkner, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Keone Kela, and Marcos Diplan, and hitters Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Cordell, Travis Demeritte, and Jairo Beras.

(No chance on Odor.)

It would be a massive price to pay, but it would be for a lefthander who will pitch all of 2015 at age 31, and at four years and $96 million he would offer the controllability that a guy like Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, David Price, Doug Fister, or Yavani Gallardo would not — and at the same time wouldn’t take the years or dollars that Jon Lester just got, Max Scherzer is about to get, and even James Shields is expected to eclipse this winter.

Interestingly, Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News) reports that the Rangers have in fact “remained in contact with Philadelphia about Hamels,” and that the “stumbling block appears to be money.”

The fact that Texas would need the Phillies to kick a meaningful amount of cash in is no surprise.

The comment that the subsidy level is the “stumbling block” would seem to imply that Amaro and Daniels have a greater comfort level with the players who would need to be in the deal.  (That piece, of course, is likely a moving target — as Fraley notes, “[h]ow much the Phillies would be willing to eat would hinge on which prospects the Rangers would be willing to include in a deal.”)

But still: if the names Amaro seeks and the names Daniels is willing to discuss have enough overlap that the “stumbling block appears to be money,” that’s pretty fascinating.

If the offer were, say, Alfaro and Gonzalez and Eickhoff and Williams — which would surprise me — I would expect the Rangers to insist on a tremendous cash infusion from the Phillies, turning Hamels into something along the lines of a $15-17 million pitcher annually (with most of the subsidy front-loaded), rather than one toting the $24 million AAV that his contract guarantees.  (Fraley writes that the Rangers have “about $16 million [to fill] the remainder of the club, under the payroll limit set by ownership.  That group has increased the limit in the past.”  He adds that if Texas would put Gallo and Thompson in a deal, “the Rangers could have Hamels” and “could get about $30 million in salary savings” — which works out to a $16.5 million AAV.)

The hypothetical Alfaro-Gonzalez-Eickhoff-Williams package would arguably be stronger than Swihart-Barnes-Cecchini (if only because of the difference between Gonzalez and Barnes) — hey, maybe as a sweetener Texas could even waive its right to purchase Odubel Herrera back if he doesn’t make Philadelphia’s roster (though he’s a strong bet to make it) — but then again the Red Sox probably wouldn’t require as much cash from the Phillies.

Though they’d require Hamels’s agreement, something Texas wouldn’t have to secure.

The very first trade Amaro made as Phillies GM was with Daniels.  In November 2008, two weeks into his job, Amaro sent outfielder Greg Golson to Texas for Mayberry.

The two have made one trade since then, when Texas sent Michael Young to Philadelphia for righthanders Lisalverto Bonilla and Josh Lindblom in 2012.

Young spent five months as teammates with Hamels, and I’d love to know what he’s recommending to Daniels now as far as loading up for Hamels is concerned.  Young’s voice has become a very important one upstairs very quickly, and though I doubt there are many in the game with a bad thing to say about Hamels, Young’s insights in this case unquestionably carry a lot of weight.

As for the timing of any Hamels trade, if that’s in fact the door Amaro chooses, Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs/Fox Sports) weighs in on the dilemma between striking now and waiting until July:

“This is the dangerous game.  By holding on to Cole Hamels, Ruben Amaro raises the stakes.  There’s more for him to gain, and more for him to lose.  If it’s July, and Hamels has been his usual self, Amaro can get away with demanding one or two upper-tier young players.  But Hamels could also very possibly blast his trade value into nothingness.  Justin Verlander’s 2014 season literally just happened.  There’s an awful lot riding on this move, for Amaro and the organization.  By waiting, they’d be at least maximizing the potential upside.  That’s the optimistic perspective.”

What if the biceps tendinitis that sidelined Hamels for the first three weeks in 2014 resurfaces?  What if he loses his bite the way Verlander did last summer?  Lee to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, and Tyson Gilles in 2010 didn’t cost Amaro his job, but he just can’t afford to miss on a Hamels deal and expect to continue working for the Phillies — and arguably the odds of missing increase if Hamels continues to get the ball as a Phillie.

Like Sullivan says, by waiting until July to trade Hamels, Amaro would arguably maximize the potential upside.

He’d also be increasing the chances that Hamels’s value plummets from where it sits today.

If there’s a trade offer on the table now that Amaro can’t reasonably expect to improve upon in July — and that’s assuming Hamels has a dominant four months — doesn’t he have to follow the Rollins and Byrd trades up with the bellwether move, the signature deal that instantly ignites his farm system and redefines what the Philadelphia Phillies are and when the window opens, setting up everything else that club does going forward?

I’m not suggesting Amaro needs to trade Hamels to Texas (especially without knowing what the deal would look like — though, yeah, this would be the Triple Word Score), as opposed to Boston (which would really amp up Boston-Philly on Opening Day in Citizens Bank Park, huh?) or anyone else.

I’m not suggesting I’d have an easy time — as much as I love the idea of a rotation headed by Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Hamels, with Martin Perez half a season away from returning — wrapping my head around the thought of Jorge Alfaro getting to the big leagues in someone else’s uniform, and I’m not making plans yet to recreate the title banner on these emails.

Really, I’m not suggesting, at least in the context of this morning’s report, that we break down the concept of overlaying four years of Hamels atop two or three years of Darvish (at least) and four of Holland and more than that of Perez (plus at least two years of Adrian Beltre) and of Thompson and (or?) of Gonzalez — really, the idea would be to maximize the Beltre/Darvish window — because for now I’m not really focused, for once, on whether this makes sense for the Texas Rangers, and I’m asking you, for the moment, to step out of those shoes yourselves and consider this from a different perspective.

You’re Philadelphia.

 

 

Embracing the pain.

I’ve been working on a project lately that’s led me to dig up lots of memories from 2010 and 2011, and it’s been pretty great.

There are lots of baseball things I remember from those two years, but as far as 2010 is concerned, foremost among them is not Justin Smoak’s first season in the big leagues, or C.J. Wilson’s first season as a big league starter, or Vladimir Guerrero’s one season as a Ranger.  

The things that stick out from 2010 are the shockingly awesome strike in early July to go get Cliff Lee from Seattle.  Elvis Andrus and his teammates running wild the first week in October.  Cliff Lee jumping into Bengie Molina’s arms in Tropicana Field.  Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte, with that laugh after he’d beat a sliding Brett Gardner to first base.  Lotsa Cliff Lee.

And that disastrous eighth inning in San Francisco, Game Two.  

The great moments persist, and so does the pain. 

2011: I don’t really remember Alexi Ogando, All-Star, or the Torrealba Era, or that, behind Neftali Feliz, the Rangers’ relief innings leaders were, in order, Darren Oliver, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama, Michael Kirkman, and Dave Bush.  

What I remember is the arrival of Adrian Beltre, the Year of Napoli, the Andrus-Kinsler fist pump at second base in the Trop, Nellie’s throw in Detroit, Elvis’s impossible glove-flip in Busch Stadium, Derek Holland in Game Four, and Napoli in Game Five.

And, yes, a hundred things about Game Six.

From 2007, because of what it all led to, I remember Texas trading Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton, and drafting Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Julio Borbon, Neil Ramirez, and Tommy Hunter, and signing the best international pitcher available, a 16-year-old from Venezuela named Martin Perez, about two decades after the Rangers had last been considered a force in Latin America.  I don’t really remember Sammy Sosa’s second run with Texas, or the 5.50 rotation ERA, or that Ramon Vazquez was the club’s primary third baseman.

In 2009 the Rangers finished 10 games out but won 87 games, and I do remember the feeling that something special was coming together, and part of that had to do with the arrival of Andrus and Holland and Feliz.  

The flip side of that is, in 2012, what sticks with me is that lazy Yoenis Cespedes fly ball to Josh Hamilton in Game 162, and that Hamilton first-inning at-bat against Joe Saunders two days later.  Those memories crowd out the four bombs Hamilton hit against Baltimore one night in May.  Because sports.

When I think of 2011, I hear “Written in the Stars” in my head, not Josh Hamilton’s walk-up music or Feliz’s coming-in music or Pat Green’s “I Like Texas” after a win.  And that’s OK.

In the wake of the demise of the Cowboys season on Sunday, someone reminded Bob Sturm about something he’d written back in 2008, after the team’s loss to the Ravens dropped its record to 9-6, en route to 9-7 and a failure to reach the playoffs:

As I was leaving a frigid Texas Stadium after the game, I was walking right behind a Dad and his boy.  The boy must have been 7 or 8 years old and was crying about the result.  Some people might roll their eyes, but I knew how the boy felt.  When you are young, and you love a sports team, you believe the games and the seasons will all have the happy endings of the Disney movies that you watch.  Guess what, son, if you are going to pledge allegiance to a team as it appears you have with the Dallas Cowboys, I want to welcome you to the fellowship of the die-hards.  Understand, that once you do, you are not allowed out of this commitment, and you should also understand that most seasons are going to end in tears.  A favorite team is the only thing a male human feels the same about when he is 5 and when he is 45 and when he is 75.  You will change your mind on everything else.  Girls, money, hobbies.  But, you will always still feel the adrenaline rush of a win, and the gutting sadness of a horrible loss.  I didn’t say anything to the boy, as his Dad was handling it (and he might not have welcomed my advice) but I felt for him.  Welcome to sports, young man.  Someday, you may live to see a championship or five, but most years will end with your guts spilling onto the floor. 

Yep.

The Cowboys’ 2014 season hurt more than the four ugly years that preceded it, but I’ll take it every time.  Sports pain over sports indifference, in a blowout.

I’m not giving October 2010 or October 2011 back, no matter how much those two months, and especially one of them, hurt.  Still. 

Rangers Baseball 2014 will soon be forgotten, mercifully.  Gone will be memory of the 95 losses and the record number of players and DL days and Mike Carp hitting third and Saunders getting the ball — to start the game — eight different times.  

The resignation of the manager won’t be, though.

And I hope, years from now, we also remember 2014 for the arrival of Ryan Rua, the acquisition of Jake Thompson, the breakouts of Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara and Keone Kela, and the Dawning of Odor.  

Some of you, like me, are both Rangers fans and Cowboys fans, and while 2014 was a tough year for both, it was tough on completely different levels, and I’d rather be talking 20 years from now about Dez’s overturned catch or Nellie in Game 6 than about the year the Rangers needed 40 pitchers to get through 162.  

I’m counting on much better baseball in 2015.  

And more pain, if that’s what’s in store.

Pain for us, that is.  I’m not up for another year of 26 disabled list assignments.

Bring on the chance at more sports heartbreak, at guts spilling onto the floor.  Because without it, the winning — and I mean the winning — wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.

Pitchers & Catchers: 38 sleeps.  

This is not about Scrabble.

You can use that X right now, and spell JINX.  

Or you can wait a bit to see if you pick another E from the box of tiles so you can drop DELUXE into the empty stretch that ends with that provocative Triple Word Score space winking at you from the bottom of the mildly populated board.

There’s nothing wrong with JINX.  Solid score.

And it’s not like the game is almost over.  Still plenty of tiles in the box, plenty of plays to be made and points to be piled up. 

Yes, you’re behind at the moment, but for a good while the tortoise trailed the hare, too.

And if you wait, that Triple Word Space could get taken up anyway.

But, man, DELUXE — tripled — is a game-changer.

And there’s only one X.  You don’t want to regret playing it too soon.

So?  

Whatcha gonna do?

scrabble[2].jpg

On a completely unrelated note — as if anything I were to type now wouldn’t be unrelated — if you’d like to have a copy of the 2015 Bound Edition in digital format (PDF), it’s available now for $9.99 at this link.  Hard copies are still available, too, here.  

Sports.

Back in the late ’90s, there was a four-month stretch at the end of each year when I’d roll into work Monday morning, sometimes Tuesday, and dump a few hundred or more words about the Cowboys game played the day before into an email that would scatter out to a few dozen fellow lawyers at Vial Hamilton Koch & Knox, and maybe a dozen or two others outside the office. The reply-all’s to the Roundtable volleys would pretty much wipe out a bunch of folks’ mornings, starting with boos on that day’s email title (“Big Apple Turnover” . . . “Redbird Maul” . . . “Jason and the Gruden Fleece”) and branching out from there into the finest displays of Monday Morning quarterbacking.

That was shortly before I started writing the Newberg Report, which for so many reasons was a fortunate decision for me, not the least of which is my family life. I’m fairly sure Ginger wouldn’t have had any shred of interest in me if she’d been around me during a bunch more Cowboys games than she was when we were dating, and once she married Dr. Jekyll (untroubled by the prospects of living with Mr. Hyde), if I’d gone on to act during Rangers games the way I do when the Cowboys are on TV — or if football was on every night — the trophy for her sticking around . . . well, I don’t even want to think about that.

Or maybe I’m not all that bad when the Cowboys are on.

(Or maybe she’s just unbelievably forgiving.)

(Probably that.)

Just before yesterday’s kickoff, I tweeted: “Whatever happens, I love this and miss this. This is why.”

Baseball will give that to us again, soon.

Four hours later, during most of which I was in Hyde mode, once my blood pressure had settled back down I could think of only one word, and it’s the one I slap down as the title of this morning’s report.

(As I continue to resist the 17-year-old urge to trick the titles up, and believe me, back in 1998 a huge win like that one over a team called the “Lions” would have been fertile ground.)

My Sunday started, as I’m sure it did for lots of you, with the Stuart Scott news, and I ended up watching ESPN for more hours yesterday morning than I had the last however-many months combined.

Sports brings out the best of us, and the worst, and other things, too. Not all of it is good, and there’s pain and anger mixed in with the edge and the drama and the thrill, but I’ll take all of it.

Especially since I can now comfortably resist the urge to abbreviate “Hitchens” so that I can morph “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” into awesome, awful, impossibly terrible email title fail.

A new year.

The 2010 Winter Meetings came to a close with the defending American League champion Rangers having made one move: Giving the Cubs nominal cash considerations to draft Angels minor league righthander Mason Tobin for them in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning, December 9.

Flight tracker Twitter was in full force later that day, with rumors swarming that Ray Davis, Chuck Greenberg, and Thad Levine were en route to Arkansas — where Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan had been a week earlier — for a second turf visit to Cliff Lee and his wife and his agent about a return to the Rangers, whom Lee had just helped log a first-ever playoff series win, and then another.

I’m not sure we know what Texas offered Lee during that visit, but it came a day or two after the Yankees reportedly put seven years on the table, leaving the baseball print world convinced the 32-year-old would jump to New York (#behooves) or extend with the Rangers.

A few days after that, Lee called Daniels, and Lee’s agent called the Yankees, letting them know Lee’s return would be not to Texas, but to the Phillies, for whom he’d pitched late in 2009, including in that club’s own World Series run. He was taking five years and a guarantee of $120 million, with a club option for a sixth year (that will vest if he’s relatively healthy these next two seasons) that would make the deal worth $135 million. He was joining a starting staff that already included Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and a still-dominant Roy Oswalt.

At his Philadelphia presser, Lee said: “To get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something that’s historic, I believe.”

The vibe was understandably electric in Philly, where fans had just seen their club come two games short of a third straight World Series appearance and were now adding one of the game’s best starting pitchers.

It was somewhat less so in Texas, where a first-time World Series franchise had just lost its October ace in mid-December, and had added Mason Tobin.

Philadelphia committed at least $120 million to lock Lee up.

Three weeks after that, Texas committed $80 million to Adrian Beltre (also five years plus an option).

Three weeks after that, Texas traded for Mike Napoli, who was primed to make about $2 million more than the similarly arb-eligible Frank Francisco whom the club traded to Toronto to get him.

The Phillies won 102 games in 2011 but their post-season lasted a week.

The Rangers, meanwhile, returned to the World Series.

With Napoli and Beltre posting the two highest OPS’s on the club.

At almost $40 million less than the Phillies used to lure Lee away from the Rangers.

Beltre was available only because Boston, the day before those December 2010 Winter Meetings, made a trade with San Diego to get Adrian Gonzalez, which meant Kevin Youkilis would slide across the diamond to third base, effectively bouncing Beltre out of the Red Sox’s plans.

Beltre was available to Texas only because the Angels declined to sign him — even though he reportedly begged to join that club — and actually withdrew their five-year, $70 million offer before Beltre had decided on his new team.

Napoli was available to Texas only because the Angels, having failed to sign Beltre and still believing they needed a bat, traded Napoli and Frosty Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells — who was owed $80 million of Angels money (and $5 million from Toronto) over the ensuing four years.

Yes, $10 million more (and one season less) than they presumably could have signed Beltre for (and kept Napoli, who lasted four days with the Jays before they flipped him to Texas, something Los Angeles had refused for years to do).

Two of the best moves Daniels or this franchise has ever made, and they were apparently fallbacks to an effort to re-sign Lee.

A.J. Preller wanted to give Pablo Sandoval a reported $100 million-plus, and then, when Sandoval chose Boston instead, Preller targeted Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who eventually took $68.5 million from Arizona.

If he’d succeeded in signing Sandoval or Tomas, would he have traded for Matt Kemp and traded for Derek Norris and traded for Justin Upton and traded for Wil Myers?

At least some of them were fallbacks.

Like Monta Ellis was when that whole Dwight Howard thing didn’t work out.

Like Tyson Chandler back in 2010, when Dallas tried first to trade for Al Jefferson, and failed.

Maybe I’m seduced by the awesomeness of the reacquisition of Chandler when I daydream about the idea of reacquiring Lee (who would certainly command a less exacting package of prospects than teammate Cole Hamels), but I’d be lying if I said it’s not something I’ve been thinking about, and now I’d better get back to the point before I get carried away.

Pick a trade. Any trade. Pick out any one of the deals made in this frenetic winter around the league, and it won’t take long to find a columnist somewhere high-fiving Team A, and another one fist-bumping Team B.

One national writer who does a great job said this in the last couple days: “The Mariners make it official: Trade Brandon Maurer to [the] Padres for Seth Smith. The Mariners clearly are the team to beat in [the] AL West.”

Because they added Seth Smith?

It’s easy to get carried away when a team makes a trade or signs a free agent, and hard sometimes not to. I’m regularly guilty; you have no idea how much restraint it has taken me not to go ham with a couple thousand chest-bumping words on the non-roster contract Texas has given Kyle Blanks and the roster spot flier the club is taking on Kyuji Fujikawa. (I like those deals.)

But not every team that changed its roster in December got better. It doesn’t work that way.

If all it takes to win the winter is to make a big trade, then, yeah, Texas isn’t winning the winter.

Some of those teams who made headline-grabbing trades or signings before the New Year, likely unwittingly, just got worse.

(A good spot, perhaps, to note that not only did the Royals give $11 million to Alex Rios two weeks ago — they apparently, according to Joel Sherman [New York Post], had agreed to a trade for Rios in July, only to have Rios veto the deal when Kansas City refused to guarantee his $13.5 million option for 2015. The Royals had every opportunity to consider that a bullet dodged when Rios proceeded to hit .186/.210/.268 in 100 Texas plate appearances in August and September before shutting down with a bad thumb, but whatever.)

Actually, the Rios note is relevant for another reason that warrants an absence of parentheses.

Did we know in July that Texas and Kansas City had agreed to terms on an Alex Rios trade?

Did we know until Sherman reported it two days ago?

Do we know there haven’t been red zone trade talks for Texas over the last month that, for one reason or another, just didn’t come together?

Or just haven’t yet?

I’ll never forget the winter-winning, red-carpet, paparazzi-infested joke of a press conference the Angels held to announce the signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson at the conclusion of the Dallas Winter Meetings following the 2011 season.

The Angels, trying to erase the sting of missing out on Beltre and seeing Napoli star for Texas, and finishing 10 games behind Texas not only in the 2010 World Series season but in the Rangers’ 2011 World Series as well, finished third in the division with Pujols and Wilson in 2012, and third in the division with Pujols and Wilson in 2013, unable to slide the December 2010 Medal down in the trophy case until winning the West (but zero playoff games) in 2014.

The Angels didn’t have to trade Napoli in a deal for Wells just because they didn’t get Beltre.

Toronto didn’t have to trade Napoli for Francisco.

They didn’t win those trades.

I’m not convinced the Rangers have gotten worse because it’s January 1st and they haven’t made a big trade.

I’m also not convinced they don’t have a big move or two in them this off-season, still.

Stated another way, as I publish my Top 72 Rangers Prospects list (which is in the 2015 Bound Edition, along with writeups on each player) like I tend to do on New Year’s Day, I think there’s a very real chance that the top quarter of this list, if not the top tenth, has names on it that, when Texas reports to Surprise in seven weeks, will no longer be part of the organization.

Anyway, here we go (I went to print before the Rangers lost Herrera in the Rule 5 Draft, traded De Los Santos and Chris Bostick for Ross Detwiler, and waived Rowen):

1. Joey Gallo, 3B-1B
2. Jorge Alfaro, C
3. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, RHP
4. Nomar Mazara, OF
5. Jake Thompson, RHP
6. Ryan Rua, OF-1B-3B-2B
7. Luke Jackson, RHP
8. Luis Ortiz, RHP
9. Lewis Brinson, OF
10. Nick Williams, OF
11. Andrew Faulkner, LHP
12. Ronald Guzman, 1B
13. Marcos Diplan, RHP
14. Keone Kela, RHP
15. Jake Smolinski, OF
16. Alec Asher, RHP
17. Ryan Cordell, OF-1B
18. Jerad Eickhoff, RHP
19. Corey Knebel, RHP
20. Brett Martin, LHP
21. Travis Demeritte, 2B-3B
22. Yohander Mendez, LHP
23. Spencer Patton, RHP
24. Tomas Telis, C
25. Jairo Beras, OF
26. Phil Klein, RHP
27. Hanser Alberto, SS
28. Jose Leclerc, RHP
29. Michael De Leon, SS
30. Alex Claudio, LHP
31. Abel De Los Santos, RHP
32. Odubel Herrera, 2B-OF
33. Lisalverto Bonilla, RHP
34. Pat Cantwell, C
35. Jon Edwards, RHP
36. Josh Morgan, 2B-SS
37. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS-2B
38. Sam Wolff, RHP
39. Chris Bostick, 2B
40. Will Lamb, LHP
41. Jared Hoying, OF
42. Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B-SS
43. Samuel Zazueta, LHP
44. Chris Garia, OF
45. Kelvin Vasquez, RHP
46. Cole Wiper, RHP
47. Jose Valdespina, RHP
48. Victor Payano, LHP
49. Connor Sadzeck, RHP
50. Jose Trevino, C-3B
51. Akeem Bostick, RHP
52. Josh McElwee, RHP
53. Frank Lopez, LHP
54. Evan Van Hoosier, OF-2B
55. Matt West, RHP
56. Trever Adams, 1B-OF
57. Martire Garcia, LHP
58. Preston Beck, 1B-OF
59. Luke Tendler, OF
60. Cody Kendall, RHP
61. Drew Robinson, OF
62. Eduard Pinto, OF
63. Cody Ege, LHP
64. Seth Spivey, 2B-3B
65. Brett Nicholas, C-1B
66. Ben Rowen, RHP
67. Jose Almonte, OF
68. Luke Lanphere, RHP
69. Kellin Deglan, C
70. David Ledbetter, RHP
71. Sherman Lacrus, C
72. David Perez, RHP

I guess the point of this report, which I will admit is self-directed in part, is that you don’t win the winter in December, and don’t really win anything in the winter.

There’s a message of hope, and of better things ahead, wrapped up in any Happy New Year wish, and while we all deserve a massive helping of that this year on the baseball front — Prince and Derek and Matt and Martin and Tanner and Elvis and Jurickson and Yu and you and me — the science isn’t always crisp on the correlation between off-season headlines and winning baseball games.

I’m just happy that there’s no more 2014 baseball.

Here’s to 2015.

Star Wars -- Rangers small copy

(Hat tip, Nick Pants.)

Happy New Year.

Junior ball.

A friend pointed me the other day to something Dwight Gooden just published online, a short 900-word essay he called “Letter to My Younger Self.”  It’s very good.

Naturally, when I read the following paragraph . . . 

Eighty percent of your drive will come from your desire to make dad proud, while the other 20 percent will be for you.  Do your best to flip those numbers around, otherwise his absence will cause you to spiral.  There are steps you can take to stop this decline, but you’ll have to discover them the hard way.

. . . I thought about me and my Dad, and me and my kids, and then, because I can’t help it (and because I’d been teeing up a story on him anyway), I thought about Delino DeShields Jr., and his father, the greater part of whose big league career overlapped with the greater part of Gooden’s.

It would be silly to call the older DeShields’s big league career, which lasted 13 seasons and included more than 1,500 base hits and over 450 stolen bases, a disappointment, considering that by the time he was the age his son is today, he’d been runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year and was halfway into his second season as Montreal’s everyday leadoff hitter and second baseman, a year in which he would hit 10 home runs, walk 95 times, and steal 56 bags.  

But Delino Sr., in those 13 seasons, would hit more homers just once, would never again steal as many bases or draw nearly as many walks, and would never make an All-Star Team or win a single playoff game with any of the five clubs he played for.  

The lead bullet point detailing his career was that he was traded, at age 24, for a 22-year-old Dodgers middle reliever named Pedro Martinez.

Delino Sr. was a high school kid taken with the 12th overall pick in the draft in 1987 (seven picks before Texas took Brian Bohanon).  

Delino Jr. was a high school kid taken 8th overall in 2010 (seven picks before Texas took Jake Skole, whose Georgia hometown was 20 minutes from DeShields’s).  Keith Law (ESPN) had him falling to the Rangers, but Houston didn’t let that happen.

Five years earlier, Baseball America had named Delino Jr. the top 12-year-old baseball player in the world (ahead of, among others, Bryce Harper), calling him “a game changer both at the plate and on the bases, with a combination of raw power and speed.”  One national high school scout suggested to BA that he was the fastest 12-year-old he’d ever seen, and one of the strongest.    

And yet, after the Astros invested that high first-round pick and five years of player development on the younger DeShields, not to mention the $2.15 million signing bonus, they not only left him unprotected in advance of this winter’s Rule 5 Draft — but, leaving one spot open on their 40-man roster so they could participate in the draft, took Class A righthander Jason Garcia and promptly traded him to Baltimore for cash.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the Orioles paid the Astros $75,000 for the rights to Garcia, with $50,000 of that cost going to Boston as the draft fee.

So Houston, obviously in a building phase and in no position to be making decisions to reduce its inventory of young players with upside, kept its 40th roster spot vacant rather than protecting DeShields — and used that empty spot to add a meaningless $25,000 to the club coffers.

Maybe the Astros will get DeShields back, without having to take up a roster spot.  But DeShields and his new team clearly hope not.

One of the reasons the Gooden piece made me think of DeShields was that first line I pasted here, about the idea of playing for your father, or for yourself.  Even when Baseball America was projecting DeShields as an early-to-mid-first-rounder out of high school, they routinely paired with talk about his loud tools the common sentiment that he played with “low-energy body language [that] put off some scouts,” and there were occasional whispers questioning his effort and his makeup.  When DeShields was days away from being drafted at age 17, BA went so far as to suggest that, “[l]ike many big league progeny, DeShields doesn’t play with a ton of energy.”

Gooden’s letter made me think about that.

To be fair, it was probably production more than any questions about DeShields’s effort between the lines that led to his exposure to the Rule 5 Draft this month.  After a record-setting 2012, when he became the first player in minor league history to hit more than 10 home runs (12) and steal more than 100 bases (101) in a season, followed by a .317/.405/.468 breakout year with High A Lancaster in 2013, he hit only .236 and OPS’d just .706 last year with Corpus Christi, a season that was marred in mid-April by a Phil Klein fastball that fractured his face and cost him three weeks on the shelf.  Houston had tried moving him from center field to second base after his draft season, but when that didn’t completely take, he returned to center field in 2014, and while there’s probably more promise there defensively (even if his arm will never be a weapon), it wasn’t the cleanest transition.

DeShields was ranked by BA as Houston’s number two prospect after the 2010 season.

Number eight after 2011.

Number six after 2012.

Number 13 after 2013.

Bet the publication has him lower than that after the 2014 season.  He was definitely outside the Astros’ top 10 before the Rangers drafted him away.

DeShields has always run — in his last three seasons he has 101, 51, and 54 steals, at an excellent 80 percent success rate — but in order to stick in the big leagues all year with the Rangers, which he’s required to do (or else Texas will have to run him through waivers and, if he clears, offer him back to Houston for half the $50,000 draft fee), he’ll need to be more than a late-inning baserunner.  He’ll need to catch the ball, do something with the bat, and never let the Rangers question his energy, or his effort.

There’s a huge opportunity here for Delino Jr.  

And for Texas.

As Stefan Stevenson (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) put it, “DeShields has something to prove.  And it’s a trait manager Jeff Banister loves to see because it reminds him of himself.”  Banister, reflecting on his own career, told Stevenson: “I was that guy.  I didn’t reach the level of what these guys have, but I know when you have something to prove and have that burning desire inside of you you’re going to be the guy that pushes yourself.  You don’t typically need a lot of other people pushing you along.”  

You don’t want to make too much of the two home runs DeShields hit in the Puerto Rican Winter League the day after Texas drafted him, but this is a player who also went deep twice in his first game back after the Klein beaning (this is not a fun house mirror image), and was the MVP of the PRWL All-Star Game a few days before Texas called his name.  Maybe he’s the type who’s at his best when the spotlight glare gets brighter.  

We’re about to find out.

Baseball America, which has long thrown red flags up on DeShields as a prospect, did call him “[m]aybe [the] most talented position player available” in the Rule 5 Draft after the Rangers used the third overall pick on him.  And while the publication suggested “he has everyday starter potential if he comes close to tapping into his potential,” the follow-up comment was that “[s]ome scouts are skeptical he ever will, as they have been turned off by his consistent lack of effort.”  BA’s conclusion was that his chances to stick with the Rangers all season are low.

There’s that effort thing again — Daniels acknowledged to local reporters shortly after the draft that “[w]e’re aware of that . . . [h]e’s got a unique opportunity and we’ll sit down and talk about our expectations” — and right now I’m thinking about a dozen eye-to-eye conversations between Banister and DeShields.

And just as many between Jayce Tingler and DeShields.

And a couple between Michael Young and DeShields.

And one between Russell Wilson and DeShields.

Minutes after the draft, Banister tweeted: “If you’re the greatest, someone [else] wants to be the greatest, and so if you’re not constantly improving your game, somebody else is . . . . Every single day, someone’s coming for your job, coming for your greatness.”  It doesn’t take a Newberg Report-esque stretch to connect the Banister tweet with the move his club had just made to acquire a new candidate to back up Leonys Martin and give him a versatile weapon off the bench.

After years of DeShields as the high-profile, high-first-round, baseball progeny whose job someone else was coming after, now he’s the other guy, doing the chasing.  Maybe that’s exactly the situation he needs, the one that brings out the best in him, that sets the stage for a little potential fulfillment.  In Arlington. 

Delino Sr., looking to get back to the big leagues in a new role, reportedly turned down Paul Molitor’s offer a month ago to serve as Twins first base coach, opting to remain as a manager in the Reds organization.  He’ll join AAA Louisville in 2015, after managing at lower levels in the Cincinnati system from 2010 through 2014.  

Interestingly, Delino Sr. managed rookie ball in 2010, his first year managing, the same year Delino Jr. started his pro career, also in rookie ball.

In 2011, both father and son spent the year in Low A.

In 2012, both were in Class A.

In 2013, the Reds moved Dad to AA, while Delino Jr. repeated High A.

In 2014, father and son both toiled in AA.

In 2015, Delino Sr. turned a big league opportunity down.  Delino Jr. will get his first. 

Six months ago — really, six weeks ago — the safe bet would have been that Dad would have gotten back to the Major Leagues before Junior got there himself.

It’s widely believed that Delino Sr., who just finished managing the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros, which included the Rangers’ AFL delegation, will eventually manage in the big leagues.  Maybe his ultimate big league legacy is yet to be written, after a playing career that was supposed to turn out better than it did.

I wonder what Delino DeShields Sr.’s “Letter to My Younger Self” would look like.

Or his letter to his 22-year-old namesake.     

But not as much as I’m imagining the message Delino Jr. will be getting, over and over again, from any number of people in Rangers uniforms between now and the end of March, when a big decision will need to be made.  I’d like to think it’s a message he’ll get loud and get clear, and that he’s going to grab this opportunity, put some things together in Surprise, and make his last organization regret using that last November roster spot not on its former first-round pick but instead on 30 seconds on the draft clock it basically sold for $25,000.

Word.

Yo, VIP.

Let’s kick it.

Now that the party is jumping

With the bass kicked in, and the Vega’s are pumpin’ 

Quick to the point, to the point, no faking

     party dec 2014

party dec 2014 derek

party dec 2014 -- ben and Bue

party dec 2014 Botts

party dec 2014 emily

    

Finally, you should click this link if you’re an Emily Jones fan, or a fan of things that are awesome — seriously, click this:

https://vimeo.com/115068581

Ice Ice Baby.

Word to #Derek’sMom.

party dec 2014 -- emily

Unkempt.

Because I’m in the final stages of workup for tomorrow night’s Book Release Party, I had no plans to write today.  The queue includes blank-so-far reports on Delino DeShields Jr., Kyle Blanks, and Kyuji Fujikawa, but after writing eight times in the space of five days last week, I needed a break from the keyboard.  I’ll get to those stories soon.

I couldn’t stay quiet this morning, though.

Late in the day Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) reported that the Padres and Rays were “discussing [a] significant trade [involving] a number of players,” with “Wil Myers [the] main piece going to San Diego.”  

Dozens of impassioned media tweets later, Jeff Passan (Yahoo!) dropped this one: “[The] sense among those in the know is that while Padres-Rays deal involving Wil Myers is straight-up, players dealt could be on the move again. . . . Could be a similar situation to what happened with Andrew Heaney: traded to one team, onto another.  GM’s these days [are] always five steps ahead.”

If A.J. Preller is really about to land Myers, his trade for Matt Kemp makes more sense.  I didn’t like the Kemp deal for San Diego, but I love the idea of buying low on Myers (ESPN’s Buster Olney: “For those wondering why the Rays would make Wil Myers available in trade: He’s been much more inconsistent than Tampa Bay thought he would be”), a move that would fit for that club with or without Kemp.  And as long as Kemp isn’t going to be asked to anchor the middle of the Padres’ lineup alone, I dislike that trade for them less, and adding five years of Myers to five years of Kemp — especially if the Myers deal doesn’t force San Diego to move Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner — starts changing the look of that club significantly. 

As for Passan’s suggestion that there could be a third team involved, maybe it’s Texas, maybe it’s not, but I’m not so sure it’s San Diego who would be doing the flipping.  Buying low on Myers, and keeping him, is exactly what that team should be doing.

Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) doesn’t necessarily agree, proposing the concept of one buy-low asset swapped for another: 

So, let’s just speculate a bit.  What the Padres need more than another corner outfielder is a shortstop.  You know who has an extra young shortstop and needs a corner outfielder?  The Texas Rangers.  You know where A.J. Preller just worked, running the international scouting department when Jurickson Profar was signed as a 16-year-old?  Yeah, the Texas Rangers.

Completely speculative, but perhaps the Padres are looking to acquire Myers because Preller knows that Jon Daniels wants him to play right field, and will give up Profar and some other of Preller’s old favorites.  Given the injury problems Profar has suffered, I find it unlikely that there would be a one-for-one trade, but I could see a situation where the Padres are trading prospects to get the guy that gets them Profar.

Maybe.  

Doubt it.

Daniels hasn’t made a Kemp-level move and isn’t rumored to be zeroing in on a Myers-level move, despite having a much deeper farm system than Preller, but as we’ve talked about for years, having players like Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara and Chi Chi Gonzalez and Jake Thompson seems to have the unwanted effect of making it harder to lock other teams in on players like Luis Sardinas and Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson and Luke Jackson and Hanser Alberto, a group that I’d put up against the prospects the White Sox gave up for Jeff Samardzija, for instance, but then again I’m not crazy about trading for one year of a number two starter — especially one who spent lots of time pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Or moving a frontline prospect for Howie Kendrick, or Jimmy Rollins.  

Or prospects on the first tier or the second or the third for Josh Hamilton, a player Rosenthal reported yesterday the Angels have had “exploratory talks” with the Rangers and Padres about, talks that “did not gain traction.”  (MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez: “Sources tell me the Josh Hamilton return to Texas via trade with [the] Angels talk was a two-minute conversation and not something [the] Rangers pursued.”)  

Or Gonzalez and Josh Morgan for one year of Justin Upton, a trade that Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) proposes, and not just because it would seem to be awkward to make Morgan a player to be named later for the entire first half of the season, as he would need to be procedurally.

Those things have as much chance of happening as Jon Heyman’s suggestion that Max Scherzer lands in Texas, which he calls the righthander’s number three “potential landing spot,” behind the Yankees and Cardinals.  The Rangers aren’t going to drop $200 million on anybody.  They’re looking to improve on the trade market instead.

Unfortunately, the way the trade market has developed, prospects don’t appear to be the game’s lead currency at the moment, as two dozen teams appear to be convicted about their chances to compete for at least their league’s second Wild Card spot.  And the Rangers don’t have the depth in young, impact, Major League-ready players to trade (compare what Arizona got from Boston for Wade Miley), unless they’re willing to move Odor.  (They better not be.)  

Texas will have more leverage in July, when the trade market is flooded with 5+ pitchers and bats, and the teams trying to move them will be punting, looking not to October, but to 2016.  The Rangers’ prospects will carry more value then.  Even those on the second tier, and the third.

I’m not sure if it’s fairweather to abandon what had been your second-favorite team, but I’m realizing now that the reason it was Tampa Bay for me the last few years wasn’t Longo or Zobrist or David Price, but instead two other guys who are no longer there, one now running baseball operations in Los Angeles and the other the dugout in Chicago.  

But, hey, maybe the Rays are getting Tyson Ross and three Padres prospects in this Padres deal and are flipping two of the kids plus Zobrist to Joe Maddon’s Cubs for Javier Baez (in spite of Passan’s belief that the Nationals are the third team), and then I’ll keep my seat on the lightly populated Tampa Bay bandwagon.   

Believe me, I’m hoping my first-favorite team is working on another trade, whether it’s for a number three starter or a number five hitter, and I don’t think Texas had the right pieces to get the Dodgers to pay Matt Kemp down as much as they did, though I’ll wonder if the Rangers could have built a package of non-Odor/Gallo/Alfaro/Mazara/Gonzalez/Thompson prospects for Myers that would have interested the Rays — or Nationals — as much as whatever San Diego is apparently parting with out of its weaker system.

I also didn’t think Kemp was the right move for the Padres, until now.  Assuming they aren’t moving Ross or Cashner, my understanding of what they appear to be doing isn’t quite as disheveled anymore.

AJ Myers

Details for Thursday night.

The book release party is this Thursday night (December 18) at Sherlock’s in Arlington, starting at 6:00 pm.  Admission is free.  Here are the details:

*     The party is at the Arlington location of Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub & Grill, at 254 Lincoln Square (817/226-2300), a few blocks west of Globe Life Park.

*     Our autograph guests will be lefthander Derek Holland, bench coach Steve Buechele, righthander Jake Thompson (expecting you Rockwall-Heath and DBat guys to come out and represent), Frisco manager Joe Mikulik, former Ranger outfielder Jason Botts, and Rangers field reporter Emily Jones.  The autograph line will get moving at 6:00 pm, but you can arrive earlier if you’d like.  We’ll plan to be at Sherlock’s until 9:00 pm.

*     Please note that some of our autograph guests may not be able to stay until 9:00.

*     There will be a set-up when you arrive where you can donate toys and books (new and unwrapped, appropriate for ages newborn to 12) to the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive, and another table where you can buy 2015 Newberg Report Bound Editions.  (I’ll also have some of the 2011 and 2012 World Series editions on hand, plus some copies of the 2005 book, which has Botts on the cover.)

 

*     You will receive a raffle ticket for every five toys or books you donate.  You will also receive a raffle ticket for every Bound Edition that you buy at the event.  (If you bring 2015 Bound Editions that you’ve already bought and received, show them and you’ll get a raffle ticket for each of those as well.)

*     We can take cash, checks, and credit cards.  The 2015 book is $25.  The World Series editions are $20.  The 2005 book is $15. 

*     You can bring your own stuff to get autographed, but please limit it to two autographs per baseball guest as you go through the line.

*     At about 7:30, we’ll take a short break from autographs to conduct a quick raffle.  Autographs will resume after that.

The raffle items:

* An 11 x 14 of the photo featured on the book cover, signed by all four players (Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams)

2015 -- Newberg-Report-Bound-Edition-cover_front-small

(that main photo is the one that photographer Walt Barnard got the guys to sign)

* Two Globe Life Park stadium seats from the 2011 World Series season, each mounted and accompanied by a matted photo of the Ballpark (two separate winners)

* Two autographed 2012 Bowman Chrome Rougned Odor rookie cards (two separate winners)

* An autographed Robinson Chirinos 8 x 10

* An autographed Luis Sardinas 8 x 10

* An autographed Gabe Kapler 8 x 10

*     Throughout the evening, Ben Rogers of 105.3 FM The Fan will emcee things, which will include interviews with our guests.

 

*     Once the autograph line subsides, we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A/roundtable discussion.

 

Don’t hesitate to bring the kids — the room will be non-smoking Thursday night.

[A couple unrelated things: (1) If you can’t make it to the party, you can still order immediate delivery of the 2015 Bound Edition by clicking here, or by going to www.NewbergReport.com and clicking the “Order Now” button under the image of the book cover; and (2) if you’re doing any of your holiday shopping at Amazon, there’s a way to help us out a bit at zero cost to you.  Near the top of the front page of www.NewbergReport.com is an Amazon.com button.  If you click it, any purchases of any kind you make on that visit to Amazon will kick a small referral fee to the Newberg Report (at no cost to you), which we’ll use to help upgrade our own product.]

See you Thursday night.

Ups and downs: The Rangers trade for Ross Detwiler.

Going into their historic teardown season of 2007, and as part of the reason Jon Daniels and Thad Levine pushed ownership for it, the Rangers had enviable firepower in the amateur draft, owning five of the first 54 picks, the result of strategically offering arbitration to free agents they knew wouldn’t take it (Carlos Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., and Mark DeRosa).

None of the five players Texas drafted in that first and supplemental first round are still with the organization.  Four were traded in pennant races deals (Blake Beavan to Seattle in the 2010 Cliff Lee trade, Michael Main to San Francisco in the 2010 Bengie Molina trade, Tommy Hunter to Baltimore in the 2011 Koji Uehara trade, Neil Ramirez to the Cubs in the 2013 Matt Garza trade).  In terms of their asset value, each was traded on the way up — with the exception of Hunter, whose effectiveness and role with the Rangers had clearly receded.

The fifth, Julio Borbon, was, like Hunter, lost on the way down.  He reached the big leagues after just 206 minor league games, put up a tremendous .790 OPS as a rookie, and never came close to replicating it.  He made the Rangers’ Opening Day roster in 2013, because Texas couldn’t option him for a fifth season (a fourth in AAA), but when a fifth starter was needed a week into the schedule, the club purchased righthander Nick Tepesch — a 2010 14th-rounder — and designated the 2007 first-rounder Borbon for assignment.  

The Cubs claimed Borbon, designated him for assignment themselves in August, got him through waivers and outrighted him to AAA, and left him not only off the 40-man roster that winter but off their 37-man AAA roster as well, and the Orioles used a pick in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft to bring him over for 2014.  He spent the whole season in AAA, and is now a minor league free agent.  As far as I can tell, he’s still out there, looking for a AAA opportunity somewhere for 2015.

Earlier in that 2007 draft, the Nationals sat at pick number six.  Baseball America predicted hours before the first round got underway that they’d land high school third baseman Mike Moustakas.  At four, the publication had the Pirates taking Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler, who BA suggested would be a consideration for Kansas City at number two after Tampa Bay went with David Price at the top.

The Royals took Moustakas, the Cubs took Josh Vitters, the Pirates took Daniel Moskos, and the Orioles took Matt Wieters, and the Nationals, with players like Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward, Rick Porcello, Devin Mesoraco, and Jarrod Parker still on the board, took Detwiler.

The lefty’s 10th pro appearance came in the big leagues, just three months after he signed for $2.15 million.  After that 2007 season, BA suggested that, “[w]ith a chance for three above-average pitches [a four-seam fastball touching 95-96/two-seamer with darting armside run and power sink, a hard-breaking spike curve, and high-70s change with late fade], Detwiler has a chance to be a legitimate ace.”  In projecting four years ahead, the publication crystal-balled that Detwiler would be Washington’s number one starter — with Jordan Zimmermann slotting at number five. 

After the 2008 season, BA wrote that Detwiler, and not Zimmermann after his own AA season, had “the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system.”

Detwiler would split 2009 between AA, AAA, and Washington; 2010 between High A, AA, AAA, and Washington; and that 2011 season — when he was projected by Baseball America to be the Nationals’ ace — between AAA and Washington on a fourth option.  He finished the season strong, holding opponents to a .252/.297/.358 line (2.88 ERA), and headed into 2012 out of options but firmly in the plans.

He was solid that year and especially good down the stretch, posting a 3.63 ERA and .223/.294/.378 opponents’ slash in August and September as the Nationals earned the franchise’s first playoff berth since the Expos were 24 years away from no longer being the Expos.  He got the ball in Game 4 of the NLDS, in what has been called the biggest start in Nationals playoff history, and he helped Washington stave off elimination as he and Cardinals righthander Kyle Lohse battled head to head in a 1-1 game that Jayson Werth eventually ended on a walkoff homer in the ninth.

Detwiler injured his back two months into the 2013 season.  It cost him some velocity, and a lot of time.

Washington traded for Doug Fister that winter and saw enough in Tanner Roark late the previous summer to insert him into the 2014 rotation.  Those two, Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez made 149 of the club’s 162 starts.  Detwiler worked all year in middle relief.  

Until the playoffs, at least, when the Nationals left him off the roster altogether, even though he’d been much better in the second half than fellow bullpen lefty Jerry Blevins.

And then the Nationals traded the 28-year-old, on the way down.

Read a few articles about Detwiler and you’ll get a sense that he never got comfortable mentally as a reliever, even though his career numbers are better in that role (.672 OPS vs. .749 OPS) and even though his left-on-left split (.607 OPS, compared with .777 against right-handed hitters) certainly supports the concept of using him as a weapon out of the bullpen.  

Maybe the opportunity to start again, which he’s now going to get after the Rangers acquired him on Thursday for two prospects who spent 2014 in High Class A, right-handed reliever Abel De Los Santos and second baseman Chris Bostick, will set the stage for a resurgence out of Detwiler, not to mention the fact that he stands to be a free agent for the first time next winter.  Maybe this change of scenery and change in roles is exactly what Detwiler needs, and maybe Texas will benefit from those things, by design.

For what it’s worth, in this year’s book I have De Los Santos (who was draft-eligible but not selected in yesterday’s Rule 5 Draft) ranked number 31 in the Rangers system (12th among right-handed pitchers), and Bostick — who came over from Oakland a year ago with Michael Choice in exchange for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom — as the organization’s number 39 prospect (seventh among middle infielders, behind Travis Demeritte, Hanser Alberto, Michael De Leon, Odubel Herrera [who was lost to Philadelphia in the draft], Josh Morgan, and Yeyson Yrizarri).  

De Los Santos has a chance to be a bullpen weapon, but there are stacks of righties ahead of him in the Rangers’ pecking order (and others coming behind him as well).  Bostick will be 22 when the AA season gets started — he’s older than Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas and a few weeks younger than Jurickson Profar — and though he has a chance, he hit .251 with Myrtle Beach, struck out 116 times, and is limited defensively to second base.  

That’s a pair of prospects the Rangers could arguably afford to lose (and the absence of whom shouldn’t hinder any other trade opportunities) — though of course the same was certainly said about Roark, when Texas traded him (and fellow righthander Ryan Tatusko, who is now pitching in Korea) to the Nationals for Cristian Guzman in July 2010, a few weeks after trading far more heralded and, now, far less accomplished righthanders Beavan and Main.

When news came down after the draft yesterday that Texas had acquired Detwiler for a minor league second baseman and reliever, I tweeted: “Infielder other than Hanser or De Leon?  Reliever other than [Keone] Kela or [Corey] Knebel?  Hope so.  I like Detwiler, but holding breath a bit.”  

I can live with De Los Santos and Bostick for Detwiler and a roll of the dice.  Maybe he’s the key starting pitcher pickup (along with Colby Lewis) for the off-season, maybe he’s not.

I haven’t seen ESPN/XM’s Jim Bowden, the former Nationals GM who drafted Detwiler, weigh in on the trade, but Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) did — “Thought [the] Rangers did well to get Detwiler.  Got buried with [the] Nationals.  Texas likes [the] idea of left-handed sinkerballer with [Adrian] Beltre [and Elvis] Andrus on [the] left side.” — and so did Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) — “Nice move for [the] Rangers to get Ross Detwiler on the cheap.  They view him as a starter, so he’ll be happy with the deal, too.” 

At somewhere in the $3-4 million range, I know I’m less concerned about this move than I would have been giving $9.5 million to Justin Masterson, or four years and $55 million to Ervin Santana, or two years and $20 million to Jason Hammel.  I would have loved to get Brandon McCarthy back here, but at four years and $48 million that’s a deal nobody figured he was in line for, and with Masterson getting what he got (the deal could be worth as much as $12 million if he hits workload incentives), the market for the remaining free agent starters certainly isn’t coming down.

Anthony DeSclafani-plus for one year of Mat Latos at close to $10 million — would I have wanted that deal if it meant Chi Chi Gonzalez or Jake Thompson or Luke Jackson was going the other way?  Absolutely not. 

Prospects for Alfredo Simon?  No thanks.

Could Texas have competed with Yoenis Cespedes-plus for Porcello?  Don’t see how.

Andrew Heaney from the Marlins?  Sure, but Texas didn’t have a Dee Gordon or a Howie Kendrick to get that done.

I’m not expecting Ross Detwiler to start the biggest playoff game in Rangers franchise history.  But if he gives this club 160 innings, create further depth to do other things, and help Texas get from Point A to Martin Perez, I see no problem in parting with a pair of third- or fourth-tier prospects to get this one done. 

Sometimes trading for a player on the way up doesn’t work out (Beavan, Main).  Sometimes it does (Ramirez).

Sometimes, as with Hunter, trading for a player on the way down can pay off.  And given the level of risk involved in moving what Texas moved in this case, this strikes me as not a bad chance to take on a guy though not long ago to be on his way to a career that promised major impact.   

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