Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Rangers sign Machado to minor-league contract 

This season's emergency catcher has been signed.

Robert Machado is 31, with a .222 career EQA as a journeyman backup catcher.

If we see him with the Rangers for any extended period of time, it means bad things have happened.


T.R. Sullivan chat session 

The transcript for a great chat session with T.R. Sullivan, hosted by Jamey Newberg of the Newberg Report, is now up...


Monday, November 29, 2004

Rangers meet with Todd Walker 

In what might be good news, the Rangers met with free agent Todd Walker over the weekend.

T.R. Sullivan is reporting in the Star-Telegram that the Rangers are looking at Walker as a DH, which would be a bad thing...you can get quality DHs who hit better than Walker fairly easily.

However, the item that gives me some hope is the comment that Walker could be an option at second base if Soriano is dealt.

Clearly, the Rangers don't want to come right out and say that they are looking for a second baseman, because they are dumping Soriano. But just as clearly, Buck wants Soriano gone, and the $7-8 million that he'll get in arbitration for 2005 is much more than he's worth.

So, what I believe -- or at least hope -- is happening is that the Rangers are working on Walker, a good OBP guy who provides offense from the second base position, something that Hart covets. The story, publicly, is that Walker is an option at DH, when in reality, the team has determined that the remaining options available at shortstop aren't that attractive, reducing the chances of moving Young back to second base, and thus is stepping up to try to work a deal to bring Walker in to take over for Soriano at 2B, if and when a trade for Soriano is made.

If, in fact, this is what is happening, then it is the first good news I've heard from the Rangers all offseason. On the other hand, if the Rangers really do want Todd Walker as a DH, then...well, my gloomy outlook on the offseason won't be changing...


Friday, November 26, 2004

Mariners closing in on Delgado 

While the Rangers continue to futz around with people like Tino Martinez for their DH spot, their A.L. West rival Seattle is supposedly the favorite to land stud Blue Jay 1B Carlos Delgado.

The 32 year old Delgado has a career .318 EQA, and despite having a disappointing season for Toronto in 2004, still posted a .303 EQA last season.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer report indicates that Delgado's knee, which slowed him significantly last season, has been checked out and found to be sound.

This is disappointing news...Delgado would be a terrific pickup for Seattle, and he's a player who would be ideal for the DH role in Texas.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

More absurd roster decisions 

This weekend was the deadline for adding players to the 40 man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft.

If players with a certain amount of service time aren't added to the 40 man roster by now, they are eligible to be selected by another club in the Rule 5 draft. If they are selected, the team taking them must keep the player on the 25 man roster for all of the 2005 season, or else offer the player selected back.

Usually only about 15-20% of the players selected in the Rule 5 draft actually are lost...nevertheless, it can be a useful tool, with Cy Young winner Johan Santana having been acquired through the Rule 5 draft by the Twins a few seasons back.

The Rangers opted to add Jason Botts, Nick Masset, and Josh Rupe to the 40 man roster. None of those players are particularly surprising...in fact, it was a mild upset that Botts, who was Rule 5 eligible last season, was not added in the 2003-04 offseason. Botts ended up not being selected, and had a very nice season in the Texas League, plus a quality AFL campaign. Rupe and Masset are young, hard-throwing pitchers who have had some injury issues, but are considered guys with upside.

The Rangers opted not to add outfielders Anthony Webster and Juan Senreiso, infielder Drew Meyer, and pitcher Erik Thompson, among others. Webster and Meyer aren't real surprising...Meyer had a bad, injury-plagued season, and still hasn't shown he can hit, while Webster had only a decent campaign in high-A. Meyer could possibly be chosen, since he'd likely be a serviceable utilityman right now -- he's no worse a player than Manny Alexander or Donnie Sadler -- but even with his speed and defense, he seems to be a longshot to be taken.

Senreiso had a bad AFL campaign, but is still a young, toolsy, high-ceiling outfielder...I would imagine someone will pop him just to take a look at him in spring training, although the fact that he's limited to the corner outfield slots defensively probably means he returns.

However, the fact that Erik Thompson is left unprotected is inexplicable and inexcusable. Thompson posted a sub-3 ERA, with 6.5 Ks per 9 and a K/BB ratio of close to 5 in AA. He just turned 22 in June, and has dominated in the lower levels, as well. The Rangers supposedly passed on him because of a shoulder injury this summer, but Thompson is a guy who can probably step in right now and be a decent long man in the bullpen. He throws hard, has excellent control, and is exactly the type of pitcher that teams use Rule 5 choices on.

What makes the decision on Thompson so baffling is the makeup of the 40 man roster right now. As has already been lamented here, Ben Kozlowski was lost to Cincy on a waiver claim, with the Rangers essentially giving up on him just as he should be returning to 100% from Tommy John surgery. Kozlowski and Thompson being excluded from the 40 man roster would make some sense if there were better players being protected.

However, the Rangers' 40 man roster currently includes Travis Hughes, a 26 year old reliever who had a worse year in AA than Thompson did in 2004; Edwin Moreno, who has only had one good season, in 2003, and didn't do much in 2004 while battling shoulder problems; Ramon Nivar, who is proving that the Rangers blew it by not dealing him in 2003 when there was some buzz around him; and Ruddy Yan, a non-prospect 2B who posted a sub-700 OPS in AA last season at age 23, and who is basically the poor-man's version of Jason Bourgeois, a 2B already on the 40 man roster.

That's what makes this so frustrating...it isn't that Kozlowski or Thompson are necessarily going to pan out. Thompson may not get selected. Senreiso may not get selected. The gamble may pay off.

What is frustrating, though, is that this organization apparently believes that Travis Hughes, Ruddy Yan, and Ramon Nivar are better prospects than Ben Kozlowski and Erik Thompson. And it is that inability to judge talent that has me concerned that we are going to see the likes of Danny Bautista and Tino Martinez sucking in Ranger uniforms come 2005.


Friday, November 19, 2004

An offseason disaster in the making 

According to T.R. Sullivan, the Rangers are looking at Tino Martinez or Todd Walker as possible DH candidates for 2005.

Todd Walker would be great as a replacement for Alfonso Soriano at 2B. Martinez would have been fine as a 1B six or seven years ago. But either of them, now, as a DH, is a waste of money, and a sign that John Hart and Buck Showalter have no clue about what they need to do to build on last season's success...particularly in conjunction with the news that Danny Bautista and Jermaine Dye are being looked at as candidates for a starting outfield job, and that Paul Byrd may be added for the rotation.

My real job has had me incredibly busy lately, limiting my opportunities to make new entries for this site...but at the same time, the decisions that this organization appears to be making in regards to offseason targets depresses me to the point that I hardly even want to think about it right now anyway.

When Carlos Delgado, Ryan Klesko, and Cliff Floyd are out there available, and the team is talking about using Todd Walker as a DH, there is no real reason to have much hope for the coming season.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Phillies overpay for a bad pitcher 

The Phillies have given Cory Lidle a 2 year, $6.3 million contract.

Lidle had a nice two year run as a starter in Oakland, went to Toronto and sucked in 2003, and then went to Cincinnati and sucked in 2004. He actually pitched fairly well after coming to Philadelphia in a late season trade, posting a 3.90 ERA in 10 starts for the Phillies, but he posted the same lousy K rate and mediocre K/BB ratio as he did in Toronto and Cincy, suggesting that he's more likely than not to resume posting an ERA in the 5s next season.

Once again, great news for the Rangers, in that a bad player that they had some interest in is now off the market.


The Expos give bad players lots of money 

Specifically, the Expos have signed Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman.

Castilla, 37, a decent defensive 3B who has never been able to hit outside of Coors Field (he hit .218/.281/.493 on the road in 2004), got two years, $6.2 million.

And Cristian Guzman, a 26 year old decent fielding shortstop with a career .239 EQA, got 4 years, $16.8 million.

As best as I can tell, new Expo G.M. Jim Bowden felt the need to make a splash after taking over the reins. But these two deals are utterly inexplicable...Castilla and Guzman simply aren't good players. Cristian Guzman is a bad player, one of the main things that has held back the Minnesota Twins from playoff success the past few years. Vinny Castilla has built a career out of Coors-inflated power stats, but outside of Colorado is a poor man's Tony Batista.

A one year, $1.5 million deal for Castilla would be okay...maybe a bit excessive.

And if the Rangers had given Cristian Guzman a 2 year, $6 million deal, I would have been making an angry entry right now about what a waste of money it was.

But for Bowden to hand out these sort of ridiculous deals to players who are no better than several minor league free agents...it is beyond comprehension.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Vizquel, Giants agree to $12.25 million deal 

So Vizquel is a Giant...

Still way too much money for an old, not that great shortstop...


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Ranger targets being overpaid elsewhere 

Free agent starter Eric Milton, who was supposedly on the Rangers' wish-list, is going to be offered a three year deal for $21-25 million, according to reports out of New York.

And Chicago is going to give Omar Vizquel, whom the Rangers wanted to play shortstop, 2 years, $10 million.

Both of those players were guys I didn't want the Rangers going after anyway, so the fact that they are going to be overpaid by other teams is good news.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

More rumors of Soriano and Reyes trade 

From New York Newsday...

If the Rangers pull this off, I will take back...well, not all the bad things I've said about Hart and Buck. But some of them.

Getting Jose Reyes for Alfonso Soriano would be a steal of Kazmir/Zambrano proportions.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Disturbing news from the Star Telegram 

There is no question, the Rangers had an unimpressive offense last season. Playing 81 games at TBIA helped cover up the fact that the team got little production from the DH spot and all three outfield positions. Coming into the offseason, the Rangers needed to target quality bats for right field and the designated hitter spot. The team has money to spend, and names like Carlos Delgado, Magglio Ordonez, Troy Glaus, Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin, and Paul Konerko are available, either through salary dumps or on the free agent market.

Yet, according to the S-T, the Rangers have targeted Jermaine Dye, Tino Martinez, and Danny Bautista...three mediocre to bad players who a respectable team should be looking at as a Plan C, not a primary option to fill a starting DH or corner outfield spot.

Buck Showalter's love of gritty veteran leadership and hustle over actual ability has driven me mad, and I was fearful that this offseason would offer more of the same, but held out hope...surely, with quality bats out there on the market, guys who the team can afford to bring in who could slip in well in the middle of the lineup, we weren't going to see a repeat of last offseason. Brad Fullmer, Brian Jordan, and David Dellucci-type grab-baggers were understandable when there was no money to spend, but with $20 million in bad contracts falling off the books and a big surge in attendance, surely the front office wasn't going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel again.

Apparently, I underestimated this regime's dedication to mediocrity and the celebration of character over talent.

Bautista is 32 years old, never had 300 ABs in a season before 2004, and has a career EQA under .250, which would be unimpressive for a 2B, and is terrible for a corner outfielder. Tino Martinez is a once-good player who is hailed for his character and leadership, but can't play anymore. Jermaine Dye is a guy who had a couple of good seasons and still has the sheen of sort-of-star about him, but has now slid into mediocrity, and should be spending the next few years careening from team to team, coming off the bench for the Bostons and Cardinals of the baseball world, starting for the Pirates and Devil Rays.

And that may be what is so disappointing about this...teams like Pittsburgh, and Detroit, and Milwaukee, are the teams that add guys like Jermaine Dye to be a starting outfielder. They are the teams with low expectations and lower budgets, who are just looking for a name to fill out the roster and give them 550 ABs, and maybe, if they are lucky, a half-a-season of production good enough to bring a decent prospect or two at the trade deadline.

Quality organizations don't target guys like this. Teams that are serious about contending -- or aren't even serious about contending, but are serious about trying to build a contender -- don't screw around with signing a Danny Bautista to be their starting rightfielder. They go get a J.D. Drew, or they take a chance on a Richard Hidalgo regaining his 2000 or 2003 form. They pick up a Ryan Klesko for a fringe prospect. The get a legitimate major league starter, not some bench player who just happened to hustle and have a good attitude back in the days when he played for Buck Showalter.

And make no mistake, this impending trainwreck of a season is going to be completely the responsibility of Buck Showalter. While I'm sure that Tom Hicks is happy with the notion of saving some money from his budget by not spending big for real players, the architect here is Showalter. He's made it clear since he arrived in Texas that he doesn't want the star players -- he doesn't want an ARod or a Palmeiro, he doesn't want Boras clients with their high-falutin' salary demands.

He wants a faceless cast of no-names, guys he can mold and develop, guys who will play BuckBall and not squawk about wearing a tie on the road or not getting to wear their socks a certain length.

Based on what has happened in Texas since he got here, he seems to be just arrogant enough to believe that he, Buck Showalter, can build a winner without building around talent and production, but instead, by assembling a group that he can propel to achieve through his own force of will.

Showalter got forced out in New York and Arizona because his bosses got tired of his control freak personality and his need for power.

This offseason, I think we are going to get an idea of how right the Yankees and D-Backs were in making those decisions.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Rosenthal on the Rangers 

Ken Rosenthal's latest Inside Dish identifies Orlando Cabrera and Jon Lieber as two free agents that the Rangers are interested in.

Cabrera I'd just as soon the Rangers pass on...he's a decent defensive shortstop who doesn't hit a lot. I'd rather see the Rangers get a high-OBP 2B who could hit in the second spot in the order.

Lieber, though, would be a very nice fit for the Rangers. Rosenthal puts his price at $5-6 million per year, and while Lieber is somewhat homer-prone, he's the type of control pitcher (less than 2 walks per 9 innings over his career) who pitches to contact that the Rangers generally look for.


Fuson back to Oakland? 

The Arizona Republic is reporting that Billy Beane has offered Grady Fuson a job as a consultant with the Oakland A's.

What makes this particularly interesting is that Fuson was painted in a particularly negative light in "Moneyball", and there has been some speculation of a rift between the two.


Still more on Soriano to New York... 

In the New York Post today, George King is reporting that the Yankees have contacted the Rangers, and indicated that they "would be willing" to bring Alfonso Soriano back and put him in centerfield if they can't land Carlos Beltran, whose demands for a 10 year contract are apparently scaring off even King George.

There's been talk in the past of moving Soriano to the outfield, and Buck Showalter supposedly was ready to put him in left field this spring. But it is debateable whether Soriano has the instincts to get a good read on the ball off the bat, particularly since his slow reactions at 2B seem to contribute to his range problems there. As any Ranger fan who has seen both the speedy Ramon Nivar and the more slow-footed Laynce Nix in center can attest, getting a good jump and taking the right route to the ball can be a better attribute than pure speed.

In the Newark Star-Ledger, meanwhile, David Waldstein speculates that Omar Minaya may be willing to deal the oft-injured uber-prospect Jose Reyes to the Rangers for Soriano. The Rangers apparently had interest in that deal last offseason, and were laughed at...but that was before Reyes' lost 2004 season, where he struggled to overcome hamstring problems. I still think it is extremely doubtful that the Mets would be willing to part with Reyes, at least for Soriano...but then, I would have laughed if someone had suggested the Mets would trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, as well.


Friday, November 05, 2004

The short, sad tenure of Wally Backman 

Just days after being named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Wally Backman has been fired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Apparently, the vetting process in the D-Backs front office was spotty, in light of this comment from the A.P. report:

Backman's appointment as manager on Monday was immediately followed by reports of legal woes surrounding the former fiery second baseman for the New York Mets, which include a DUI conviction, a guilty plea to a harassment charge, allegations of spousal abuse involving his ex-wife, a bankruptcy and numerous tax liens.

As someone else has already pointed out, it is too bad Backman isn't still playing, because if he were, none of this would keep him from getting a major league contract.

Still, though, you have to wonder what the D-Backs expected...they were, after all, hiring one of the members of the notorious 1986 New York Mets. Backman's teammates included such luminaries as Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Keith Mitchell. There's a reason Jeff Pearlman's book about this team is called "The Bad Guys Won".


Thursday, November 04, 2004

NY Times on Soriano and Vazquez 

The New York Times is reporting that the Yankees are looking at bringing Soriano back, and say that, "according to a Texas official", the Rangers would be interested in a swap involving Vazquez and Soriano.

Of course, the same article claims that "the Rangers were happy with Soriano" last season, even though it has been pretty widely reported that defacto G.M. Buck Showalter wants Soriano gone after a season of unimpressive offense, poor defense, and spotty effort from Alfonso in 2004.


The Rangers interested in Javier Vazquez? 

A report out of New York indicates that the Rangers are interested in Yankee righthander Javier Vazquez, and that the Yankees could look at taking Soriano as part of a deal for Vazquez.

Vazquez is an interesting case. Toiling in anonymity in Montreal, he flashed electric stuff and very good results, but also had the type of workload that can run a young pitcher into the ground. After his 2003 season, I thought Vazquez would be a great pitcher for the Rangers to target in the 2004-05 offseason, but then the Yankees picked up Vazquez in exchange for Nick Johnson and signed him to a 4 year, $45 million deal.

Vazquez started off great in New York this season, posting a sub-4 ERA through the All-Star Break, but then went south in the second half, going through a miserable stretch that had folks wondering whether he was hurt, or just couldn't handle the pressure of pitching in New York. With three years and about $35 million left on his deal, and with King George supposedly already ready to cut bait with him, there has been talk that the Yankees would look to dump him elsewhere, and pick up a big chunk of his remaining contract, much as they did with Jeff Weaver.

Vazquez in Texas could be an interesting combination. He's a fastball/flyball pitcher who gives up a lot of homers, which leads some to fear that, in TBIA, he'd be the second coming of Chan Ho Park. But unlike the Ho, Vazquez has always had exquisite control, posting superior K/BB and walk numbers. Vazquez, when healthy, is the type of #1 starter than the Rangers have needed since...well, since forever, and the fear that he's suddenly going to implode because of pitching in TBIA seems, to me, to be unwarranted.

I've speculated about a deal with the Yankees involving Soriano and Vazquez, but this is the first I've read that indicates that there might be some mutual interest in making it work. It would depend on how much of the Vazquez contract the Yanks pick up, but centering a deal around these two guys is something that I'd like to see the Rangers pursue.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Twins offer Radke a two year contract 

Twins' free agent pitcher Brad Radke, who the Rangers should have on their short list of pitchers they'll be talking to, has been offered a two year deal for between $14 and $19 million by Minnesota.

This is a surprisingly aggressive offer by the Twins, who, of course, are (along with Oakland) the poster children for small market clubs. Radke was the third-best pitcher in the A.L. last year, behind Johan Santana and Curt Schilling, and the Twins are definitely deficient in starting pitching behind Santana and Radke, so keeping Radke in the fold may be a higher priority for Minnesota than would be initially believed. I thought 2 years, $16 million might be enough to get Radke locked up, but with the Twins offering something in that neighborhood right off the bat, it may end up costing a lot more.

So Brad Radke is someone who the Rangers may have to end up scratching off their list...I'd like to see him here, but not for, say, 4 years, $40 million.


Rosenthal's early 2005 rankings 

Ken Rosenthal's first "Power Poll" for the 2005 season has the Rangers checking in at #10, ahead of, among others, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

I'd say that that is a tad high, mainly because my expectations for the offseason are tempered. Rosenthal says that upgrading the rotation is the key for Texas, joining the legions of writers who have overlooked the fact that the offense last season wasn't real good.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

More Jaramillo and the Mets 

Rudy Jaramillo has a second interview with the Mets for their managerial job.

Two other candidates, Willie Randolph and Terry Collins, are also being called back for second interviews.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Astro G.M. Hunsicker resigns 

Wow...shocking news...

I live in Houston, and had heard nothing to suggest that this was on the horizon.

Tim Purpura, the Astros Assistant G.M., takes over for him. Purpura has been very highly regarded, and was considered one of the up-and-coming young stars among front office types.

I have to wonder what, exactly, was going on behind the signs to prompt this.


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