Monday, February 28, 2005

Kozlowski on Kozlowski 

Former Ranger pitching prospect Ben Kozlowski says that he's back to 100%, after T-J surgery in 2003 and an arthroscopic procedure in October to clean out his elbow.

From the Cincy Enquirer..."The theory is two years after surgery pitchers are usually 100 percent," Kozlowski said. "So I would like to think this would be my year."

Waiving Kozlowski is going to come back to bite the Rangers...


The problems with Benoit and Dominguez 

T.R. Sullivan's piece in the S-T today touches on the Rangers' unhappiness with pitchers Joaquin Benoit and Juan Dominguez. Benoit, who is out of options, likely had his fate sealed with the Rangers gave Doug Brocail a guaranteed deal, since it meant that there was, at best, only one spot in the bullpen up for grabs this spring, with Showalter pet R.A. Dickey having the inside track.

Dominguez, meanwhile, has been showing up late for workouts, and had management publicly question his maturity. Given the emphasis this management team is putting on intangibles and character, that's a good way to get a ticket out of town...and Sullivan talks about management's unhappiness with the way Benoit, in particular, carries himself on the mound.

I would be surprised if either Benoit or Dominguez is still with the Rangers come September, and Sullivan seems to think their days are numbered, as well...he comes out and says that it is probably too late for Benoit to salvage a spot in the pen, and indicates that Dominguez is likely trade bait.

The frustrating thing about Benoit is, the guy has a 3.95 ERA out of the pen over the past three years, with a .241 opponent's batting average against and a decent K/BB ratio. He's someone who, once we waive him, seems like a good bet to re-surface somewhere else as a solid middle reliever, becoming some other team's Carlos Almanzar, the guy with the great arm who just never stuck in a big league pen before...

And again, it would be a little more palatable if it weren't for the fact that we were dumping him to make room for Doug Brocail.


Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rosenthal's notes 

Ken Rosenthal has an extensive notes column today for TSN.

The only Ranger mention is their interest in Mike Sweeney as a DH candidate, but not at the cost of Kevin Mench. It is interesting, though, that Mench, who was on Buck Showalter's blacklist last season, and who G.M. John Hart apparently resisted trading, despite the push from Showalter, is now described as being part of the team's "core"...good news for Menchie...

The other item of particular note for Rangers fans, though, is that Tim Hudson is apparently about to sign a contract extension with the Atlanta Braves, taking him off the market after 2005.

If that goes through, it takes the free agent who would be most attractive for the Rangers off the market, and leaves only one big time free agent for the 2005-06 offseason that the Rangers should target -- Astro outfielder Lance Berkman.

Bad news for those of us who are still hoping that the much-vaunted "financial flexibility" might actually be used this coming offseason.


Phil Rogers and Soriano 

In Phil Rogers' Sunday notes column, he talks at some length about the Houston Astros and the changes they have undergone this offseason, along with their ongoing pursuit of another bat for the lineup.

Specifically, Rogers mentions Alfonso Soriano as someone that Astro G.M. has scouts watching this spring, suggesting that the Astros, at least, still believe the door may be open for a possible Soriano-to-Houston deal.

It will be worth watching...I still believe that the Rangers would prefer to move Soriano before the season is up, but if they are in contention, they are likely to feel their hands are tied at the trade deadline, meaning that they will be forced to make a call on whether to non-tender him this offseason, or offer arbitration and be facing paying him $10 million for 2006.

If that is the case, then we could see a situation where Hart & Buck hold out until the end of spring training before pulling the trigger on a Soriano deal, trying to maximize their leverage in prying the most out of any interested Soriano suitors.

I still don't believe there is going to be a whole lot of difference between Burke and Soriano in 2005, so a straight-up trade probably wouldn't have a big impact in the standings in 2005. But the problem is that it is going to be perceived as giving up on the season before it even begins, given Soriano's salary and perceived value. With the poor way this offseason seems to have gone over anyway, I tend to believe Hart is going to be a bit gunshy on pulling the trigger on a Soriano trade that doesn't bring a significant pitcher back to the Rangers.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Soriano and the leadoff spot 

My apologies for the updates being scarce lately...my real job is kicking my ass right now, and there hasn't been a lot of earth-shattering news of late (unless Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco talking about steroids floats your boat)...

The Alfonso Soriano situation is getting some attention, as Soriano is having problems mentally overcoming the hamstring injury he suffered at the end of last season, that cost him the last couple of weeks of the year. He apparently is tentative when he runs, concerned about hurting himself again.

Nevertheless, the starting second base job is his, and Buck Showalter is apparently planning on putting him in the leadoff spot in the lineup, to take advantage of his speed. This is disappointing...one would think that folks' infatuation with putting speedy, low-OBP guys in the leadoff spot died out around the same time Milli Vanilli did, but it looks like it will happen here.

Interestingly, James Click of BP has a new article on the effects of lineup ordering up on the BP website (and yes, it is the pay section, but you should be a BP premium subscriber anyway...it is well worth the money). Click acknowledges that precise ordering in a lineup doesn't have a huge impact on a team's run totals, but runs some models to determine how the impact that lineup construction does have shakes out. Specifically, he creates a lineup for a team consistenting of three Wily Mo Penas (low-OBP, high slugging), three Luis Castillos (high-OBP, low slugging), and three Morgan Ensbergs (average OBP and slugging). He then simulated 1000 seasons for each of the possible permutations of the lineups, then looks at the mean runs scored for each season.

When a Wily Mo Pena type is hitting in the leadoff slot, the mean runs scored for the team is lower than with a WMP-type in any other lineup slot, other than the 9th slot. He finds that the #2-5 slots greatly maximize the production from such a player.

Alfonso Soriano is, offensively, extremely similar to Wily Mo. Click's analysis would suggest that, by hitting Soriano in the leadoff slot, Buck is putting Soriano in one of the worst possible places for maximizes his impact on the offense.

Now, part of the problem is that the Rangers don't really have a traditional leadoff hitter -- one of the reasons that, for the past 8 months or so, I've been advocating trying to get Matt Lawton as the team's RF/leadoff hitter. With so many guys who hit for power and don't walk much (thank you, Rudy Jaramillo), you have a team of #5 hitters. Still, Mike Young is probably the best option for the leadoff slot, followed by Blalock, Mench, Teixeira, Soriano, the DH of the day, Hidalgo, Nix, and the catcher.

Regardless, though, this notion that we have to get speed at the top of the lineup, even if it means taking a power bat out of the middle of the lineup and putting a low-OBP hitter at the top of the lineup, is going to end up costing the Rangers some runs if Buck actually implements it.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Good RicRod news 

Both the S-T and the DMN had pieces today on the excitement in camp over the performance of Ricardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, of course, was picked up from the Cleveland Indians in 2003 in exchange for Ryan Ludwick. He didn't pitch in 2003 after the Rangers got him, as he was recovering from a hip injury, and then lost much of 2004 to an emergency appendectomy and a broken elbow suffered on a ball hit back up the middle.

When healthy last year, though, he showed some tantalizing glimpses of why he was the Los Angeles Dodgers' #2 prospect just a couple of years ago, and why he has excited scouts, even though his minor league numbers were never overwhelming. For a couple of weeks, it looked like he was going to be that elusive #3 starter behind Ryan Drese and Kenny Rogers last year, as he posted a 2.03 ERA in the majors before his injury.

The fracture was a clean break, and RicRod was supposed to be ready to go when spring training started, but the team was clearly uncertain, with Pedro Astacio being the most obvious hedge against RicRod's future. It was generally assumed that he was going to start the season in AAA, but he's clearly impressed in his early workouts, with Showalter and Hershiser both commenting on the work he's done over the winter to be ready.

RicRod is 26, and he's approaching the make or break point as a major league starter. Personally, I'm not convinced that he's going to make it, but I'd love to have him pitch well enough in spring training to force his way into the rotation, along with either Chris Young or Juan Dominguez (whom the organization seems to have soured on because of maturity and attitude problems, including showing up late for a couple of workouts this spring), with either Astacio or the Ho cut loose. With guys like John Hudgins, Thomas Diamond, John Danks, and Kam Loe coming pretty quickly from the minors, the Rangers need to see what they have with RicRod, and give him the opportunity to succeed or fail. The initial reports from this spring on him are certainly encouraging.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Grant on the catching situation 

Evan Grant's piece today is on the catching situation, and in particular, Gerald Laird.

He says the same thing I've been saying for a couple of months now...that Laird is this year's Kevin Mench, that the addition of Alomar means Laird probably starts the season in AAA, and not playing winter ball if management wants a player to is hazardous to your career.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The DMN newsletter 

The DMN's latest edition of Inside the Texas Rangers is out...

Some highlights...

Why did the Rangers let Doug Davis go? (And speaking of Doug Davis, there's a good writeup on him here...and I admit, I was wrong for thinking that losing him on waivers would be no big deal...)

Grant thinks that RicRod and Dominguez will be on the outside looking in when the season starts, as Astacio and the Ho will be in the rotation to begin the season (bleah). And Joaquin Benoit's achy shoulder is making it unlikely he'll make the team...waiving him, I think, would be a mistake, and is yet another reason why I didn't like the Doug Brocail signing. Kam Loe, meanwhile, is identified as a dark horse possibility to make the rotation.

Grant doesn't think the Rangers want Floyd unless the Mets eat most of his contract and take back a low-level prospect in return. I hope that's not correct...I'd hope that the Rangers would take Floyd and his contract, if the Mets were willing to just give him away.

Oh, and some fool throws a question in about Gerald Laird at the end, which draws some praise from Grant for introducing the term "Mench" into folks' vocabulary, while not really answering the question (about why Laird has fallen out of favor)...


BP's top 50 prospect list 

Baseball Prospectus has come out with their top 50 prospect list...

The only Ranger to make the cut is Ian Kinsler, at #21. I can't really argue that there are any other Rangers who deserve to crack the top 50, and Kinsler at #21 may be a tad high.

Some other items of note for Rangers fans from the list...Oakland has four players in the top 50 -- two of which, Daric Barton and Dan Meyer, came over in the Mulder and Hudson deals. They also have two players in the honorable mention category. Seattle has two players in the top 10 -- Felix Hernandez and Jeremy Reed -- but then no one else listed. Anaheim has Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman in the top 5, plus Jered Weaver at #16 (if he actually signs with them), and Kendry Morales in the honorable mention category.

Scott Kazmir and Jeremy Hermida, players who many thought the Rangers should have taken instead of Drew Meyer in 2002, both cracked the top 50 list.

And at #22, right behind Ian Kinsler, is Cincy third base prospect Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is a former Ranger prospect who was traded, along with Ruben Mateo, to the Reds for Rob Bell.

That was one of the last trades Doug Melvin made as G.M. in Texas, and it is a deal that looks pretty awful in retrospect...


Monday, February 21, 2005

Texas Rangers website Q&A 

The Texas Rangers website has a mailbag column out today.

Two of the four questions are the obligatory, "What is the status of Jeff Zimmerman" and "What is the status of Justin Thompson" questions that seem to be standard issue. At least Rusty Greer's retirement means we won't be hearing any more questions about his comeback.

Another correspondent asks what the Rangers future plans are for Adrian Gonzalez. News flash...he's a "valuable asset for the Texas organization" who will either go to first base, moving Mark Teixeira to right field, or else he's trade bait. Shocking news, I know.

The last question is a fan pointing out that it is silly for young lefthanded hitters to constantly be protected against lefthanded pitching, and getting the standard pablum about confidence in response, with a "It worked for Hank Blalock!" thrown in.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fuson to San Diego announcement coming March 1 

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that the announcement of Grady Fuson's joining the San Diego front office is being delayed until March 1 due to "contractual issues".

Fuson is still under contract with the Rangers, and has been collecting a hefty paycheck from Tom Hicks, even though he was forced out last summer. I imagine that announcing the deal prior to March 1 would cost Fuson some money...


Dumbest comment of 2005 

From Phil Rogers in the Chicago Tribune...

In a column on unsung players, he leads off by listing Mike Young, which is reasonable...but then he goes on to say, "The guy who took over for Alex Rodriguez in Texas is almost as good as A-Rod without the huge salary or massive ego."

Even the most unabashed Mike Young fans can't say, with a straight face, that he is "almost as good" as Alex Rodriguez...there's not a facet of the game where Young is almost as good as ARod. This is tantamount to saying that Kevin Mench is "almost as good" as Barry Bonds...while Young is a very good player, he's not close to being that sort of elite player, and to claim otherwise is either lazy journalism or outright stupidity.


2005 Ranger preview -- the catchers 

With spring training starting, I figured I'd do a position-by-position rundown of the Rangers, looking at where the team is and what to expect in 2005. I'm hoping to have capsules for each position up every couple of days, getting finished up by mid-March. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway...I'm starting off behind the plate, with the catchers.

Last season, Gerald Laird, who was supposed to be in AAA to start the season, impressed the coaching staff with a strong spring and his ability to work with the pitchers, and forced his way into the starting lineup, resulting in Einar Diaz being traded to Montreal. Laird played well for six weeks, sprained his thumb, and was replaced by Rod Barajas. Barajas hit for some power in the first half, then fell off the cliff...meanwhile, various and sundry backups were awful offensively, and Laird was rushed back prematurely, although he couldn't hit after his return, either.

The upshot of all this was that Rangers catchers were 12th in the A.L. in OPS, ahead of only Tampa Bay and Seattle. They were also 13th in the A.L. in fielding percentage, and 12th in assists...in a nutshell, the catching situation was a disaster last season.

Laird, according to John Hart, is being banished to AAA to start the season, so we have an unusual situation where the best catcher on the team won't even be on the 25 man roster come Opening Day. Instead, we are apparently going to have Rod Barajas starting, with Sandy Alomar, Jr., backing him up.

Rod Barajas is basically Todd Greene, just younger, and with a history with Buck. His track record coming into the season indicated that, like Greene, he could hit for some power, wouldn't get on base, and isn't a good defensive catcher, making him an adequate backup but a pretty bad starter. He got to play everyday when Gerald Laird went down, and had a "breakout" season that featured a .241 EQA and mediocre defense. He's a placeholder, albeit a highly-paid placeholder, as, for some inexplicable reason, the front office decided to pay him almost $2 million for the 2005 season.

When you look at Barajas's splits last year, you see a guy who hit for some power early in the season, but who collapsed in the second half. The "glass half empty" types have suggested that 2004 was Barajas establishing himself at a new, higher level...although, as I mentioned before, even that new, higher level isn't anything special. But when you look at what Barajas has done throughout his major league career -- he's a career .227/.265/.383 hitter -- and compare it to his 2004 second half -- .225/.261/.370 -- it suggests that Barajas had a hot streak for about 6 weeks early in 2004, and reverted to his normal level of performance the rest of the way. In other words, I'm betting his line for 2005 looks very similar to his career marks, and if that's the case, he'll be one of the worst starting catchers in baseball.

Sandy Alomar, Jr., was once an elite catching prospect, ended up playing for John Hart during the Indians' halcyon days as a wanna-be dynasty, and has hung around for a while due to a reputation that outstrips his performance. Alomar is incredibly fragile, even for a catcher, cracking 300 ABs in a season only 5 times. He hasn't had a good offensive season since 1999, and isn't really a good defensive catcher anymore, either.

Showalter has justified the Alomar signing by saying that teams must have three experienced, major league catchers, although that would seem to doom Laird, at one point the catcher of the future, to an Erasmo Ramirez role, bouncing up and down between the majors and minors as injuries and scheduling quirks necessitate. More realistically, Showalter simply isn't being honest...teams don't need three experienced major league catchers, at least not on the 40 man roster. If Laird had stayed healthy last season, Alomar wouldn't be here, and we wouldn't be hearing this nonsense about needing three experienced major league catchers. Instead, we'd see some Alomar-type signed as an NRI, a guy who'd go to Oklahoma as insurance in case someone gets hurt. That's the way most teams do it.

Alomar's presence has also been explained as the team needing a veteran influence, or leadership, or someone to help harness some of the Latin pitchers' ability. If that's the reason, he should have been hired as a coach, not a player. He's a sub-par backup catcher at this point, a guy who probably isn't even good enough to be in the majors anymore.

As currently situated, the Rangers' catching situation looks like it will be about the same as it was in 2004...one of the worst in the major leagues. The best-case scenario would probably be for Barajas to get hurt about a month into the season, necessitating Laird coming up and starting (since Alomar isn't physically capable of starting on a regular basis), and playing well enough to keep the job the rest of the season. Laird isn't a future star, but he just turned 25, he is very good defensively, and his offensive upside potential is probably along the lines of Mike Lieberthal. With Laird, at least we would have someone who has the potential of being a good player, instead of two guys who we know aren't.


Saturday, February 19, 2005


The line of the night...from a poster at Baseball Primer, commenting on the Rusty Greer retirement: "Damn, now I have to reorder my Yahoo rankings. "

Well, it made me laugh, anyway...


Rusty Greer retires 

Rusty Greer has officially retired...

Not really a shock...


Some Rosenthal notes... 

Rosenthal has a new notes column up...

Supposedly, the Mets, A's and Astros are talking about a three way trade, with Mike Cameron going to Houston, Eric Byrnes going to the Mets, and Chris Burke going to Oakland, but the Mets are hesitant. If that happened, Soriano to Houston would be dead...but with the Mets dragging their feet, I'd like to see the Rangers try to get involved in the deal, either sending Soriano to the Mets for Cameron or to the Astros for Burke.

The A's are apparently also looking at moving Octavio Dotel, and Rosenthal suggests that the Cubs are a possible destination. The Cubs have some good young arms, which Beane has been stockpiling...that could be bad news for the Rangers down the road...

Finally, Rosenthal quotes a scout as saying that Kam Loe could be a sleeper for the Rangers, saying that, "At worst, he's Jeff Nelson." High praise for a 20th round pick who seems to have been overlooked at every level...


More on Chris Richard 

The official Texas Rangers website says that Chris Richard could be in the mix for the DH job with Rangers.

They have to be joking, right?

A guy who hasn't really played for 2 years, and wasn't that good a hitter when he did play, competing for the DH job?

And meanwhile, Pete Zoccolillo, who hit .293/.375/.517 last season for Oklahoma, was released.

I don't get it.


Jayson Stark 

Jayson Stark's newest column is an overview of the offseason, and there's only one mention of the Rangers...he picks them as the 2nd most unimproved team in the American League, with only the Royals having done less (in Stark's mind) to upgrade.

Can't really argue with that, when your 2nd biggest move of the offseason is either adding Sandy Alomar, Jr., or Pedro Astacio...


Rangers sign Chris Richard 

The Rangers have apparently signed outfielder Chris Richard to a minor league deal.

Richard was a decent backup outfielder a few years ago, and was dealt straight up for Jack Cust in 2003, back when Cust was still thought of as a decent prospect.

He has missed most of the past two years with shoulder problems, though, and is attempting a comeback.

On a team with too many fourth outfielders as it is, I don't really see much chance of Richard contributing. And I'm a bit confused about why the Rangers would axe Pete Zoccolillo -- younger than Richard, and a better hitter -- to make room for him.


The DH Hunt 

T.R. Sullivan has a piece in the S-T today about the ongoing DH problem.

John Hart emerged from the batcave long enough to acknowledge that they didn't really fill the DH position like they wanted this offseason, but professes to be satisfied with the current DH situation, which is a platoon of Greg Colbrunn and David Dellucci.

Colbrunn is a decent bat off the bench, and Dellucci is an okay 4th outfielder, but a platoon of the two at DH means that you are largely punting a spot in the lineup. Given that the Rangers are likely to get no offense from the catcher position (particularly while Laird is serving his penance in AAA), and given that the CF and RF positions are likely to be sub-par, the DH problem becomes magnified.

Adrian Gonzalez and Jason Botts are kicked around as options, but Gonzalez looks like a singles hitter without much power or plate discipline, and Botts hasn't played above AA, and is the type of hitter (big swing, looks at a lot of pitches) that generally takes some time to adjust to new levels, making him a poor candidate to skip AAA and come right to the majors. Botts might be ready to DH in 2006, or even the second half of 2005, but I think bringing him up immediately would be a mistake.

Sullivan mentions three trade possibilities in his piece today. One of them, Cliff Floyd, is a name that has been kicking around since the 2004 season ended...he makes $13 million over the next two seasons, hits when he's healthy but can't stay healthy, and the Mets want to move him. Supposedly, the Mets have offered him to the Rangers, but there is no indication of what they want in return or how much (if any) of Floyd's contract they'll take on. As I've mentioned before, I like the Floyd option, but only if the Rangers aren't giving up much to get him. I'd give them a Travis Hughes or a Ruddy Yan to get Floyd, and would take on his entire contract, but if they want a Kinsler or a Hudgins as part of the deal, I've got no interest, unless they are going to pick up Floyd's entire contract.

Sullivan also mentions that the Tigers want to move either Bobby Higginson or Rondell White, but I'd hope that the Rangers would have no interest in either. They are mediocre players with lousy contracts, and even if Detroit were giving them away and paying their entire contracts, I'd have no interest in them.

Mike Sweeney is the third option, and Sweeney is a name that is intriguing. The Royals share the Surprise complex with the Rangers, so Rangers officials will get to look at Sweeney up close. And Sweeney has made it clear he's interested in getting out of Kansas City, a feeling that is likely mutual, given the three years, $33 million he is owed.

Now, I've got no interest in taking Sweeney and assuming his entire contract (unless the Royals want Chan Ho Park, which clearly wouldn't happen). And Sweeney's back problems are worrisome, since that's the type of problem that is hard to diagnose and project, and can de-rail a hitter completely.

But Sweeney is still just 31. If he can stay healthy at the DH slot, he's a pretty solid bet to be a decent hitter the next three years. The question becomes, how much of his contract is Kansas City willing to subsidize to get him out of town?

If the Royals were to pay half his contract, with Sweeney waiving his trade kicker (his salary increases by $1.5 million per season if he gets traded), and if the medical staff felt that Sweeney was a solid bet to return to health, then I'd definitely like to see the Rangers aggressively pursue him. The Royals have been after Kevin Mench for some time, but John Hart indicates that he won't deal Mench for a DH (and rightfully so, since that's just opening one hole to fill another).

But the Sweeney situation is worth keeping an eye on...I'd really like to see either Floyd or Sweeney as the Ranger 2005 DH...


Buck praising Drew Meyer 

Drew Meyer has been a source of contention within the Ranger organization. Grady Fuson picking him in 2002, while passing on, among others, Jeremy Hermida, Scott Kazmir, and Khalil Greene, was supposedly a major factor in his being forced from the organization last summer. The Rangers left Meyer exposed in the Rule 5 draft, and has made it pretty clear that he doesn't really factor in his plans, after an injury-plagued 2004 where he showed up at camp out of shape and had, essentially, a wasted season.

But the DMN today indicates that Meyer has caught Showalter's eye, getting praise for showing up to camp in great shape and having worked hard. Showalter says that Meyer will got a lot more looks this spring, as a reward for his hard work this offseason. T.R. Sullivan had similar notes in the S-T today.

This is the first positive thing that I can remember Showalter ever saying about Meyer. And it is worth taking note of, as Showalter seems to zero in on certain prospects early each spring -- Laynce Nix in 2003, Ian Kinsler and Joaquin Arias in 2004 -- and give them a lot more time with the major league club.

It will be interesting to see if Meyer puts himself back in the organization's good graces.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

On the fantasy baseball imbroglio 

Neil deMause of Baseball Prospectus has a great article today, examining the issues of the fantasy baseball brouhaha.

It is in their free section, and worth a read.

And in the meantime, I'm going to be on the road for work, so updates will be sparse, if there are any at all, until late Friday the 18th...


Rotoworld's AL West top 10 prospects 

Another top 10 prospect listing, this time from Rotoworld.

Gonzalez is at #1, which I think is too high, and Arias is at #9, which I think is too low. But all in all, a solid list...


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

CBS Sportsline's Power Rankings 

CBS SportsLine.com has come out with their 2005 Power Rankings...

And the thing that jumps out at me is how few really good teams there are out there.

New York and Boston are one-two, which seems reasonable, followed by the Cards.

Anaheim is #4, and my initial reaction is that that is too high. But they are followed by Florida at #5, which seems ludicrous to me...until I skim down the list, and can't identify any team which definitively must be ahead of Florida.

Minnesota is at #6, and I guess they should probably be ahead of Florida, particularly since they kept Radke in the fold. San Fran and Atlanta are 7-8, although the Giants didn't make the playoffs last year, and Atlanta lost J.D. Drew (although they did add Tim Hudson). I keep thinking Atlanta is going to fall off every year, but they manage to keep it together, aided in no small part by division rivals who seem to take two steps back for every one step forward. San Fran, meanwhile, made its typically cryptic offseason moves, seemingly overpaying for every old player on the market (Omar Vizquel? Moises Alou?).

The Padres and the Indians are slotted too high, at #10 and #11. The Pads get credit for pitching and defense (even though their pitching isn't all that great), and the author of the rankings seems to believe that Kevin Millwood and his inning-eating averageness is the missing piece for a team that went 80-82 last year.

The Rangers, as well, seem a tad high at #12, with Sportsline claiming that they have "the most questionable collection of starting pitchers" in baseball...something that seems odd in light of their claim that the Reds, slotted way too high at #15, "pitching is finally improving". The Reds rotation is anchored by Paul Wilson, Ramon Ortiz, and Eric Milton, a collection of overpaid mediocrities trending towards awfulness, which leads one to wonder, if the Cincy pitching is finally improving, how bad was it to start with?

The Dodgers are in the bottom half, checking in at #16, the victim of mass mainstream hysteria over DePodesta's moves this offseason. The loss of Beltre will hurt, but Shawn Green has been replaced by J.D. Drew, which is a net upgrade, and Jeff Kent was a great pickup. I think L.A. is still the favorite in the N.L. West.

Detroit, at 18, is another one of these baffling, idiosyncratic selections...they were 72-90 last season, and their big offseason additions were an old, ineffective closer (Troy Percival) and a 31 year old outfielder with a bad knee (Magglio Ordonez). I wouldn't be surprised if they have the worst record in the A.L. this season.

Oakland comes in at #22, behind Arizona and Seattle. Now, take a step back and think about this...Oakland finished 2004 28 games better than Seattle, and 40 games better than Arizona. Oakland lost Hudson and Mulder, which will hurt, while Seattle and Arizona made some interesting additions...but can anyone really, legitimately believe that Arizona gained 40 games on the A's? Particularly when they lost the Big Unit, a better pitcher than either of the departed A's starters? Oakland is being written off by a lot of people, but they are still a much better team than Seattle or Arizona, and I think will end up 2nd in the A.L. West.

Houston, similarly, is being underrated, coming in at #23, ahead of only the miscellaneous dregs of baseball (Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Tampa, Toronto, Washington, Colorado, Kansas City...put them in whatever order you want, it doesn't really matter). The loss of Kent and Beltran is huge, no question...but Chris Burke is a nice prospect who should fill in acceptably at second base, Pettitte is, supposedly, going to be healthy, and Lance Berkman should be back from his torn ACL by the end of April. This isn't likely to be a playoff team, but they are at least a .500 team...and it is ludicrous to put them below teams like Arizona and Cincinnati, which will need a bunch of breaks just to win 80 games.

Anyway, a very flawed ranking, I believe...but for someone like me, starved for baseball, it is enough to whet my appetite anyway...


Autographs and stupid legislators 

The Rhode Island State Senate is crying, "Think of the children!!!"

And thus, several senators have introduced a bill prohibiting any athlete, entertainer, or their representatives from charging anyone 16 or under for an autograph.

Stupid demogoguery, masquerading as protecting the innocence of America's youth.

Some choice excerpts from the article:

"I don’t care what they do, they shouldn’t charge kids," said Woonsocket Sen. Roger Badeau, who becomes visibly agitated when the subject is brought up.

Do you think he gets "visibly agitated" when the subject of public schools, or roads, or anything else the state is supposed to be dealing with is brought up?

Pawtucket Sen. John F. McBurney, a co-sponsor of the bill, agreed.

"I don’t think Manny Ramirez’ signature on anything is worth $175," McBurney said. "It’s price-gouging. They are taking advantage of people who can’t afford it."

Well, Senator, if they can't afford it, they shouldn't pay the money for the autograph. They can go to Fenway Park and hang out there before the game, begging for autographs like kids always used to do. The Senator might also want to go learn what "price-gouging" really is...providing a non-necessity at a price that many folks are apparently willing to pay isn't it.

How about the kid who, by virtue of the new law, gets a free Manny Ramirez autograph, runs home and puts it on eBay for the highest bidder?

McBurney doesn’t think it would happen, not often anyway.

"Not my children, that’s for sure," he said. "Maybe I’m behind the times, but I don’t see that as a big problem."

What a joke. I can't believe that the Rhode Island Legislature is actually fooling with this.

Or, for that matter, that baseball news is so slow this is actually the most interesting thing of the day...


Monday, February 14, 2005

Padres, Fuson in negotiations 

SignOnSanDiego.com >Grady Fuson may be headed for San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Padre G.M. Kevin Towers is apparently discussing creating a job for Fuson in the Padre front office as an advisor. Fuson has been compared to Towers in the past as being a fusion of the old-fashioned scouting type and the new-fangled stathead type.

San Diego would probably be a good spot for Fuson, and as long as he's out of the American League, it will be good for the Rangers.


Rosenthal on the young Ranger pitching 

Ken Rosenthal with praise for the Rangers' young pitchers...

"The Rangers remain in the hunt for a bat, and believe it or not, they've got young pitching to trade. Their past two first-round picks, Class A RHP Thomas Diamond and Class A LHP John Danks, probably are untouchable, but the team boasts several other pitching prospects who are likely to start the season at Class AA. ..."

Thank you, Grady Fuson...


Twins, Santana agree on a 4 year, $40 million deal 

Well, the Twins have locked up Johan Santana through 2008.

Not a bad deal for either party...Santana asked for $6.8 million in arbitration this year, and if he had won, was likely looking at $9-10 million in arbitration after 2005. So you can look at it as the Twins paying him the $16 million over the next two years that he was likely going to get in arbitration anyway, and then paying him $12 million per year for his first two free agent seasons.

Really, the more I think about it, the more I like this deal for Minnesota. Pitchers are always risky, but Santana's arm has been handled with care, and they are now locking him up through what should be his prime years. If he pitches for the next four years at a level close to what he pitched at in 2004, this deal is a steal for the Twins.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Sullivan on Hart 

Lengthy piece in the S-T on John Hart today.

Apparently, Hicks is now conceding it was a mistake to bring Grady Fuson to Texas, and Hart is blaming Hicks for the bad moves made in the 2001-02 offseason.

Seems like a lot of revisionist history to me, but hey...


Friday, February 11, 2005

Sexson Arrested On DUI Charges 

The Mariners received a blow in their ongoing efforts to be the Disney of MLB, as new first baseman Richie Sexson was arrested on DUI charges today.

I doubt it will have any impact on the team, but it will be interesting to see how the fan-friendly, cuddly M's organization tries to spin this.


BP on the Rangers 

Baseball Prospectus's Triple Play feature from earlier this week featured the Rangers (along with the Astros and the Cards) in their free section.

Of course, given the lack of activity for Texas this offseason, there wasn't much to talk about...BP basically just scoffed at the Astacio signing, saying that "even the most optmistic Rangers fan would have to be disappointed if this is the big move of the offseason."

I guess they've forgotten the big Richard Hidalgo signing, although that's to be expected.

Other than Astacio, they look at whether there was any change in the performance of the Three Tainted Rangers after Canseco arrived, a subject I've lost interest in.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rogers denying threats to retire 

Kenny Rogers is denying that he threatened to retire, if he didn't get a contract extension.

Forgive me if I take his comments with a grain of salt...

I wouldn't be surprised if he suggested he'd walk if he didn't get an extension...given Tom Hicks' tendency to panic, it isn't all that unreasonable for Kenny to believe that Hicks would cut a deal with him right then.


Yanks removed steroid provision from Giambi contract 

From the NY Times...

A person with knowledge of the contract said that before they signed off on Giambi's seven-year, $120 million deal, the Yankees acquiesced to his request and removed all references to steroids from the guarantee language routinely included in contracts.

The Yankees were not innocents in this matter. They didn't say to themselves: Delete references to steroid use? Well, all right if you insist, but why would you want us to do that?

They wanted Giambi badly enough that they relinquished the right to suspend him or stop payment on the contract or terminate the contract or convert it into a nonguaranteed contract if he was found to use steroids. No other words were deleted from that paragraph of the contract, the person said.


That's huge.

If true, not only are the Yanks out of luck in regards to trying to void Giambi's deal, they certainly aren't the innocent victims they portrayed themselves to be.

And arguably, by agreeing to the language, they implicitly endorsed Giambi's use of steroids, and had constructive knowledge that it was an issue.


Tom Hicks on payroll 

Tom Hicks speaks on the Ranger payroll:

From January, 2004: "We're back to where we ought to be. We can win a championship with a payroll in the [$70-80 million range], and that's where we are."

From September, 2004: "If our revenue grows in the off-season, our payroll will grow with it."

And what is the 2005 Ranger payroll? $52 million.

So, apparently, it is our fault, as fans, for not spending more money on the team this offseason, that payroll isn't in the range where we can win a championship.


A breakdown of the free agent market 

Jeff Sullivan at lookoutlanding has a terrific breakdown of how teams spent money on free agents this offseason, compared to last season. It has pretty charts and graphs and linear regressions and other things I can't figure out how to do.

Check it out...


Roto Times on the fantasy baseball fiasco 

Roto Times has a great piece, going into more detail on the tactics MLB is engaging in on the Fantasy Baseball Boondoggle.

Here is the crux of the issue, as outlined in this piece:

In what appears to be little more than a public relations ploy, MLB Advanced Media has offered license agreements to several small companies. However, the terms of the offer reveal their true intentions. Several of the so-called "mom-and-pop" companies have been offered some variation of the following deal: If they have fewer than 5,000 customers, they can have a license for $10,000 for the 2005 season. If they have more than 5,000 customers, the price jumps to $500,000. Multiple industry sources confirmed for Rototimes.com that this offer has been distributed. As one industry observer said "customer number 5,001 is awfully expensive." The smaller companies certainly can't afford the $500,000 figure, and it does not appear that the larger companies have received the same offer. Brian Matthews, co-founder of CDM, said that the offer was not presented to CDM. The obvious intent is to fence in smaller competitors by punishing a customer base beyond 5,000, a number that MLB Advanced Media likely deems as inconsequential competition. By doing this, it can try to shut down its larger competitors without looking like it is trying to shut out all competition.

MLB should be embarrassed by this. I had three fantasy teams with Yahoo last year, and paid the extra amount for the live updates, etc. I had planned on participating in a similar number of leagues this year.

But I can tell you, I absolutely refuse to be bullied by MLB and its internet marketing thugs. I refuse to participate in any mlb.com leagues, or spend one dime through mlb.com, unless and until they back off on this issue. This attempt to monopolize fantasy games is a slap in the face to baseball fans, and I encourage everyone to let MLB know what you think of their position.


One other thought on Rogers 

Checking out some message boards, Rangers fans seem to be pretty disgusted with Rogers for his little ploy.

However, I have to wonder...Buck Showalter supposedly threatened to quit if John Hart didn't get to stay on as G.M. of the Rangers last summer.

How is what Rogers did really any different than what Buck did?

And for that matter...given the way that Hicks has traditionally tended to panic in these sorts of situations, is it all that surprising that Rogers and Boras might think that, given how nothing has been done to shore up the rotation, the threat of Rogers walking might prompt Hicks to agree to an extension?


Mets have offered Floyd to the Rangers 

According to T.R. Sullivan, the Mets have offered Cliff Floyd to the Rangers, although there's no indication of what they are asking for.

There's been talk that the Mets are just wanting to dump Floyd and the 2 years, $13 million he has left on his contract. Floyd, if healthy, would be a very nice fit for Texas...he's a lefty power bat with a good OBP who would slot in perfectly at the DH slot. The problem is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy, having appeared in more than 121 games in a season only three times.

Floyd is 32, and had his worst season since 1996 last year, so there is legitimate concern that his 2004 wasn't just a down year, but was instead the beginning of the end. But given where the team's payroll is, and the lack of quality free agents available in the 2005-06 offseason, Floyd is a worthwhile risk to take as a salary dump.

Now, if the Mets want significant prospects in return, I'd balk. I don't have a problem with sending them a Nate Gold or a Ruddy Yan, but if they want Ian Kinsler or John Hudgins or Erik Thompson, or even Matt Lorenzo or Wes Littleton, I'd be reluctant, absent their picking up a chunk of Floyd's contract.


Rogers threatens to retire if he doesn't get a contract extension 

According to the S-T today, Kenny Rogers told Tom Hicks that he would consider retiring if he doesn't get a contract extension.

While I can't say that I blame him for trying to get an extension, given the fact that he is 40 years old, this threat to retire is just another petty move on his part in what has been a rather contentious history with the team.

Rogers ended up leaving for the Yankees after the 1995 season, after rancorous negotiations with the Rangers, although the deal he struck with New York wasn't significantly better than the Rangers' offer. After being terrible in New York, he was dealt to Oakland and then the Mets, where he walked in the winning run in the 1999 World Series. Following that, he was signed by Doug Melvin to come back to Texas, as the Rangers' backup plan after Aaron Sele and his agent tried to play hardball. Rogers was very good in 2000, worthless in 2001, and then very good in 2002, although he pissed off management again by refusing a trade to the Reds mid-season.

After 2002, the Rangers offered him a 2 year, $10.6 million deal, which Boras categorized as an insult, saying that he had numerous multi-year offers on the table. This, apparently, wasn't true, since Rogers went to Minnesota on a one-year deal.

Everyone seemed to have kissed and made up when Rogers signed a two year deal with Texas after the 2003 season...although Tom Hicks apparently had to step in and authorize the second year, and John Hart supposedly trashed Grady Fuson (who negotiated the Rogers deal) all over baseball for supposedly giving in too easily to Boras's demands.

So Rogers gets his two year deal, coming off an underwhelming season in Minnesota, and pitches fairly well for Texas in 2004, posting a 106 ERA+. So everyone should be happy, right?

Well, apparently not, since Rogers is now threatening to walk away if he doesn't get two more years.

Jim Reeves takes Rogers to task, saying that Rogers was practically begging to come back to Texas last offseason, and demanded a second year as part of the deal. As Reeves points out, that contract ended up being a bargain for Texas last year, and Rogers quite likely could have gotten more than the $3.5 million he is owed for 2005 if he hadn't insisted upon the second year, and instead had been a free agent this offseason.

But that's water under the bridge...Rogers wanted the security of a second year, he got it, and now he needs to just shut up and pitch. Threatening retirement if he doesn't get an extension is pretty classless, and I hope the Rangers call his bluff and tell him he can go home to Southlake and sit there if he doesn't want to pitch without an extension.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The stupidity of MLB 

There are so many ways in which MLB seems to try to shoot itself in the foot. The anti-marketing campaign of Bud Selig, where he says that baseball is so unpopular, the league needs to kill off a couple of franchises. The way Selig has begun resorting to municipal blackmail on stadium deals, threatening relocation or perpetual mediocrity if cities don't build new stadia. The whole Montreal Expos fiasco.

But now, there is something that tops even all that.

MLB is working on killing off fantasy baseball.

Oh, maybe that's a little melodramatic. They aren't trying to kill it off...rather, they appear to be trying to bring it under their sole control. But their ham-handed attempts at doing so are simply going to alienate fans and jeopardize the influx of new fans to the game.

As a piece in USA Today explains, mlb.com, the league-run website, has bought the rights to license fantasy games, and plans on enforcing that aggressively, with many longtime purveyors of online fantasy baseball leagues -- including Yahoo and ESPN -- being left out in the cold. One such company, CDM, has already filed suit against MLB.

As the USA Today article explains:

"CDM vice president Charlie Wiegert suggests another reason for the suit: MLB 'is about to put the whole fantasy industry at risk.'

"Bob Bowman, who oversees MLB Advanced Media, disagrees. MLB recently paid an estimated $50 million over five years to the MLB players union to take control of online fantasy licensing. And Bowman says there's only one goal: 'We want more fans playing more fantasy baseball.'

"Bowman suggests MLB might end up with four or five major sites, as well as mlb.com, that will be officially licensed, down from about 13. About 12 small-scale sites draw fewer than 5,000 players and are expected to retain licenses.

"Greg Ambrosius, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, suggests giving fewer consumer choices isn't likely to increase consumption: 'It would be tough to take all the fantasy choices now available and put them under just a few umbrellas.'"

Okay, let me get this straight...their goal is to get more fans playing more fantasy baseball.

And they think they are going to achieve this by limiting the number of sites that can offer fantasy baseball?

What the hell is going on here? How in the world can this Bowman clown actually say that with a straight face?

This is so stupid, it makes my head hurt just to think about it. Fantasy baseball draws more fans to the game, gets casual fans more interested in the game, and gives hard core fans one more outlet to fuel their obsession. Encouraging widespread fantasy baseball ultimately is a great free marketing tool for MLB.

So what do they do? Do they work with Yahoo and ESPN and the others, to get "more fans playing more fantasy baseball"?

No. Instead, they lock out longtime fantasy baseball operators from the game, and then hope that fans who have been using certain sites for years are committed enough to trek over to MLB and pay whatever fees they require.

This makes me so angry, I can't even put it into words. This is such a ridiculous, such an indefensible decision by MLB, I can't believe that they are actually trying to go through with it. For a lousy $10 million per year, they are actively working to restrict the ability of baseball fans to participate in fantasy baseball, and then have the gall to claim that they are doing it to encourage "more fans" to play "more fantasy baseball".

These people are clownshoes. They are absolutely unbelievable. The people at MLB have the worst tin ear when it comes to marketing and their fan base of any organization I can think of.

And at the end, it won't matter. A lawsuit has been filed, columnists are going to write snide, sarcastic columns on the subject, MLB is going to be hit with all sorts of criticism, and the traditional online FBL vendors will get to carry the games again.

Most likely, MLB will cave. They are going to take a huge p.r. hit, and decide to crawfish on the issue.

But if they don't, I think the CDM lawsuit is likely to prevail. As the USA Today article explains, at its crux, the question is, does anyone own statistics? I don't believe that the Belo Corporation has to get a license to run batting averages and home run totals in the Dallas Morning News. I don't pay anyone at MLB whenever I reference Alfonso Soriano's steal totals or Ryan Drese's ERA. So how in the hell can MLB prohibit these online vendors from using statistics that are in the public domain to run fantasy leagues?

The bottom line is, they can't. This is a losing battle. And it is a losing battle that is just going to give baseball another black eye, right on the heels of the ridiculous Jose Canseco scandal.

I swear...sometimes I think MLB is just TRYING to see if they can drive the fans away.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pudge denies steroid use 

Today, Pudge Rodriguez refuted Jose Canseco's allegations that he used steroids, saying that he was "in shock" over the claims.

I will say that Canseco picked the ideal time to leak these excerpts...right after the Super Bowl is one of the deadest times in sports, and while pitchers and catchers report in a little over a week, there's almost nothing to talk about in baseball right now.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Raffy denies steroid use 

In the wake of Jose Canseco's allegations that he introduced Rafael Palmeiro to steroids, Palmeiro has issued a denial, calling the claims ludicrous and asserting that he has never used steroids.

It will be interesting to see if Juan and Pudge issue similar denials in the coming days...


Magglio to the Tigers -- 5 years, $75 million, sort of 

This came down while I was out of town on Saturday...but Magglio Ordonez has signed a lucrative, complicated deal with the Tigers.

It is being reported as 5 years, $75 million, but there are option years for 2010 and 2011 which automatically vest based on playing time, at $18 million for 2010 and $15 million for 2011. On the plus side for the Tigers, they can void the deal after 2005 if Ordonez lands on the D.L. for at least 25 days with a recurrence of the knee problem that sidelined him most of last season.

That caveat makes the deal a little better for Detroit, but you have to imagine Ordonez is going to be shooting himself full of painkillers and doing whatever else is necessary to keep him on the field if that knee starts flaring up.

Regardless, it is a horrible contract. Ordonez was, possibly, almost worth $15 million a few years ago. Now, at age 31, on the downside of his career, he's being vastly overpaid to perform like he's likely no longer capable of performing. As someone else (I forget who) pointed out, you'd think a team with Bobby Higginson and his horrible contract on their team would know better than to give an aging, declining corner outfielder that sort of deal.

Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing (formerly Leone for Third) has a great analysis as to why this contract is such a bad idea...


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Will Carroll chat session tomorrow evening 

Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll will be doing a chat session tomorrow evening.

Carroll is the medhead specialist for BP, the expert on injuries, rehab, physical conditioning, etc. It will definitely be a chat session worth checking out, and if you have any questions about anything along those lines -- from a selfish perspective, I'm hoping he fields some Rangers questions -- click on the link and submit your question.


D-Rays moves of interest 

The D-Rays made a couple of moves today.

First, they traded outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr., to the D-Backs for Casey Fossum. Fossum is a former BoSox pitching prospect, a lefty who was highly regarded not too long ago, but hasn't be able to get anything done at the major league level. Cruz is a decent corner outfielder, and is a nice cheap pickup for the D-Backs.

The D-Rays also signed 1B Travis Lee, and to make room for him on the 40 man roster, have DFA'd outfielder Matt Diaz.

I'd like to see the Rangers pick him up and give him a shot to be their DH this coming season. He'll be 27 at the start of the season, but can hit -- splitting 2003 between AA and AAA, he posted a 986 OPS in AA and a 900 OPS in AAA, and posted a 948 OPS in AAA last season.

He doesn't walk much, and doesn't have a ton of power, but should hit some doubles and put up 15-20 homers if he played in TBIA.

Given that the Rangers are looking at a Greg Colbrunn/David Dellucci platoon at DH, they should give Diaz a look.

They won't, of course...unlike Dellucci and Colbrunn, Diaz isn't one of Buck's guys from Arizona. But he's a lot younger than those two, would likely be as productive, if not more so, and has more upside potential.


U.S.S. Mariner on Astacio 

Astacio was someone the Mariners were rumored to be interested in.

U.S.S. Mariner is glad that the Rangers got him instead of the Mariners.


Canseco: I introduced Pudge, Juan, Raffy to steroids 

Jose Canseco is in the news again, and the steroid scandal that had started to die down will likely be firing back up again.

Canseco claims that Mark McGwire introduced Jason Giambi to steroids while all three were with the A's.

Canseco also claims that, upon being traded to the Texas Rangers, he introduced Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Pudge Rodriguez, and personally injected all three players.

While there has been speculation about Gonzalez and Palmeiro in the past, this is the first time that any of the three Rangers have been publicly linked with the ongoing steroid scandal.


The Transaction Oracle on Astacio and Bukvich 

The Oracle doesn't care for either move.


A writeup on the Winter Warmup 

Brandon Wilson of the Baseball Muse blog has a writeup on the Winter Warmup, in which he relates some of the details of Jon Daniels' and Buck Showalter's Q&As.

Daniels, it sounds like, kept everything pretty close to the vest (which seems to be typical of him), although he admitted that Laird's failure to play winter ball was a "little bit" of a negative. Showalter, again pretty typical, was more expansive, remaining high on Laynce Nix, and seeming to be enthusiastic about Pedro Astacio and Greg Colbrunn. I tend to agree with him, to a certain extent, on Colbrunn, but I have my doubts about Astacio's ability to contribute a whole lot this season.

Definitely a good read, though...check it out...


Young on the offseason 

Randy Galloway's column today takes the Rangers to task for changing the traditional Winter Carnival from a two-day event to a small gathering designed to sell mini-season-ticket packages.

Galloway estimated the crowd at around 2,000, versus similar events in Minnesota and Pittsburgh drawing 28,000 and 14,000, respectively, making me wonder if comparing the Rangers to such small-market teams may have been overestimating them.

Galloway says that management didn't want to foot the bill for the $60,000 that it would have cost to put on a "first class Winter Carnival", a decision that seems pretty inexplicable, given the amount of goodwill these things generate among the fans.

But the more interesting thing, to me, was what Mike Young had to say about this past offseason.

From Galloway's column:

"Those things are totally out of my control," he said. "I don't own the team. I don't make decisions on personnel. The one thing I can control is being a better shortstop. I think most of the guys on the team feel the same way.

"I'm a realist. I know in our division, the American League West, Anaheim has gotten stronger, Seattle is better, and Oakland had major changes with their pitching but always manages to put a good team on the field, and will again.

"We have the same team. I see that. That's the way it is. So now I've got to get better. If I'm better, the team is better."

But in failing to make upgrades over the winter, team management talks of "sticking to a plan."

A rare frown crossed Young's face.

"Look, I'm not here for growth," he said. "We'd better not be loading up for 2008, or something like that. If a player puts in the work, he deserves to have the chance to win now. I don't care about loading up for the future. I want to win now.

"I'm a player. I'm supposed to be impatient when it comes to the subject of winning. And I am."

Young sounds about as happy about the team's lack of improvement this offseason as I am...


Friday, February 04, 2005

Rays to sign Neagle 

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are about to sign Denny Neagle to a minor league deal.

Neagle, of course, became a national punchline after he was arrested for solicitation earlier in the offseason, which prompted the Colorado Rockies to terminate his contract. The Rockies owed Neagle $19 million remaining from a 5 year, $51 million deal signed in December of 2000, in what has gone down as one of the truly awful free agent signings ever.

This is an interesting contrast to the Pedro Astacio signing...Neagle, like Astacio, has been on the shelf most of the last two years. They are the same age, and Neagle has been a much better pitcher throughout his career.

Of course, there is that little scandal involving Neagle...but then, Astacio was charged with domestic abuse back in 1999, charges that were ultimately dismissed.

I'm a bit confused about why Neagle gets a minor league contract, but Astacio gets a guaranteed $800K major league deal with another $2.2 million in incentives.


The Oldest Rebuilding Team Ever 

This is supposedly a rebuilding team...Hart & Co. have peddled the line that we aren't spending lots of money this offseason, because we want to see what the young players, and particularly the young pitchers, can do...

Opening Day ages of the 12 pitchers most likely to break camp with the Rangers:

Carlos Almanzar -- 31
Pedro Astacio -- 35
Doug Brocail -- 37
Francisco Cordero -- 29
R.A. Dickey -- 30
Ryan Drese -- 29
Frankie Francisco -- 25
Ron Mahay -- 33
The Ho -- 31
Kenny Rogers -- 40
Brian Shouse -- 36
Chris Young -- 25

Average age -- 32

Hell of a youth movement...


Financial details on Astacio contract 

The Astacio deal is one year, $800,000, with $2.2 million in roster and performance bonuses.



Rangers sign Astacio 

The Rangers have signed Pedro Astacio to a major league deal.

Astacio's ERA+ has declined every year since 1999. He has pitched 45 innings the last two seasons.

And yet, in the press conference announcing the signing, John Hart apparently said that Astacio would be in the rotation to start the year.

I'm baffled.

The Rangers have steered clear of pricey free agents this offseason, supposedly because they wanted to give their young players a chance.

But Sandy Alomar, Jr., was added to replace young catcher Gerald Laird. Doug Brocail was re-signed, likely meaning that young reliever Joaquin Benoit is out. And now Pedro Astacio has been signed and guaranteed a rotation spot, which means that Chris Young, Ricardo Rodriguez, and Juan Dominguez -- the young pitchers who we were supposed to get a look at this season -- will have to fight it out for one rotation spot.

I don't know what the hell the organization is doing this offseason. Their "plan", as best I can tell, is to add old spare parts in lieu of guys who can actually play.


More Hart contract details 

According to Roger Brown in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, once John Hart steps down as G.M., he will get paid $1 million per year for the next five years as an "advisor".

Remember, folks...it is all about the "financial flexibility"...


Galloway takes on Hicks 

Galloway's column today is a typical rant on Tom Hicks' newfound religion.

Nothing new, really...Galloway just points out that Hicks has found financial religion, is raising prices while slashing payroll, and has done nothing with the supposed "financial flexibility" he got from the ARod trade.

Galloway is right, of course, but I don't know that there's any reason to expect anything to change anytime soon. Next year's free agent crop is shaping up to be very weak, with not much available once you get past Tim Hudson and Lance Berkman.

So don't expect the Rangers' payroll to increase much next year. If anything, it might go down, with Alfonso Soriano likely departing.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Possible contract extensions for young Ranger players 

According to Kathleen O'Brien in the Star-Telegram, the Rangers have had internal discussions about trying to work out contract extensions for Ryan Drese, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Mench, and Mark Teixeira. Drese is identified as the top priority, with discussions apparently set to take place this spring.

Personally, I'd just as soon they pass on Soriano, who I don't think is going to be worth the type of money he'd want to be locked up long-term. Teixeira should be the top priority, but Teixeira is represented by Scott Boras, and Boras clients generally prefer not to take the long-term security, opting instead to make more money year-to-year through arbitration.

Mench and Drese seem the most likely to sign long-term deals, although I'd be concerned about Drese, who has only had the one good season, and who is approaching 30. He's someone who could end up having a Terrence Long/Kevin Jarvis-type albatross deal in a couple of years, if he can't sustain the performance he had last season.


The asking price for Aubrey Huff 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today has a piece on the Pirates interest in D-Ray DH Aubrey Huff.

It is worth taking a look at, primarily because Huff, who graduated from Brewer High School, has been mentioned as someone the Rangers have been interested in.

According to the Post-Gazette: "A source in Tampa Bay said the Devil Rays would seek a return for Huff of an everyday player, preferably a pitcher, and two top-notch prospects."

So you are talking about something along the lines of Ryan Drese, John Danks, and Ian Kinsler.

No, thank you.

I don't think Aubrey Huff is going anywhere anytime soon.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Burnitz to the Cubs 

The Cubs have agreed to sign Jeromy Burnitz, contingent on the Sammy Sosa trade going through.

Burnitz was bandied about as a possible DH candidate in Texas, although the one year, $5 million that he got is more than I would have spent on him, and makes Hidalgo's one year, $5 million deal look pretty good in comparison.

Burnitz going to the Cubs would also seem to make it a little less likely that they'd be interested in Soriano, although the Cubs' starting left fielder at this point would be either Jerry Hairston Jr. or Todd Hollandsworth, neither of which are really guys you want starting at a corner outfield slot for a contending team.


Cameron Coughlan 

A piece from BYU NewsNet has some comments from Ranger prospect Cameron Coughlan, who was drafted out of BYU.

Coughlan was an 18th round pick out of BYU in 2002, and has intrigued folks with his bat and defensive versatility. Playing for Stockton last season, he showed very little power, but draws a lot of walks and has posted good OBPs. He qualifies as a fringe prospect, a guy who, if he can add just a little pop, might end up as a Keith Ginter-type role player in the majors some day.


TSN's fantasy breakdown of the Rangers 

The first preview of the 2005 Rangers I've seen...

The writer expects Laird to eventually get his job back, Soriano to bounce back, and compares Kevin Mench to Greg Luzinski, a comparison I think is unfair...


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Rangers out on Ordonez 

After having reviewed Magglio Ordonez's medical records and contract demands, the Rangers are no longer interested in bidding on the former ChiSox outfielder.

Can't say that I'm surprised.

And it is probably the right decision.

Although once again, it irks me to read John Hart in the paper saying that Ordonez is "beyond our means", acting like Texas is some penny-pinching bottom feeder club.


Angry Mark Grace and angry Cubs fans 

It is a very slow period right now, not much going on Rangers-wise...

But if you are bored and want a baseball fix, there's a fascinating bitch session at the Baseball Think Factory, over an article in the Chicago Sun Times. Mark Grace is continuing his whining over the Cubs letting him go, and Cubs fans are railing about what a jackass Grace is.

Entertaining reading...


Sickels top prospect list 

In his final column for ESPN, John Sickels lists his top 10 positional prospects and pitching prospects.

Not surprisingly, there are no Rangers on either list.

There are, however, two Angels, two Mariners, and three A's.


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