Roster inertia.

When I put the Bound Edition together every year, I start off each month of daily reports with a title page that includes a snapshot of what the 40-man roster looked like on the first of that month.

When I stuck today's roster into the draft for next year's book a few minutes ago, I checked it against the roster as it appeared on January 1st. It's identical.

I then compared today's roster to the December 1st roster. The only changes: Gerald Laird out, Guillermo Moscoso in, Doug Mathis off the roster (having been non-tendered) but still coming to camp on a non-roster invite.

Now, that shouldn't be interpreted as Texas planning to go into 2009 with the same club it finished 2008 with. There have been veterans signed to minor league contracts, most notably Omar Vizquel and Derrick Turnbow, an opened opportunity for non-roster shortstop Elvis Andrus to win the starting shortstop job in March, returns from injury by Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C.J. Wilson, and Brandon McCarthy (but the losses of Joaquin Benoit and Eric Hurley), and roster openings left by the departures of Milton Bradley, Jamey Wright, and Ramon Vazquez.

And of course, the Rangers may not be through shaping the roster, not as long as Ben Sheets remains unemployed, and not until enough of the other 50 or more free agents on the market find homes and shift some teams to the trade market that was forecast three months ago, if not for this unprecedented industry stalemate, to be unusually active.

Strange winter.

One thing not strange about this off-season for the Rangers is that, after coming to terms with outfielder Marlon Byrd on Friday night, the club won't go to arbitration with any of its eligibles. In the 11-year life of the Newberg Report, Texas has had one arbitration hearing: on February 19, 2000, a three-man panel found that the Rangers' $3.5 million offer (submitted by general manager Doug Melvin and his assistant Dan O'Brien Jr.) was more appropriate than Lee Stevens's $4.7 million submission. The Rangers' last arbitration hearing before that was when the club defeated 24-year-old catcher Ivan Rodriguez in 1996, going into what would be the franchise's first playoff season.

Byrd will make $3.06 million in 2009, having settled with the club after submitted figures of $2.7 million and $3.6 million were divulged. The 31-year-old will donate a portion of his salary to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, as will this winter's other three arbitration-eligibles who signed, Wilson and McCarthy and Frankie Francisco.

According to Jim Reeves in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers could move Josh Hamilton to right field this spring to reduce wear on his body, leaving center field to Byrd or Nelson Cruz. It's a move that has been talked about ever since Hamilton joined the Rangers, but this is the first mention I've seen of a wholesale transition being considered before the arrival of Julio Borbon.

Reeves wrote a solid column yesterday on Ian Kinsler's role in helping Michael Young work through his own position switch issues. Reeves added today that Young also leaned on Byrd and Hank Blalock.

The Red Sox signed Jason Varitek, which has prompted a lot of writers to decide this kills Boston's interest in one of the Rangers' young catchers. OK, I guess.

The MLB.com story that, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Yankees have reached their allotted quota of Type A or Type B free agent signings by adding C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira is wrong. Still, the signing of Andy Pettitte (added to the presence of Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain) surely takes New York out of the Sheets hunt.

Baseball America's top 31 Rangers prospects:

  1. Neftali Feliz, RHP
  2. Derek Holland, LHP
  3. Justin Smoak, 1B
  4. Elvis Andrus, SS
  5. Martin Perez, LHP
  6. Taylor Teagarden, C
  7. Engel Beltre, OF
  8. Michael Main, RHP
  9. Julio Borbon, OF
  10. Max Ramirez, C-1B
  11. Wilfredo Boscan, RHP
  12. Blake Beavan, RHP
  13. Eric Hurley, RHP
  14. Warner Madrigal, RHP
  15. Neil Ramirez, RHP
  16. Joe Wieland, RHP
  17. Tommy Hunter, RHP
  18. Jose Vallejo, IF
  19. Kasey Kiker, LHP
  20. Wilmer Font, RHP
  21. Kennil Gomez, RHP
  22. Tim Murphy, LHP
  23. Guillermo Moscoso, RHP
  24. Omar Poveda, RHP
  25. Robbie Ross, LHP
  26. Greg Golson, OF
  27. Joaquin Arias, IF
  28. Thomas Diamond, RHP
  29. Clark Murphy, 1B
  30. John Bannister, RHP
  31. Mitch Moreland, 1B-OF-LHP

The top 31 names on my list from November (before Moscoso and Golson arrived; also, I didn't consider Madrigal since he's no longer a major league rookie):

  1. Derek Holland, LHP
  2. Neftali Feliz, RHP
  3. Justin Smoak, 1B
  4. Michael Main, RHP
  5. Elvis Andrus, SS
  6. Taylor Teagarden, C
  7. Martin Perez, LHP
  8. Max Ramirez, C
  9. Engel Beltre, OF
  10. Blake Beavan, RHP
  11. Julio Borbon, OF
  12. Neil Ramirez, RHP
  13. Wilfredo Boscan, RHP
  14. Eric Hurley, RHP
  15. Kasey Kiker, LHP
  16. Wilmer Font, RHP
  17. Omar Poveda, RHP
  18. Jose Vallejo, IF
  19. Tommy Hunter, RHP
  20. Joe Wieland, RHP
  21. Mitch Moreland, 1B-OF-LHP
  22. Tim Murphy, LHP
  23. Kennil Gomez, RHP
  24. Robbie Ross, LHP
  25. Doug Mathis, RHP
  26. Fabio Castillo, RHP
  27. Cristian Santana, OF
  28. Carlos Pimentel, RHP
  29. Clark Murphy, 1B
  30. Thomas Diamond, RHP
  31. John Mayberry Jr., OF

Taking Mayberry off the list, I'd probably have Moscoso in there before Golson, but it's close. Infielder Marcus Lemon was my number 32.

Grant Schiller's excellent interview with Mathis: http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/

The Rangers watched righthander Kris Benson throw but, according to one of the remaining beat reporters in town, are not interested in the free agent.

Florida signed righthander Kiko Calero to a minor league contract.

San Francisco hired Will Clark as a front office special assistant. He'll represent the Giants at community events, attend spring training with the club in Scottsdale, and occasionally visit one of the organization's minor league affiliates during the season to give young, brash Giants prospects The Nuschler Look.

Infielder Joey Hooft retired from the Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League.

Toronto hired Perry Minasian to serve as a major league scout. The Jays also signed outfielder Todd Donovan to a minor league deal. Toronto is the 30-year-old's seventh organization. Texas was his fifth.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said in a chat session of University of Texas outfielder Kevin Keyes: "His tools are just out of this world as he's a massive guy with a ton of athleticism. Definite first-round potential and he still has two years to put some things together before teams start picking in 2010." The Rangers selected Keyes in the 26th round of the 2007 draft out of Austin Connally High School.

Sometime this week I'll publish my answers to your questions in our first Rangers Prospect Q&A. Thanks for your excellent questions.

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title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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