Yesterday's Yankees acquisition of Javier Vazquez from Atlanta suggests that the quality of the free agent starting pitcher class has thinned out to the point at which the remaining alternatives are largely either health risks (Ben Sheets, Erik Bedard), age risks (Pedro Martinez, Jose Contreras), or both (Randy Johnson, John Smoltz), or simply not good enough risks to perform to the level at which they're seeking to be paid as they continue to shop themselves on the notion that demand still exceeds supply.
MLB Network suggested last night that the cream of the crop still on the market consists of righthanders Joel Pineiro, Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland, Martinez, and Smoltz. Fair enough (maybe throw in Jarrod Washburn), but outside of Pineiro, is any really worth committing multiple years to? There's a reason New York was willing to give up a serviceable, affordable outfield bat and two legitimate prospects to get one year of Vazquez (and unremarkable reliever Boone Logan) from the Braves, rather than spend on a free agent.
Yesterday's Rangers signing of reliever Darren Oliver to a one-year contract (with a club option that vests if he pitches 59 times in 2010 - he averaged 59.33 appearances the past three seasons with the Angels) brings to 23 the number of pitchers on the Rangers' 40-man roster. That doesn't count relievers Willie Eyre and Clay Rapada, who were each outrighted off the roster earlier this month.
In the Bound Edition, I head every month of reports from the preceding year with a snapshot of the Rangers' 40-man roster as it stood on the 1st of that particular month. The last month that started with as many as 23 pitchers on the roster?
The Rangers won't say it, but I can't help but wonder if the club's stockpiling of arms - when there remain obvious holes to fill on the rest of the roster - could signal an effort to use some of its pitching depth to address other needs. Just as the Braves did yesterday.
Rotation candidates now include Scott Feldman, Rich Harden, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Brandon McCarthy, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, C.J. Wilson, Dustin Nippert, Doug Mathis, Guillermo Moscoso, and Luis Mendoza, and Jon Daniels has at least suggested the club may add one more veteran reinforcement candidate. A number of those 12 will compete for bullpen spots if they don't land in the rotation, but with the additions of Oliver, Chris Ray, and Rule 5 pick Ben Snyder, plus Rapada, there's depth in relief, too.
At some point in this market, might a team decide it would be better off taking a flier on McCarthy, who is under affordable control for two more years, than paying Braden Looper or Tim Redding or Todd Wellemeyer, or than rolling the dice that Chien-Ming Wang is past his issues, or that Justin Duchscherer is past his?
Could the addition of Oliver be the prelude to a deal including C.J. Wilson for an impact bat? This was a solid, deep bullpen even before Texas guaranteed at least $3.5 million to Oliver.
Nippert and Mendoza are out of options. McCarthy and Ray are not, but given their service time it would be unlikely Texas could get them to AAA. The 23 pitchers currently on the Texas roster won't all be there Opening Day, and some may be gone within a month. The Rangers' pitching depth may start to attract increasing interest from clubs unable (or unwilling) to fill their needs through what's left via free agency.
Crazy Oliver splits: Against left-handed hitters in 2009, he struck out 37 and walked only four (a 9.25 K/BB rate), but they hit .263 and slugged .412. Right-handed hitters hit only .217 with just a .294 slug - but they drew 18 walks and fanned 28 times (a 1.56 K/BB rate).
The organization notes that Oliver joins Kenny Rogers and Bill Haselman as three-tour Rangers. Seems Ruben Sierra should be counted as well.
Interesting stories coming out of Boston in the aftermath of the Mike Lowell non-trade. The veteran told Boston reporters that his right thumb injury, which is what killed the deal to Texas after a physical revealed a torn ligament last week, wasn't filmed by the Red Sox - despite his repeated complaints - until December 7. According to Lowell, he injured the thumb on October 2, told the club in early November his symptoms hadn't subsided, said something again in mid-November, had it splinted by the Red Sox's assistant trainer in late November, and finally, two weeks ago, during the Winter Meetings, was asked by Boston to submit to an MRI.
Whether Red Sox personnel misdiagnosed their MRI, or didn't share the results with Texas, it wasn't until his Arlington MRI last week that the Rangers found the ligament tear and backed out of a trade for Lowell. Had Boston discovered the tear nearly two months ago, it's conceivable that he could have had surgery right away - which he's told reporters was what he wanted - and been pronounced healthy by now.
Now the Red Sox have an injured $12 million player that they don't want to go forward with and that they're going to have trouble moving. Nonetheless, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and others are convinced that Lowell has played his last game for Boston.
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus suggests that Vladimir Guerrero now tops the Rangers' wish list for the right-handed DH role that Lowell was being targeted to fill.
Anyone a little surprised that the Cubs, having succeeded in moving Milton Bradley, haven't yet nailed down a deal with Marlon Byrd? Is this a Mark DeRosa situation, where Byrd is drawing plenty of league interest but is going to have to set his dollar sights lower? Or is Byrd instead waiting things out to see what other clubs join the mix as they alter their rosters?
It sounds like DeRosa could soon be a Yankee. Hate that. Hate to see a player I like as much as that guy ending up in that place.
Man, if the dollars worked (and if DeRosa weren't able to command an everyday defensive position on the open market), he'd be the absolutely perfect answer for what Texas had pinpointed Lowell to do. Perfect.
Texas, according to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, was in on Yakult Swallows reliever Ryota Igarashi before the 30-year-old righthander signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the Mets.
Washington is close to signing lefthander Eddie Guardado, who had hinted at retirement as the 2009 season ended. Cincinnati re-signed outfielder Laynce Nix, but only to a minor league contract. San Diego signed catcher Chris Stewart to a minor league deal. The Mets plan to sign righthander R.A. Dickey to a minor league deal.
(Gotta love the New York Times headline: "Mets Near Deal With Pitcher Missing an Elbow Ligament." Maybe if the Yankees sign Jermaine Dye, who is evidently a candidate along with DeRosa for left field, the Times will report: "Yankees Sign Former Pitcher.")
The Rangers gave minor league contracts to catchers John Otness (a 27-year-old who spent six seasons in the Boston system, briefly reaching AAA for the first time in 2009) and Robbie Alcombrack (a 21-year-old who spent 2009 with Michigan's own Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League after three seasons in the Cleveland chain).
Otness - who caught Tim Lincecum at the University of Washington - played in 2006, 2007, and 2008 for AA Portland, which was managed by former Rangers farm skipper Arnie Beyeler, re-hired by Boston earlier this month to stay on at the helm of the Eastern League affiliate.
As of this moment, the Rangers will draft 15th, 22nd, and 41st in June, though that third pick will probably move down another eight spots or so once the remaining Type A and Type B free agents find new homes, and they'll also add a fourth first-rounder in the 50 range if Byrd signs elsewhere.
Update on links to stories and blogs recapping last week's Newberg Report Book Release Party:
T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com (preview): http://trsullivan.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/12/of_the_bound_edition_sherlocks.html
T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com (recap): http://trsullivan.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/12/one_night_in_arlington_and_it.html
Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/baseball/rangers/stories/121809dnsporangerscowlishaw.365da1f29.html
Grant Schiller, Texas Rangers Trades: http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/2009/12/newberg-bound-edition-release-party.html
Katie (with photos):
Scott Lucas (photos):
Susan Minatrea (photo): http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30513900&op=1&view=all&subj=831393986&id=1007720841#/photo.php?pid=30513900&op=1&o=global&view=global&subj=831393986&id=1007720841
Still working on details to have a second party in January, somewhere in Dallas. Stay tuned.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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