The rotation arrow.

The Rangers' top eight starters in 2005, in order of games started, were Chris Young, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese, Ricardo Rodriguez, Juan Dominguez, and Joaquin Benoit. Despite the club's middle-of-the-road 79-win finish, the rotation was bad, compiling a composite 5.04 ERA.

Jon Daniels was promoted to general manager at the end of that season. To suggest that overhauling the rotation was among his priorities would be grossly understating things. Astonishingly, the top eight Texas starters in 2006 had not one name in common with the previous season's eight: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, John Koronka, Kameron Loe, Robinson Tejeda, Adam Eaton, John Rheinecker, and Edinson Volquez made the club's most 2006 starts.

Still, lots of journeymen.

The top eight starters in 2007: Millwood, Padilla, Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Tejeda, Jamey Wright, Kason Gabbard, and Rheinecker.

McCarthy, Wright, and Gabbard in place of Koronka, Eaton, and Volquez (whose 2006 ERA was 7.29, after a 14.21 debut in 12.2 innings in 2005). Without hindsight, it was probably a slight upgrade going into 2007.

The top eight starters in 2008: Millwood, Padilla, Feldman, Matt Harrison, Gabbard, Luis Mendoza, Sidney Ponson, and Jason Jennings.

Feldman, Harrison, Mendoza, Ponson, and Jennings in place of Loe, McCarthy, Tejeda, Wright, and Rheinecker. Push at best.

Big changes going into 2009: a commitment to youth over journeymen, an improved defense, and the arrival of Mike Maddux.

The top eight starters in 2009: Feldman, Millwood, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Padilla, McCarthy, Harrison, and Dustin Nippert. And they were the top eight of just 10 starters overall (Doug Mathis and Kris Benson started two times each). That's after Texas averaged 14 starters a year from 2005 through 2008.

Better. Much, much better.

Going into 2010, the probable top eight at the moment: Feldman, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Hunter, Holland, Harrison, McCarthy, and Neftali Feliz.

Maybe even C.J. Wilson, but he's going to be either top five or not on the list at all (hard to imagine him joining the rotation mid-season). Bet on him returning to the bullpen. Eric Hurley won't be ready Opening Day, but he should be before the All-Star Break.

Compare the 2010 group to 2009.

Can Feldman repeat? Don't know, but he's a far better bet going into 2010 than he was going into 2009.

Holland and Hunter and McCarthy and Harrison: Probably fair to expect more out of the first three with 2009 under their belts.

Harden instead of Millwood: Works for me.

Lewis instead of Padilla: As much of an unknown as Lewis might be this second time around, there's no question which of those two you'd take.

Feliz instead of Nippert: There's a reason that, though both are still around, the 21-year-old is the one getting the rotation shot.

I'm not sure I'd be able to argue that the 2009 starter crop, at least in advance of the season, was in better shape than the 2010 group.

Assuming Feldman, Harden, and Lewis are locks, the competition for the final two spots coming out of camp will leave four of Hunter, Holland, Harrison, McCarthy, Feliz, and Wilson to evaluate for bullpen roles alongside Frankie Francisco, Darren O'Day, Darren Oliver, Chris Ray, Mathis, and Nippert.

And that doesn't even account for Rule 5 selection Ben Snyder, or Guillermo Moscoso and Pedro Strop, who showed flashes in 2009, or Warner Madrigal, who did so in 2008. Big depth.

While Texas is probably done for the winter (with the exception of adding a backup catcher - probably of the non-roster variety - and possibly another non-roster starting pitcher willing to take a AAA assignment), there the Rangers were on Tuesday, among at least eight teams attending Ben Sheets's two-inning simulated game in Monroe, Louisiana. Maddux and Don Welke were on hand to evaluate Sheets, who had agreed in principle to a two-year contract with the Rangers last year before a failed physical scuttled the deal.

One unidentified scout in attendance suggested the Rangers, Mets, and Cubs were the leading candidates to sign Sheets. Other stories have the Mariners and A's in the mix. I have my doubts that he'll end up here.

Yes, Texas is looking to Lewis to replace Millwood's innings and production (an average the last three years of 11 wins and a 4.58 ERA over 180 innings) at a dramatically lower cost. But that overlooks the addition of Harden. Look at it this way: The Rangers were on the hook to pay Millwood $12 million in 2010 once his contract vested last summer. Instead, they will pay Lewis $1.75 million this year, will send $3 million to the Orioles to help pay Millwood, and will owe Harden a guaranteed $7.5 million (including the buyout). Lewis and Harden are here at virtually the same cost to the club as Millwood would have been himself.

Another point to clarify: Yes, McCarthy and Ray both have options (I believe each has two, despite what you might have read elsewhere) but would have to clear waivers in order to be optioned, because they reached the active big league roster more than three years ago. However, the waivers are revocable, and thus teams generally don't block waivers of that kind. (Also, neither has the requisite five years of big league service needed to decline an option.)

Outfielder Greg Golson was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for infielder Khalil Greene on the 40-man roster. (Another player will have to be removed from the roster to make room for Lewis.)

Golson, acquired last winter from Philadelphia for outfielder John Mayberry Jr., has a plus arm and plus speed, can play all three outfield spots well, and has the type of raw power that completes a package that has had scouts waiting for the reincarnation of Ron Gant for years. But he hasn't hit, regressing from .282/.333/.434 with 13 home runs in AA in 2008 to .258/.299/.344 with two homers in AAA in 2009, and not only did Julio Borbon predictably race past him on the club's depth chart, but fellow speed/defense type Craig Gentry got the September nod rather than Golson, notable in that Gentry's addition cost Texas an extra roster move (the loss of Thomas Diamond on waivers).

Golson has two options remaining and would seem to be a strong candidate to be claimed off waivers. If Texas perceives that to be the likely result, the club could look to trade the 24-year-old for a non-roster prospect during this 10-day window before running him out on the waiver wire in hopes of keeping him.

The Rangers settled on one-year deals with Josh Hamilton ($3.25 million, with several award-based incentives), Wilson ($3.1 million), and Ray ($975,000), and two arbitration-eligibles remain: Feldman (seeking $2.9 million, club offering $2.05 million) and Francisco ($3.6 million vs. $3 million).

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus recently reported that Texas and San Francisco could be the leading contenders to sign catcher Yorvit Torrealba, since which time the Giants signed Bengie Molina. Perrotto suggests San Diego and Seattle could also be in on Torrealba.

Rest in peace, Bobby Bragan.

The early buzz on Colombian 16-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro has been considerable. He flashes tools at the plate and behind it.

Texas named Joe Furukawa coordinator of Pacific Rim operations.

Padilla signed a one-year deal to stay with the Dodgers. It will pay $4.025 million, with a deferred $1 million signing bonus.

Seattle locking Felix Hernandez up through 2014 isn't great news for Texas, but something about that guy makes me think a Carlos Zambrano path isn't out of the question.

I've always been a Joel Pineiro fan as well, and the Angels did well to land him for two years and $16 million.

Milwaukee and Todd Coffey avoided arbitration. I mention that as much for the reason that the contract settlement is for the unusual figure of $2,025,002 as for his pseudo-cousinhood to the Newberg Report.

ESPN's Buster Olney wrote that "[a] numbers-oriented friend recently ran a 1,000-season simulation of the AL West, and in most cases, the Rangers won the division, and in most cases, the last-place team was the Mariners."

Outfielder Engel Beltre is one of 11 players on Baseball America's "All-Non-Top 10 All-Stars," comprised of prospects who missed their clubs' BA top 10 lists. ANTTAS alums include Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis, and Howie Kendrick.

The Rangers released minor league righthanders Dustin Brader, Jake Geglein, and Brock Piper.

Boston signed righthander Edwin Moreno. Houston got utility man Jason Bourgeois through waivers and outrighted him to AAA Round Rock.

The Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League re-signed first baseman Jim Fasano.

Does anyone have a iPod of 40 GB or more you want to sell? I've got a 20 GB iPod I'd put into the deal and would pay you the difference.

We'll be set up at Fan Fest at Rangers Ballpark on January 30, hosting autograph guests this year in the Cuervo Club rather than the Diamond Club. We'll have the player list at some point as we get closer to the event. (Last year, we had Michael Young, Michael Ballard, Holland, Kasey Kiker, Tim Murphy, Blake Beavan, Andrew Laughter, Feliz, Michael Main, and Kevin Richardson.)

Overall, more than 50 current and former Rangers players and coaches will be at Fan Fest to sign autographs. There will also be the standard activities, including Q&A sessions with players, club officials, and announcers; opportunities to run the bases, catch pop-ups, and hit in the indoor batting cages; pitching, hitting, and catching clinics led by Rangers coaches and alumni; silent auction and memorabilia sales; and season ticket and mini-plan Select-A-Seat sales. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 13 and under. Parking is free.

Eleanor Czajka has gathered links to stories and photos from last month's Newberg Report Book Release Party at this link.

It's confirmed: The second book release party will be on Tuesday, February 2, at Sherlock's in Dallas (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane). Time to be determined, but most likely starting at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. We'll have the 2010 Bound Edition for sale, as well as Carson Leslie's book, "Carry Me." Michael Young will appear for a Q&A session, and we might have another Q&A guest or two as well.

This will not be an autograph event, but I think we're going to have Michael sign five of my books and five of Carson's and make the signed books available to the 10 highest bidders. We might even bring a professional live auctioneer out to liven things up. All winning bid proceeds will benefit Wipe Out Kids Cancer.

Yes, I know "Lost" premieres that night. TiVo is your friend.

Harden & Lewis

Both for no more than Millwood

Does that work for you?

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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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