We're down to 40 sleeps until Pitchers & Catchers, which is roughly a haircut cycle for me, which drives home how close we are to getting things rolling once again. Obviously, I'm not used to this "Can we do it again?" mindset, accustomed instead to "Can we finally do it this time?"
Is Texas done reshaping its roster, once Guillermo Moscoso or someone else is dropped to make room for Adrian Beltre? Maybe. Jon Daniels said as much as Wednesday's Beltre press conference, leaving room for the possibility that some other opportunity to improve the club could present itself before camp opens up. If not, though? "I'm comfortable with our club," said Daniels.
Rafael Soriano? No, says Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, who reports that Texas never was in on the closer at any point this off-season. (So the Red Sox can rest assured that they'll get the Rangers' first-round pick, 26th overall, for the loss of Beltre, and not a second-rounder instead, though Boston might have to worry instead about facing Soriano in the eighth inning if he's as open to signing with the Yankees as he says he is.) (On the other hand, Buster Olney of ESPN writes this morning that New York has flagging interest in Soriano.)
Vladimir Guerrero? Nope, says Daniels. That door has closed.
But Jim Thome? Lots of media talk about that possibility yesterday, though it does raise the question of what the plan would be for Michael Young if Thome were brought in for a year.
Jeff Francis? Even after the arrival of Brandon Webb ($3 million base, additional $4 million in workload incentives and another $1 million based on days spent on the active roster), Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN count Texas as one of eight teams interested in the left-handed reclamation project.
Matt Garza? Tampa Bay wants too much.
Andy Pettitte? New York or Deer Park, it looks like.
Carl Pavano? No.
The thing is, we really don't know what could be in store. The Rangers' interest this winter in signing Cliff Lee was well publicized (particularly since he was a player the club was trying to retain, rather than go out and get), but aside from that? The Beltre move came as a relative surprise, without much in the way of strong speculation until the last couple days of negotiations. Webb happened fairly quietly. Arthur Rhodes ($3.9 million in 2011, another $4 million in 2012 if he appears 62 times this season and doesn't finish the year on the disabled list) came out of nowhere, as did Yorvit Torrealba.
And the trade for Lee.
And the trade for Josh Hamilton.
Player moves rarely get telegraphed out of Arlington these days. The Daniels concession on Wednesday that he's comfortable going to war with the roster he has now is as definitive an answer as we'll ever get from him on his intentions, and even then he threw in the reminder that he's always looking for ways to get better. Maybe this winter, maybe during spring training, maybe in July.
At this time a year ago, Texas had yet to sign Guerrero. Or Colby Lewis. Or Khalil Greene.
During camp, Greene's decision not to report (and the lackluster showing of non-roster signee Ray Olmedo) caused Daniels to claim Hernan Iribarren off waivers, trade for Gregorio Petit (by sending Oakland reliever Edwar Ramirez, whom he'd traded for two weeks earlier), and trade for Andres Blanco. Saltalamacchia's health questions led Daniels to trade Olmedo late in camp for Matt Treanor. The inability of Matt Brown (who was signed a year ago today) or Max Ramirez to seize the role of right-handed corner infield bat on the bench prompted Daniels to claim Ryan Garko off waivers.
During the season, despite not having any meaningful room on the payroll, Daniels traded for Bengie Molina. And Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe. And Jorge Cantu. And Cristian Guzman. And Jeff Francoeur.
And now, Daniels has acknowledged there's room in the budget for more roster improvement - though he's quick to point out that he's not inclined to spend it now just to hit a spreadsheet number. It's there, but at this point any opportunity that presents itself will be weighed not only against present roster options, but also against the possibility of various July possibilities, which you know Daniels and his crew have already mapped out, and possibly laid groundwork for.
Lots can happen amidst these next 40 sleeps. But you can expect Texas to be aggressive with its roster well into the summer, especially if it's in contention past the midpoint of the season.
A few things from the Beltre presser:
1. He's likely to hit fourth, behind Josh Hamilton and in front of Nelson Cruz, according to Ron Washington, who cited Beltre's experience as a key factor. (Recall, however, that Washington penciled Cruz in at number six and Chris Davis at number seven going into Cactus League play a year ago - and signaled an intention to flip those two by Opening Day so Davis could break up the Guerrero/Ian Kinsler/Cruz righty party. Nothing's etched in stone.)
2. For what it's worth, Beltre's highest career OPS (.830) has come while batting in the cleanup spot (not counting the 1.512 he has in 15 career at-bats hitting ninth).
3. This caught me off guard: Even though Beltre has played on winning clubs nine times in 13 years, he's only been to the playoffs once, in 2004 when the Dodgers won 93 games and the NL West but managed only one victory in the NLDS before St. Louis put them away.
4. Daniels said that when he called other executives for whom Beltre had played (in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston), and Rangers players and coaches and trainers and others called their counterparts who had been with those clubs, there was not a single negative word uttered. Texas was looking for red flags as part of its due diligence. Found none.
5. Not only do the Red Sox come to Arlington as the Rangers' first opponent when the season opens - the Mariners come in right after them.
6. Beltre's first big league home run? Batting ninth for the Dodgers in his sixth big league game, an interleague affair in Arlington on June 30, 1998. After fouling off Rick Helling's first pitch with two outs in the sixth and a man on first, Beltre took two pitches outside the strike zone before taking the Rangers' ace deep to extend the Los Angeles lead to 4-0. A Fernando Tatis homer in the bottom of the frame was all Texas would muster off Darren Dreifort and Antonio Osuna.
7. Beltre has hit for the cycle one time in his big league career - on September 1, 2008 in Rangers Ballpark: home run off Matt Harrison, run-scoring single off Harrison, another single off Harrison, double off Luis Mendoza, run-scoring triple off Josh Rupe. Warner Madrigal got Beltre to ground out to shortstop Michael Young to end Seattle's ninth in a 12-6 Mariners win.
8. Beltre called one Rangers player before signing his contract: Not a former teammate. Not a Dominican countryman. Michael Young.
9. I was struck Wednesday by Beltre's demeanor, and expect him to be among the primary leaders on this team, eventually. He's a little cocky (seeming to toy with the media session at times), but more self-assured than self-righteous, speaks both English and Spanish as if he's done so his whole life, and given his reputation for playing hard and playing through pain, the formula's there for Beltre to be a go-to guy in the clubhouse - particularly since he's going to be here for a very long time.
10. Julio Borbon will surrender uniform number 29 to Beltre, taking on number 20 and whatever Beltre deems fair consideration.
I wish I'd had the chance to listen to Los Angeles sports talk radio on Wednesday.
According to Heyman, Beltre's contract contains limited no-trade protection, though no further details were given. He'll earn $14 million in 2011, $15 million in 2012, $16 million in 2013, $17 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015, and $16 million in 2016, while that final year's contract is voidable by the club if Beltre fails to amass 1200 plate appearances in 2014-15 and also fails to reach 600 plate appearances in 2015. (The sixth year vests if Beltre reaches either number.) If the sixth year vests but Beltre finishes the 2015 season on the disabled list and a physician mutually agreed upon determines that he's unable to play at "normal health" by spring training of 2016, Texas will have the right to defer $12 million of the $16 million owed to Beltre in 2016 at 1% simple interest.
David Murphy agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million contract yesterday, avoiding arbitration.
There's some talk that Kinsler could be looked at atop the order again.
Webb expects to be 100 percent ready to participate in all pitchers' drills when camp opens. The Rangers are cautiously optimistic that he'll be ready for Opening Day.
I'm going to buy a P90X system. For those who have done it, should I just buy it directly from the company, or are there better ways? I'm not really a craigslist or eBay guy.
The Rangers are bringing back minor league free agent Elio Sarmiento, likely to catch again for Frisco, but saw minor league free agent Doug Mathis depart. The righthander signed a non-roster deal with Cleveland, getting an invite to big league spring training. Colorado signed Iribarren to a minor league deal.
The Rangers signed 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Rougned Odor for a reported $425,000 bonus, and two Dominican teenagers, catcher Fernando Vivili ($300,000) and righthander Jose Leclair ($95,000).
Odor is easily the highest-profile of the three players, connected in the spring with the Yankees before the signing period opened on July 2. The left-handed batter hit .538/.545/.857 for the Venezuelan Youth National Team in the World Youth Championships in Taiwan this August, with two home runs, a triple, and a double among his 15 hits (though he's not expected to hit for significant power). Odor struck out only twice in 28 at-bats in the tournament, and stole five bases in six attempts, though his run tool, while improving in some scouts' eyes, is still considered only average. Odor's uncle Rouglas Odor is Cleveland's AA hitting coach.
Texas released the following farmhands: righthander Sam Brown, infielder/outfielder Joe Bonadonna, and infielders Danny Lima and Vicente Cafaro, the latter of whom was a player-coach with the Arizona League squad.
Houston released second baseman German Duran.
The Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League exercised their 2011 option on righthander Dustin Brader.
Righthander Yu Darvish renewed his contract with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for one year, getting more than a 50 percent raise to what will roughly be a $6 million deal for 2011 (which will be the largest salary in the league). Asked whether he expects to be posted a year from now to make his way to the Major Leagues, the 24-year-old responded: "No comment." His ERA's in Japan the last four seasons have been 1.82, 1.88, 1.73, and 1.78, over which time he's fanned 807 batters in 791.1 innings with a 58-22 record, and if you thought the posting frenzy over Daisuke Matsuzaka four years ago was maniacal, wait until Darvish posts.
And expect Texas to be heavily in on him, whether there's a Cashman-like shout from the rooftops or not.