A few things I'm thinking about:
1. Buster Olney (ESPN) is among those reporting that the Angels' final offer to Adrian Beltre was $77 million guaranteed, which was $3 million less than Texas guaranteed him. The clean $80 million figure is good for Scott Boras, good for the Union. The sixth year at another $16 million is significant, no doubt.
But I do like seeing that the Angels' guarantee was just $600,000 a year less than the Rangers' guarantee, an almost insignificant baseball number when you consider that it's less than one percent of the Angels' team payroll, closer to one-half of one percent. Beltre lives in Los Angeles, too.
For too many years, the Rangers would be right there with other clubs on big free agents and finish second, often used as a pawn to get the ultimate winner to spend top dollar. Whether you agree with the contract or not, I like that Beltre picked Texas.
2. According to Peter Gammons (MLB.com), the Rangers offered Derek Holland, Frankie Francisco, Engel Beltre, Cubs minor league catcher Robinson Chirinos, and cash to Tampa Bay for Matt Garza, before the Rays shipped the righthander (along with outfielder Fernando Perez and lefthander Zach Rosscup) to the Cubs for outfielder Sam Fuld and four prospects: righthander Chris Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, and Chirinos.
The Chirinos component to the Rangers' offer obviously meant he was a key for the Rays and that Texas attempted to get the Cubs involved in its own effort to acquire Garza. Stories from Bruce Levine (ESPN Chicago) and Ed Price (FanHouse) in November and December suggested that the Rangers and Cubs were in talks that might have involved Chris Davis (and possibly Darren O'Day) on the Texas side, and Chirinos (and possibly righthander Rafael Dolis) on the Chicago side. So to take the Gammons note a step further, the cost from the Rangers - who were "the other team in it to the end" for Garza, along with the Cubs - might have included Holland, Francisco, Beltre, Davis, and cash. That's a lot. (The Yankees also backed off a Garza deal, according to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News, because the Rays' ask was too high.)
I'm a Garza fan. But that package would have made me nervous (maybe the Beltre part more than any), considering Garza wouldn't have been a clear number one on this team. He'd have been an outstanding addition to C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis atop this rotation, but removing Holland as part of the deal makes you ask the question of how much better you believe Garza will be than Holland in 2012 and 2013, the final two years of control the Rangers would have with Garza. I'm not able to answer that question with conviction - plus I'm a believer that Engel Beltre can be an important piece here in those two years.
3. Then again, top prospects have a tendency to disappoint. Philip Humber was not only a first-round pick out of Rice but the third overall pick of the draft in 2004. He was traded by the Mets to the Twins as a key part of the four-player package to get Johan Santana before the 2008 season. He spent more time the next three seasons (two with Minnesota, one with Kansas City) in AAA than in the big leagues, clearing league-wide waivers in April 2009 and again in August 2009 when the Twins designated him for assignment. The Royals signed him to a minor league deal last winter, brought him to the big leagues in August, and designated him for assignment three weeks ago. Oakland claimed him.
And then the A's designated him for assignment yesterday, without having even seen him in camp - so they give Moscoso a roster spot.
4. Interesting note from Keith Law (ESPN) about what the Rays got from the Cubs: "Starting with the prospects, I love this trade for Tampa Bay. They got more for Garza than Kansas City did for Zack Greinke, although their package of players is, collectively, further away than what the Royals got. It looks to me like the Rays focused less on position and more on overall value."
In other words: Bravo, Tampa Bay. Not so sure, Kansas City.
(Part of what I wrote when the Greinke trade went down: "The Royals' haul for Zack Greinke might pan out well, but I'd have this nagging concern if I were a Royals fan that it has a ‘trade for need' feel, and that new Kansas City skipper Ned Yost is more familiar with Milwaukee's young players than any other club's, and that the Royals' ask was reportedly lower for interested National League teams than it was for AL suitors.")
5. Do the additions of Greinke (two years of control), Garza (three years), and Shawn Marcum (two years) to the NL Central accelerate the possibility that Houston would trade Wandy Rodriguez? Two reasons:
a. St. Louis and Cincinnati were already going to make things tough for the Astros the next few years, and now the Brewers and Cubs have taken aggressive steps as well. With Rodriguez a strong bet to go away via free agency next winter (sitting near the top of a relatively thin crop of starting pitchers that could include Mark Buehrle, Wilson, and Edwin Jackson), it would probably make sense for Houston to test his market (in the summer, if not now) rather than bank on two 2012 draft picks, neither of which would be positioned before the back half of the first round.
b. With Cliff Lee, Greinke, and Garza off the market, and several contenders still looking for a frontline starting pitcher, Rodriguez could be sold high right now - or in July, but that assumes he pitches as well this season as he has the past three years, which includes a ridiculous second half of 2010 while nobody was paying attention: 5-1, 2.11 in 14 starts, 101 strikeouts and 28 walks in 93.2 innings, .204/.268/.331 opponents' slash.
Maybe the Astros have been quietly shopping Rodriguez. They should be.
6. Speaking of the next few years, every time I think about Adrian Beltre at third base and in the middle of this lineup, I get fired up.
7. There's one thing I worry about as far as Wilson is concerned. He established a lot of good things in 2011. He was durable, consistent, at times dominant, and proved he could pitch in big games. But the contract year concerns me - I think Wilson's DNA makes him a candidate to try and "do too much" (no matter how you define that vague description, I think you know what I mean), and with the departure of Lee's minimalist guidance (trust your stuff, make 'em beat you, no need to trick things up) . . . well, I'm a little nervous.
8. A few notes on righthander Ryan Kelly, picked up from Oakland yesterday for Guillermo Moscoso, who had been designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Beltre:
a. The A's had just acquired Kelly from Pittsburgh two weeks earlier, sending AAA infielder-outfielder Corey Wimberly to the Pirates for him.
b. On Day Two of the 2006 draft, Texas area scout Rick Schroeder successfully recommended 19-year-old lefthanders in back-to-back rounds: Walters State Community College's Lance McClain in the 24th round, and Wallace State Community College's Derek Holland in the 25th round. McClain didn't sign (eventually transferring to the University of Tennessee and then Cumberland University and going to Boston in the 12th round two years later). Holland would sign with Texas after one more Wallace State season, as a draft-and-follow.
Kelly went in the following round, the 26th, to Pittsburgh, who drafted him out of a South Carolina high school. The Pirates followed him in the spring of 2007 - a season during which he pitched for Walters State, settling in on Senators staff that had just lost McClain to Tennessee.
Kelly would sign with the Pirates just before the 2007 draft, for $100,000, which was roughly seventh-round money, rather than return to Walters State for the 2008 season . . .
. . . when he would have been teammates with Rangers lefthander prospect Chad Bell, who starred for the Senators in 2008 and 2009 before signing with Texas in August 2009 as its 14th-round pick.
c. Schroeder, who is now a Royals area scout, and Rangers area scout Jeff Wood obviously developed some sort of book on Kelly for the Rangers then. I doubt Chuck Greenberg has his own book on Kelly, but the righthander did pitch for Greenberg's State College Spikes club (the Pirates' New York-Penn League affiliate) in 2008, making six starts and two relief appearances (0-2, 6.75) in a season abbreviated by some minor arm tendinitis.
d. Kelly also missed some time in 2010 due to a fractured foot (sustained on a comebacker to the mound), but I don't even see a week of inactivity looking at his gamelogs this past season for Low A West Virginia. In 37 relief appearances and one spot start, Kelly posted a 4.20 ERA, stranded 14 of 15 inherited runners, and saved four games in five opportunities. Pitching mostly in middle relief, the lanky righthander (who pitched all season at age 22) fanned 75 and walked only 14 in 75 innings of work, with fairly even ground/air splits and nine home runs allowed.
e. Kelly faced Low A Hickory twice last season. On May 30, the Crawdads tagged him for four runs (three earned) in an inning and two-thirds on five hits, including one of Joe Bonadonna's three home runs for the year and an Ed Koncel double. Hickory won the game, 8-0, on a four-hitter spun by Neil Ramirez, Bell, and Braden Tullis, all three of whom could be High A Myrtle Beach teammates with Kelly this spring.
f. The Rangers cite command of a fastball touching 95-96 with life (out of a low-three-quarters slot) and the makings of a power curve (which has replaced his slider) when talking about his upside. The downside includes several arm issues in his four pro seasons, but only one (in 2007) that cost him a disabled list stint.
g. I had Jake Brigham at number 38 on my Bound Edition ranking of the Rangers system's top 72 prospects, and Mark Hamburger at number 68. Kelly fits a similar profile and probably sits somewhere in between. He's probably slated for Pelicans pen work to start the season, with a chance to get to Frisco by the summer.
h. This isn't a significant trade - you're not going to make one for a player who has been designated for assignment - but an effort to continue stockpiling power arms (in this case, at almost no cost) in hopes that some of them put it all together.
We'll have a Newberg Report booth at the Rangers' 2011 Fan Fest two weekends from now (January 22-23, Arlington Convention Center). More on that soon.