With Mark Teixeira back in town, aside from the appeal of a series against the Braves and an opportunity to shave down the Angels' division lead and the Rays' Wild Card lead, two things bubbled to the surface of my Rangers brain.
Number one: I loved it when Teixeira was on this team. I'll be the first to tell you that, based on what Jon Daniels was able to do with him 11 months ago, the Rangers are certainly better off with the five players acquired in the trade than they would have been with two 2009 first- or second-round draft picks. But I loved having that guy in this lineup and manning first base. He played his tail off while he was here, and he played well.
Number two: Partially because of the Braves trade, Texas could find itself in a tougher position this July than the club has been in, as far as trades are concerned, in a long time.
Stay with me.
In the NFL, Oakland can let it be known to the league that Randy Moss can be had for an early fourth-round pick. There were probably a dozen teams, maybe more, who could have satisfied the Raiders' price on Draft Day in 2007, and the fact that they made the deal with New England is basically because Miami at number 108 overall didn't bite, and neither did Atlanta at number 109. The Patriots offered number 110, and it was time to do the paperwork. Pretty simple.
In the NBA, the playing field is also leveled by virtue of the tradeability of draft picks, even if the salary cap guidelines make it a little more complicated. Still, Seattle didn't trade Ray Allen to Boston a year ago because the Sonics had keyed on Wally Szczerbiak or Delonte West. It was the number five overall pick that the Celtics held. Had Memphis offered the number four pick and their own matching contracts, Allen probably would have ended up with the Grizzlies (and maybe we'd have crowned a different league champion last night).
Presumably, it didn't really matter to Seattle which team held the pick that they wanted to flip Allen for. And the Raiders didn't care whose fourth-rounder they moved Moss for, as long as it was in an area of the draft that they were seeking.
But in baseball? You can't trade draft picks, and thus there's no Jimmy Johnson draft chart that arguably equalizes teams' trading assets.
And that's bad for the Rangers right now.
Hypothetical: Texas pinpoints Padres middle reliever Heath Bell as a July trade target. He's 30 years old and has never pitched in a role more leveraged than the eighth inning, but he has lots going for him: over the last two years, his ERA is 2.03, he's punched out 135 hitters in 133.1 innings, and opponents are hitting a flimsy .188/.260/.245 against him, going deep just three times in 469 at-bats. Plus, he'll be under team control in 2009, 2010, and 2011, as this winter will be his first with enough service to qualify for arbitration.
You can substitute Pittsburgh's Damaso Marte or the Mets' Aaron Heilman or Washington's Jon Rauch if you'd like, or San Diego's Cla Meredith. This part isn't particularly important.
Do you think Omar Poveda, Jose Vallejo, and Brennan Garr should be enough to get Bell? That Zach Phillips and Manny Pina should be enough to get Rauch or Meredith? That if you add Marcus Lemon, you should have enough to get Marte or Heilman?
Now change "should" to "would."
What do you think the chances are that San Diego or Washington or Pittsburgh or New York would not tell Texas that unless Chris Davis or Max Ramirez or Elvis Andrus or Neftali Feliz or Wilmer Font is on the table, there's no sense in having a conversation?
The problem that the Rangers could conceivably have next month is that, because of the Atlanta and Cleveland and Boston trades last July, the organization's surge the last few years in Latin America, and the better drafting it has done recently, other teams may not accept reasonable trade proposals that, if they came from teams without a stronger top tier, might be good enough to get a deal done.
It strikes me as plausible that if St. Louis went to Toronto and asked for left-handed reliever Scott Downs (under control through 2010), and if the Cardinals happened to have John Mayberry Jr. (.303/.361/.539 in AA/AAA this season) in their system, the Blue Jays might be more inclined to entertain the idea of a one-for-one deal than they would be if Texas called and offered Mayberry straight up, if that makes sense.
I certainly don't long for the days when every Rangers fan knew that we'd have to trade one of an obvious two or three minor league players in order to make an impact trade. That's far from the point here. I'm just suggesting (hopefully mistakenly) that, because this system has gotten so much stronger than it was the last time the club was a potential July buyer, other teams are going to try and hold Daniels up over the next seven weeks.
(But also remember this, before you decide that every prospect in the system can go ahead and turn down vacation plans for the 2011 All-Star Break: Yes, the Dominican righthander Feliz is 7-6, 2.71 as a 20-year-old pro, with jaw-dropping stuff, more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings and fewer than four walks, and just three home runs allowed in three seasons. But heed the cautionary tale of Dominican righthander Jovanny Cedeno, who, at age 20, was 15-4, 2.16 as a pro, with jaw-dropping stuff, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings and just over three walks, and just two home runs allowed in two seasons - and saw his career end before he could get out of Class A.)
(No, forget that. Feliz is The Goods.)
On a related topic, ESPN's Peter Gammons wrote, on the subject of possible trade partners for Cleveland should the Indians decide to shop lefthander C.C. Sabathia:
"How about the Texas Rangers. General manager Jon Daniels has rebuilt the farm system, owner Tom Hicks has the cash, it's a left-handed ballpark, the fact that C.C. was throwing 98 mph in the ninth inning of his second to last start tells us he's completely healthy and the Rangers might be able to do a trade and sign for the No. 1 starter they need to compete in the next three years."
Sure, but what if it took Feliz, Andrus, Kasey Kiker, and Warner Madrigal just to get to the second round of the sweepstakes - without any guarantee that you could keep Sabathia from hitting free agency this winter?
And then, when the Yankees reluctantly agreed to include both Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero in their four-player offer, Cleveland came back and said Davis or Ramirez or Font needs to be in the conversation to stay in the game?
Not an unrelated thought: I'm coming around to the idea that a trade of Gerald Laird is no longer inevitable, and that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not necessarily untouchable.
Milton Bradley suffered a mild strain of his left quad muscle on his bases-loaded single in the third inning last night. He's day to day.
Vicente Padilla is now 9-3, 3.73 - a 20-win pace - after going 6-10, 5.76 in 2007. His career best in wins came in 2006, his first Rangers season, when he went 15-10, 4.50.
Hank Blalock's rehab assignment has been pushed back to this weekend, and his return to the Texas roster could now arrive on June 24.
Davis is number five on Baseball America's current Hot Sheet.
BA named Rangers' first-rounder Justin Smoak its First-Team All-American first baseman.
The Rangers have brought right-handed reliever Joselo Diaz back. He'll work out of the Frisco bullpen.
Feliz got a groundout from the one batter he faced in last night's Midwest League All-Star Game. Lefthander Derek Holland fanned two and allowed one hit in a scoreless inning of work. Left fielder Tim Smith homered in the top of the 10th for the ultimate game-winner. First baseman Ian Gac and right fielder Mitch Moreland each singled and walked, while third baseman Jonathan Greene doubled and catcher Jose Felix singled. Shortstop Renny Osuna was hitless in three trips.
Gac finished second in the league's home run derby.
The reason Texas activated righthander Thomas Diamond from the disabled list and optioned him to Frisco is that Diamond's rehab assignment had expired.
In his last three starts, Oklahoma righthander Luis Mendoza has permitted one earned run on 10 hits and one walk while fanning 12 in 15 innings.
Poveda, who missed two months with arm soreness, one-hit Inland Empire through seven innings on Monday, before tiring in the eighth. It was his second Bakersfield appearance since returning from the disabled list.
Righthander Neil Ramirez made his pro debut last night, holding Everett to two runs on one hit and four walks in three innings of Spokane's season opener, striking out four. He also balked four times. Eleventh-round pick Cliff Springston pitched the seventh and eighth in Spokane's 15-3 win, yielding no hits or runs, walking one, and getting five of his six outs on the ground (and the sixth on strikes). Third baseman Matt West, finished with his 50-game suspension for testing positive last summer for a performance-enhancing substance, singled twice and drove in two runs. The 2007 second-rounder out of Houston Bellaire hit .301/.397/.388 in 103 Arizona League at-bats last season.
Tom Grieve is shooting for a June 27 return to the TV booth.
The Mets, having promoted AAA New Orleans manager Ken Oberkfell to serve as big league first base coach in place of the fired Tom Nieto, named Marty Scott as Oberkfell's replacement at the helm of the Zephyrs. Scott has had a fascinating baseball career, starting with five seasons (1977-1981) as a corner infielder in the Rangers farm system, followed by three seasons as a minor league manager and then 10 years as the Rangers' director of player development (1985-1994), when he forged a relationship with Mets general manager Omar Minaya. Scott then managed the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association for six years (1995-2000) and Team USA for a couple years. For the last four years, he has been a baseball recruiter for EBS Sports Management, a sports agency based in the Metroplex.
I finally got the chance to see Edinson Volquez pitch for the Reds over the weekend. It was really eye-opening. The violence in his mechanics hasn't died down much, which might help explain why he threw only 62.5 percent of his pitches for strikes, but here's the thing: in truth he probably didn't throw 50 percent of his pitches for strikes, or even for balls intentionally out of the zone in spots he wanted them to be. His stuff is so wicked right now that he gets out of trouble because he forces major league hitters to do stupid things. At least six or eight times he sailed a fastball high and outside to a left-handed Red Sox hitter that ended up flailing at it for a really ugly swing and miss.
I bet a dozen Volquez pitches missed the plate by at least two feet, and yet Saturday's box score reveals just one walk, to go along with nine strikeouts in seven innings.
If the 24-year-old (9-2, 1.64) starts to command his fastball just a tick better, one day they might start calling young fastball-change slingshot righthanders "Little Edinson."
Eleanor Czajka has posted the results of your vote on the Rangers' minor league player and pitcher of the month for May, at http://www.dickiethon.com/eczajka/may_2008.htm.
The Cubs signed Ben Broussard to a minor league deal.
A free Bound Edition (you choose the year) to the first person willing to let us borrow Season Two of "Lost" on DVD for a few weeks.
In an effort not to fan any flames, I won't name the writer or his employer, but a national baseball scribe, in assessing David Murphy recently, wrote: "I don't see a ton of upside. If there was, then the Red Sox wouldn't have dealt him and Kason Gabbard to rent Eric Gagné for two months."
Another example of the mystifying deference that Boston and a few other teams get from the national media. Is it not possible that the Red Sox made a mistake on Murphy's ceiling? Or conceivable that Boston thought Murphy could become this and were willing to roll the dice on Gagné anyway, knowing that with Jacoby Ellsbury arriving to play center and J.D. Drew holding the club up through 2011, and with Manny Ramirez a player whom Boston would go out and replace with another superstar if he were to leave, Murphy was never going to have a defined role with them?
Does it categorically mean that Murphy has "not a ton of upside" simply, by definition, because Boston included him in a trade for two months of Eric Gagné?
I guess Theo Epstein wasn't in charge when Boston sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for Andy Marte, but I'm pretty sure he signed off on Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena. The Red Sox aren't quite perfect on the trade ledger.
Regardless of any bias you might have against Boston, if you're inclined to try and unseat Dustin Pedroia and make Ian Kinsler the starting American League second baseman in next month's All-Star Game, as it should be, and to try and get Bradley voted in, and so on, Chuck Morgan has a pretty cool plan for Newberg Report readers to help continue the voting surge that Rangers fans have engineered. Head to http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4986#p93141 for Chuck's message.
Righthander Eric Hurley makes his home debut tonight, facing a Braves team whose first-round pick Texas inherited and used on Hurley when the Braves signed righthander John Thomson as a free agent before the 2004 season. It doesn't exactly have the same full-circle drama surrounding Mark Teixeira's return, but I'm looking forward to seeing if Hurley can build off his encouraging debut in Kansas City, get deep into the game, and help Texas win another series.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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