Assuming that there was some degree of truth to Jon Heyman's 11-day-old report in which the SI.com rumor goldmine suggested that the Texas Rangers were expected to target former Rockies closer Brian Fuentes as a late-inning mercenary, there's probably reason to believe that the Rangers could join what should ultimately become a heated pursuit to secure the services of Irving native Kerry Wood, whose 10-year run as a Cub drew to a close on Thursday.
(Speaking of which, how about that Kevin Gregg-to-Chicago trade? Awwwwful. Still, probably not as bad as the Nick Swisher trade, which comes off as a pure salary dump on the part of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams -- who managed to net an uninspiring three-player package consisting of Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez for Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira, a right-handed reliever who might be more intriguing than any of the talent Chicago recouped -- and looks even worse when you consider that Williams relinquished Gio Gonzalez, Faustino De Los Santos, Ryan Sweeney and $3.5 million to acquire Swisher not even 11 months ago.
Not a real great day to be a Chicago baseball fan, regardless of which side of the compass your loyalties lie.)
At the same time, there's probably also reason to believe that the Rangers' apparent refusal to pursue Trevor Hoffman or Francisco Rodriguez -- so says MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, at least -- is indicative of reluctance on the part of the organization to shell out big bucks to address the bullpen, which would certainly be required if the Rangers were to make a legitimate play for either Fuentes or Wood.
For what it's worth, Texas was reportedly willing to offer Wood a two-year deal last winter before Cubs general manager Jim Hendry retained Wood with an incentive-laden one-year deal worth a guaranteed $4.2 million. I don't know how much circumstances within the front office have changed since last November with regard to not only the Rangers' level of interest in the fireballing right-hander, but also their ability to serve up a fair, yet lucrative offer; however, the history is there for speculative types such as myself to obsess over.
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that Texas will be counting on Nelson Cruz to prove his ridiculous late-season run at the plate wasn't a fluke, given that Milton Bradley's departure for greener pastures (literally) seems all but assured.
Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus submits the following as names the Rangers might conceivably pursue: Kenny Rogers, Jason Jennings, Bartolo Colon, Mark Mulder and A.J. Burnett. Quick, which of these is not like the others?
Two items of particular interest from ESPN.com's Jayson Stark: first, the Yankees are evidently expected to "come roaring out of the free-agent blocks" and offer CC Sabathia a six-year deal "in the neighborhood of $140 million" (again, there's a reason why I've explicitly avoided mentioning Sabathia in this space -- the Rangers' chances of signing him are nil, and have been for a long time), and second, the Reds are believed to be quietly exploring the trade market for Bronson Arroyo, which purportedly has Texas contemplating the idea of making an offer.
It certainly isn't the first time the Rangers have been linked to Arroyo in some fashion, and I sincerely doubt it'll be the last time either.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Ian Kinsler will not suit up for the United States in next spring's World Baseball Classic unless the Rangers can convince Major League Baseball to insure his contract, an issue stemming from Kinsler finishing the regular season on the disabled list due to a troublesome sports hernia.
Also from Grant: minor leaguers Jose Vallejo and John Mayberry Jr. are the only upcoming "automatic adds" to the Rangers' 40-man roster, which is significant because both are Rule 5 draft-eligible and could theoretically be procured from the organization. Pedro Strop, Omar Poveda, Michael Schlact and John Bannister are also on the bubble, though it would seem that Poveda would take major precedence over the other names on that short list; Strop, in particular, probably won't be assigned to a minor league affiliate until sometime after Opening Day, and that alone should discourage most teams from basically punting a 25-man roster spot for an indefinite period of time.
[Update: Procedural guru Mike Hindman astutely points out that if the Rangers choose not to protect Strop and he is drafted next month, the drafting club could place him on the 60-day disabled list, enjoy a two-month evaluation period (including a 30-day minor league rehab assignment), and then decide whether he's worth using a 40-man roster spot on for the remainder of the season. Still, that might be a chance Texas deems worth taking given the present roster crunch.]
Let the hunting season begin.