There is no greater novelty in East Texas than a light pelting of mid-December sleet and snow.
● ● ● ● ●
1:10 A.M. CST - Kansas City has inquired into the availability of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but those talks have stalled (T.R Sullivan, MLB.com)
[And so ends that time-consuming adventure in pseudo-live-blogging. Hope you enjoyed.]
12:40 A.M. CST - The Rangers' full 40-man roster equates to interdiction from the Major League portion of today's Rule 5 Draft, but several recognizable players -- including right-handers Michael Schlact and Pedro Strop -- remain unprotected and thus free for the taking. The prevailing sense, however, is that neither Schlact nor Strop will be drafted.
[Alright, so my prior consternation over the Rangers' decision to grant Willie Eyre Rule 5 Draft protection and leave Strop on the outside looking in was presumably all for naught. And you know what? Good. I'm pleased as punch to be wrong about something like this, because it means Texas gets to retain a talented young pitcher that I had feared might get snatched away.
That said, Wes Littleton is still a better bet going forward in that Boston organization than Eyre is here. But then we've been over all of that already, haven't we?]
12:35 A.M. CST - Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has severed trade talks with the Rangers -- for the time being, at least -- with regard to Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, stating that Milwaukee would search for pitching reinforcements elsewhere (Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
The Red Sox are reportedly zeroing in on Mark Teixeira, and evidently made significant headway in that regard on Wednesday (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
Philadelphia is attempting to literally give away right-hander Adam Eaton, imploring rival teams to simply pick up the tab for $1 million of the $9 million remaining on his three-year contract, which expires after the 2009 season; thus far, the Phillies have found no willing takers (Rosenthal)
[I still remember the sinking feeling of dread that washed over my body on that fateful late-March 2006 afternoon when Eaton was yanked from the mound during his final spring training start with a "finger injury." You knew from the outset that the situation couldn't possibly end well, and sure enough, it didn't.]
Thursday, 12:30 A.M. CST - A few interesting quotes from team president Nolan Ryan, courtesy of John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus, which might well further assuage any lingering fears you possess over the Ryan-driven overhaul of the organization's pitching philosophy:
While Ryan admits to being a little old school, he also is not looking to blow out the pitching staff. He says that the Rangers will use a heavy dose of common sense while ramping up their conditioning program. "We're not going to ask our pitchers to do something they aren't capable of doing, or put them in a position where they are more susceptible to injuries," Ryan said. "It's just that I feel, with sports medicine being what it is and the advancement in training and injury prevention, that we can find a way to condition pitchers better without risking them to injury."
The Rangers will also ask their minor league pitchers to work harder, but again, it will be within reason. "You have to be really careful with the younger kids in the minor leagues because so many of them have played select ball in the summer, played in travel tournaments, and just really have had their arms abused in situations where there are no restrictions on pitch counts or innings limits," Ryan said. "You can't ask a kid like that to come in and throw 200 innings in a season. However, when our guys begin moving up through the organization, we want them to be able to handle a heavier workload, to where pitching at least 200 innings in a season by the time they get to the major leagues becomes second nature because their bodies are used to doing it."
10:40 P.M. CST - A remarkable nine-player, three-team deal has just been consummated -- one so complex that I'll have to quote directly from the source, because it's virtually impossible to coherently summarize in print:
The Mets receive: RHP J.J. Putz, RHP Sean Green and OF Jeremy Reed, all from the Mariners
The Mariners receive: RHP Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, and 1B Mike Carp from the Mets, and IF Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians
The Indians receive: RHP Joe Smith from the Mets, and IF Luis Valbuena from the Mariners
[It's not often that you see trades with this many moving parts completed (and by all indications, it came together fairly quickly, so in that respect it's a fairly unique occurrence), and this one in particular goes a long way towards shoring up the Mariners' outfield defense, albeit at a relatively considerable price; that said, Franklin Gutierrez is a legitimately superb defensive outfielder and young enough that further refinement of his offensive game isn't out of the question.
In fact, this trade seems startlingly equitable in that all three general managers involved appear to have accomplished what they were hoping to accomplish.]
10:35 P.M. CST - Jonathan Sanchez and Clay Buchholz are going nowhere (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Well, okay then.]
9:30 P.M. CST - The Tigers are close to acquiring Edwin Jackson from the Rays in exchange for 24-year-old outfielder Matt Joyce (Ed Price, FOXSports.com)
According to a Major League source, both the Rangers and Mariners have approached the Marlins about Jeremy Hermida during the winter meetings, and the Rays rejected a trade proposal early Wednesday morning that would have shipped Hermida to Tampa Bay for "two top pitching prospects," thought to be from a group comprising right-handers Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson and Mitch Talbot (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com; Mike Berardino, Sun Sentinel)
[Okay, so scratch the previous speculation on my part. Frisaro's report alleges that the Hermida-for-Jarrod Saltalamacchia proposal was killed because of an improper fit between the two clubs, though it sounds as though the Marlins were the ones to nix the potential deal.]
7:20 P.M. CST - The Marlins may be interesting in trading Jeremy Hermida (and presumably something else of value, though probably not a young starting pitcher) for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom the Rangers could then conceivably flip to the Rays for right-hander Edwin Jackson; Ben Sheets is thought to be seeking a two-year deal, which could amplify the Rangers' odds of successfully corralling him (T.R Sullivan, MLB.com)
[An average to slightly above-average defensive right fielder whose noticeable regression with the stick in 2008 was a tad unsettling, the 24-year-old Hermida is under club control for three more seasons and will become progressively more expensive now that his pre-arbitration years have been expended. I'm inherently not a huge fan of making a trade, acquiring a specific player and then turning around and flipping said player for another player, because that strikes me as a great way to come away with less than you originally started with at the end of the day, and Jackson does very little for me.]
5:40 P.M. CST - Some miscellaneous nuggets from Joe Sheehan's Baseball Prospectus chat session earlier this afternoon:
Garrett (Dallas,TX): Any chance elvis andrus turns into hanley ramirez since there minor league stats look alike?
Joe Sheehan: Some. Andrus should be a comparable, maybe a bit lesser player with his offense shaped a bit differently, a little less power. Ramirez's development was a bit strange, so you can say Ramirez is what Andrus' upside looks like.
Josh (Ft Worth): How likely do you think it is that Texas gets seriously involved with Sheets, and how bad will a 3 year commitment to Sheets end up flaming out?
Joe Sheehan: I think the Rangers would be better served to sit this offseason out and gun for a starting pitcher next year. That could be an FA, or that could be a trade, but they could win, and win big, in 2010, so use this season to decide which prospects--and they have many--are your guys and which are trade bait. Don't force 2009.
Tom (Oklahoma City): Speaking of Texas -- Do either Salty or Teagarden get 500 plate appearances in 09?
Joe Sheehan: Teagraden is going to be the top guy, because his glove is that good. He could miss that figure just based on how they manage him, but he's clearly #1 now.
5:20 P.M. CST - There might be the basis for a trade match between the Brewers and Rangers on a deal principally revolving around Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla (the former of whom Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin has a "high regard for," whatever that means); with regard to the Gary Sheffield-to-Texas speculation emitted from the keyboard of Gerry Fraley earlier, one Rangers official issued the following statement: "[We] would consider it if [the Tigers] wanted to give him away. [We're] not going to spend money there" (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Wait, so wouldn't the Rangers have to surrender something of relative value for Sheffield if they indeed decided they weren't going to pick up any of the $14 million remaining on his contract? Or am I missing something here?
This is an odd rumor.]
5:00 P.M. CST - In terms of potential player movement elsewhere in the AL West, the Angels are reportedly balking at the notion of meeting free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira's asking price of 10 years and $200 million (which both the Orioles and Nationals are believed to be willing to meet, according to a source from a team involved in negotiations), and might pursue Manny Ramirez on a two-year deal if they miss out on Teixeira (Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times)
[The Angels have now also missed out on CC Sabathia (who opted for a big payday over proximity to his California roots earlier today when he sold his soul signed a seven-year, $161 million contract -- which includes an ever-popular opt-out clause after the third season, as well as no deferred money -- to join the New York Yankees), and may be left with mid-level table scraps to dig through if their inaction persists.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you.]
4:25 P.M. CST - Keith Law and Rob Neyer of ESPN.com and Will Carroll and Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus have been admitted to the Baseball Writers' Association of America (Maury Brown, The Biz of Baseball)
[A small step in the right direction, as well as a minor victory for the non-traditional media. No word on whether my application was lost in the mail or set on fire by a deranged Gerry Fraley.]
4:00 P.M. CST - Talks between the Braves and free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett "progressed through the night," and Atlanta, according to a Major League source, have offered the fireballing 31-year-old a five-year, $80 million contract (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
[This surely doesn't depress Ben Sheets' market value in the slightest.]
3:45 P.M. CST - While the Marlins and Rangers continue to discuss a potential catching-for-pitching deal, the high price tags placed on Max Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden continue to inhibit the progression of talks; Texas is believed to be the most interested in Chris Volstad, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson, but Florida hasn't budged; should Florida manage to pull off the rumored Jonathan Sanchez-for-Jorge Cantu heist, the Rangers might be interested in having the 26-year-old southpaw flipped their way (Mike Berardino, Sun Sentinel)
[Will the Rangers break the deadlock in negotiations by lowering their demands? Not likely. And while I've possessed a long-standing affinity for Nolasco, I simply cannot foresee Texas prying him from the Marlins' grasp without relinquishing major additional talent.]
3:25 P.M. CST - Rangers radio color commentator Victor Rojas will be joining the impending MLB Network as a studio host; the network is set to launch in approximately 50 million homes on January 1st, 2009; Rojas is the second studio host the network has hired, with the first being Padres television play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian (Barry Horn, Dallas Morning News)
[We had been hearing Rojas's name raised in connection with the vacated play-by-play gig in San Diego, but this news comes out of left field. In any event, congratulations and best of luck to Victor -- a true class act who was never afraid to speak his mind.
Does Steve Busby now automatically emerge as the leading candidate to fill the void next to Eric Nadel? Who knows, but I believe we can safely surmise that Vince Cotroneo will not be returning -- particularly after the way he was ousted five years ago.]
2:05 P.M. CST - Texas has contacted the Tigers about the availability of designated hitter Gary Sheffield (Gerry Fraley, FOXSports.com)
[I can only presume this is part of the "leave no stone unturned" philosophy the Rangers have so aggressively employed in Las Vegas, because this rumor makes absolutely no sense. Not only is the 40-year-old Sheffield a tremendous liability payroll-wise (he'll bank a cool $14 million in 2009), but recurring shoulder problems in recent years have sapped him of much of his prior offensive dominance, to the point where his 2008 season-adjusted EqA of .259 was his worst mark since -- wait for it -- 1991.
He's also not a very nice human being.]
Wednesday, 1:45 P.M. CST - According to team president Nolan Ryan, the Texas Rangers have interest in acquiring 45-year-old Randy Johnson but have not yet made an offer; Ryan envisions Johnson as a possible mentor to the growing fleet of young pitchers occupying roster spots in Arlington (Richard Durrett, Dallas Morning News)
The Astros and Angels have also expressed in Johnson after meeting with his representatives at the Bellagio Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, and the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, Rangers, Brewers and Cubs all contacted Johnson's camp before the winter meetings began (Alyson Footer, MLB.com)
[Quite the interesting development. The 45-year-old hurler has retained a great deal of his effectiveness through an assortment of debilitating back problems, notching 8.46 strikeouts and yielding just 2.15 walks per nine innings in 2008 and turning in a very respectable 184-inning campaign; comparatively, no Rangers pitcher tossed more than 171 innings in 2008.
In my estimation, the overriding concern on the Rangers' part has to be just how much longer he will physically hold up. Such an acquisition would probably make the most sense on paper if Texas paired the signing of Johnson with another signing (Ben Sheets immediately comes to mind, though Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla would almost certainly have to be evicted from the picture to make the financials work) or a trade that further reinforced the starting rotation and began to legitimize the Rangers' pitching corps to a point where a run at the division title in 2009 wouldn't be entirely implausible.]