Multiple local media sources, including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, are reporting that the Texas Rangers have, as expected, offered salary arbitration to outfielder Milton Bradley -- their lone ranked free agent according to the Elias Sports Bureau, which bestowed upon Bradley 'Type B' status -- and declined to offer salary arbitration to right-handers Jason Jennings and Jamey Wright and infielder Ramon Vazquez.
Should Bradley opt to accept the Rangers' offer by Sunday evening's 11:00 p.m. CST deadline (disclaimer: he almost certainly won't), Texas will essentially bring back their superb December 2007 free-agent acquisition on a one-year deal worth something in the general vicinity of $10 million, presumably after the two sides reach a pre-arbitration settlement that effectively circumvents the unpalatable arbitration process.
Should Bradley decline, Texas will net a compensatory supplemental-round draft pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft between the first and second rounds. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News speculated on Monday that said pick could register around 50th overall, and while attempting to predict whom the Rangers could snag with the Bradley-generated freebie is obviously an exercise in futility this far off, the top-60 draft prospects list compiled by ESPN.com's Keith Law three months ago does showcase some names that could come into play next June when the Rangers must decide which amateur players should adorn the top of their draft board.
The Rangers face no restrictions in negotiating with any of their four eligible free agents (even if Bradley does decline the club's arbitration offer), though Milton remains understandably eager to cash in his breakthrough 2008 campaign for a multi-year contract and is, according to Marty York of Metronews.ca, currently leaning towards inking a deal with the defending American League-champion Tampa Bay Rays.
SI.com's Jon Heyman reported back on November 4th that Bradley was seeking a four-year deal worth no less than $10 million annually, and while it's highly unlikely (though not inconceivable) that any team would pony up that sort of cash for such a volatile and injury-prone talent, it would still come as no great shock if he did end up signing a contract structurally similar to the two-year, $24 million deal with a third-year team option that I advocated some months back.
Curiously, my mid-September assessment of the situation -- published in the third edition of the Mike Hindman-moderated "Armchair GM Roundtable" at the Dallas Morning News -- has ended up somewhat off-target, though not in the way you would automatically assume:
It's improbable the Rangers will manage to lure a premier free-agent starting pitcher in the vein of CC Sabathia or Ben Sheets away from lucrative offers in bigger markets this coming winter, so even after factoring in Michael Young's mammoth $80 million contract extension, throwing roughly $12 million per year at Bradley and calling it a day probably isn't going to be terribly cost-prohibitive in the grand scheme of things.
That self-concocted $12 million estimate is evidently far more cost-prohibitive than I initially presumed; with an owner-imposed payroll cap now implemented (and thought to be around the $75 million mark), even throwing $10 million at Bradley would effectively preclude Texas from being able to address any other pressing areas of organizational need beyond the obligatory mass-mailing of non-roster invites before and during spring training.
It's hard to fathom Bradley not nabbing a fairly lucrative payday even in what now appears to be an increasingly tepid, recession-conscious free-agent market, but then far stranger things have happened, and while offering Bradley arbitration was perhaps the "Well, duh!" component of the Rangers' off-season plan, it's still a component that carries some modicum of risk with it.
By the way, anybody else get a strange kick out of the fact that Bradley's two most ardent suitors at the moment -- Tampa Bay and Toronto -- both play half of their games on turf? Yeah, I'm sure that stuff does wonders for surgically repaired knees.
As for the remaining trio of Texas free agents, Jennings will likely be retained via the ever-popular minor league contract (with an invitation to big league spring training included, no doubt), Wright will probably find employment elsewhere in light of the Rangers' apparent lack of interest in bringing him back, and Vazquez seemingly couldn't care less about remaining in Texas, so away he goes.
Quick Hits: The Rangers have granted permission to the Mariners to interview minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair for their vacant bullpen coaching spot; Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners will announce Adair as their new bullpen coach on Wednesday...Justin Smoak notched a cool 149 OPS+ (.352/.468/.571 in 91 AB) in the 2008 Arizona Fall League...the Rangers' 36-game 2009 spring training schedule has been released...Japanese right-hander Junichi Tazawa has been signed to a three-year Major League contract worth $3 million, pending the results of his physical...NPB's Hanshin Tigers have reportedly signed former Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench to a one-year, $2 million deal.