As the so-called "Big Three" automakers stubbornly persist in their incessant lobbying for a federal bailout, Ford CEO Alan Mulally has daringly consented to an unprecedented pay cut that would slash his annual salary to $1 if the financially struggling motor company is forced to accept any government loan money, which obviously makes for great headline fodder and a fun little factoid for all branches of the media to stuff into their latest reports on the officially recessed economy.
There's just one problem: Mulally's executive compensation in 2007 was comprised of a $2 million base salary (the component which will ostensibly be cut to $1, should market conditions further deteriorate), bonuses amounting to more than $4 million, stock options and awards amounting to more than $11 million, and miscellaneous compensation amounting to more than $1.4 million, altogether adding up to a very tidy $21,670,674. Think that those stock options and such are simply going to vanish? Think again.
This isn't exactly the magnitude of pay cut that it's being made out to be.
● Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on the club's Winter Meetings preparations: "I don't know how much we're going to do, but a lot of it depends on what other clubs want to do. We've had quite a bit of dialogue with other clubs, but we're not close to any one player. I still don't see us being really active in the free-agent market. We're in touch with a lot of people we might be interested in if things change, but we haven't extended any offers at this point" (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[Additionally, Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd or Gerald Laird could be traded to enhance the Rangers' maneuverability in a free-agent market that they otherwise won't be able to make much headway in. Frank Catalanotto also remains available, but...]
● League-wide interest in Catalanotto's services has been "minimal" since last spring (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News)
[...yeah. "Catalanotto" and "superfluous" are essentially synonymous terms at this point, and while Frank would likely still make a fine pinch-hitter somewhere, the Rangers appear unable to even give him away, much less trade him for something of value. Not good.]
● The Braves, understandably fed up with the Jake Peavy stalemate, have addressed their starting rotation deficiencies by acquiring right-hander Javier Vazquez and southpaw reliever Boone Logan from the White Sox in exchange for a four-player package consisting of infielder Brent Lillibridge, High-A Myrtle Beach catcher Tyler Flowers and two low minor leaguers, independently confirmed as being third baseman Jon Gilmore and left-hander Santos Rodriguez (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
[A fine deal for Atlanta general manager Frank Wren, who brings a reliable, quality innings-eater back to the National League and relinquishes only a middling package of talent. This is not at all comparable to the Yankees' fleecing of Chicago general manager Kenny Williams in the Nick Swisher deal, because Flowers is a pretty nice young backstop in his own right, but the Braves are clearly not positioned to lose this trade.
One immediately has to wonder whether the collapse of this domino pushes the Padres closer to revisiting the idea of dealing Peavy to an American League club; the Rangers' offer was promptly rebuffed when Jake invoked his no-trade clause some time back, but the allure of a heavily backloaded contract extension with added enticements would no doubt give Peavy reason to carefully reconsider his stance. That said, Texas may not be in a position to offer such an extension at this time (particularly in light of the economic uncertainty that portends to overshadow the apex of baseball's hot stove season next week in Las Vegas) or willing to give up the talent San Diego would demand in such a blockbuster deal, so it's still a far-fetched proposition.]
● The Red Sox have offered arbitration to captain Jason Varitek, but the 36-year-old backstop is not expected to accept his employer's offer (Amalie Benjamin, Boston Globe)
[Accept or decline, I can't envision the outcome of this situation having much impact on trade negotiations between Boston and Texas. Retaining Varitek would patch a hole for 2009, but he's not getting any younger, and there's still a legitimate need for a long-term solution behind the plate that won't be satisfied solely by his retention.
With regard to the Rangers' catching surplus, Jon Daniels has said the following: "We're OK bringing back all four guys if it comes down to that and the right deal is not out there" -- which is, of course, the right thing to say leverage-wise.]
● Texas will look to provide cheap depth behind presumed Opening Day third baseman Travis Metcalf at the hot corner, perhaps through Morgan Ensberg or Mike Lamb (Sullivan)
[Here's a fun game: add together Ensberg's and Lamb's OPS+ totals for the 2008 season and see what number you come up with! Horrifyingly enough, the number that results is a 97, with Ensberg's 34 OPS+ being resoundingly dwarfed by Lamb's far superior (but still atrocious) 63 OPS+. This is what you call "scraping the bottom of the barrel."
Interestingly, both ex-Astros aren't terribly far removed from above-average offensive campaigns in the National League. But man, once they tumbled off that cliff, there was certainly no shrubbery to brace their respective falls.]
● Free-agent third baseman Casey Blake is thought to be seeking a three-year deal, and the Dodgers and Twins are the front-runners for his services right now (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
[For what it's worth, I never believed the Rangers -- who were rumored to be hot and heavy for the 35-year-old slugger earlier this off-season -- had even a remote chance at signing Blake.]
● Catcher Max Ramirez (Tiburones de La Guaira -- Venezuela) is hitting .273/.365/.527 in 29 games; catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Leones del Escogido -- Dominican Republic) is hitting .407/.556/.963 in eight games; outfielder Nelson Cruz (Gigantes del Cibao -- Dominican Republic) is hitting .368/.430/.765 in 18 games (MiLB.com)
[Scorching. Of course, these numbers should obviously be taken with a huge grain of salt; case in point, Richard Hidalgo (Navegantes del Magallanes -- Venezuela) is hitting a cool .355/.430/.572 in 40 games. But good performances abroad are obviously far preferable to the obvious alternative of bad performances, which can unfairly inflict damage upon a player's trade value.
The Dominican Winter League All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, December 7th.]