I ask the following not so much out of displeasure or disappointment as out of incredulity: how exactly did MiLB.com arrive at the conclusion that Justin Smoak isn't one of the 50 best prospects in baseball, but Cincinnati's Yonder Alonso -- who has been regarded almost universally as a lesser talent than Smoak, both pre- and post-draft -- is among the top 35 in the game? Did Alonso's dashingly good looks put him over the top or something?
● From Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels: "We're certainly conscious of all our expenditures. We're going to look at all the options to improve our club. But, in a good baseball trade, some of the players we might receive in return might look [like a payroll-trimming deal]. For the most part, we've been focusing on players who fit with our long-range plans. Most of those are younger players."
Speaking specifically of the upcoming winter meetings (thanks to Jamey Newberg for the clarification), Daniels said, "We've touched base with everybody, and have had more extensive dialogue with some clubs. We have a good handle on our options. We have a sense of the type of deals we can move on. We've had second and third conversations and followup conversations with clubs. There's a potential for something to happen" (Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News; T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
● In addition to the Tigers, the Reds are also beginning to express renewed interest in catcher Gerald Laird; among the young Cincinnati pitchers that could entice the Rangers are starting pitchers Homer Bailey and Darryl Thompson and relievers Carlos Fisher, Robert Manual, Joshua Roenicke and Pedro Viola; no deals appear to be imminent, however (Sullivan)
[We've previously talked about Bailey at length in this space (see here), so there's no real need to rehash all of that; the whispers with regard to his purported "uncoachability" persist, however. Roenicke, a hard-throwing UCLA product reputedly armed with a power mid-90s fastball, a high-80s cutter equipped with so much late movement that one minor league manager whose club faced the 26-year-old described it as a splitter, and the confidence required to excel in a late-inning role could invoke serious interest from the Rangers if they're unwilling to take their chances with Bailey.
Of course, there's no way of knowing if he's even available for Laird -- yet.]
● The Tigers have become "more aggressive" this week in their pursuit of Laird, according to one industry official with knowledge of the negotiations (Jon Paul Morosi, Detroit Free Press)
● Texas is not "actively involved" with Japanese free-agent right-handers Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara (Grant)
[That's probably for the best.]
● Industry publication Baseball America has deemed Justin Smoak and Julio Borbon the ninth- and 13th-best prospects in the 2008 Arizona Fall League, respectively (Kary Booher, Baseball America)
[Smoak's 149 OPS+ in 91 at-bats and Borbon's 101 OPS+ in 87 at-bats thoroughly obliterated the putrid low-30s OPS+ totals compiled by Chad Tracy and Johnny Whittleman; placing a great deal of stock in AFL performances is just as silly as placing a great deal of stock in lower-level minor league statistics (it simply doesn't work on a constructive level), but it's good news for Borbon and Smoak regardless.
Scouts were reportedly impressed by Smoak's slick glovework at first base, which was amplified by the cool, calm and laid-back demeanor that enabled him to retain his focus on bang-bang plays around the bag.]
● The Rangers have signed 2000 first-round pick Joe Torres to a minor league deal (Matt Eddy, Baseball America)
[A high-pedigree southpaw whose professional career has been derailed by injuries and frequent bouts of phobia of the strike zone, the 26-year-old Torres just reached Double-A Birmingham in 2008 -- logging 50.1 innings in 59 relief appearances -- and fanned in excess of a batter per inning, but once again found himself hindered by the overwhelming quantity of free passes. Perhaps the Rangers believe they can convert all the talent normally concealed within a former 10th-overall pick into eventual Major League results, but all the numbers suggest the second coming of Bill White -- if not worse.]
● MLB Trade Rumors contributor Brendan Bianowicz has compiled Jon Daniels' complete trade history during his tenure as Rangers general manager, which can be viewed here (Tim Dierkes, MLB Trade Rumors)
[You know, I completely forgot that Randall Simon was once a RedHawk until just now.]