Days like today are the reason why the term "information overload" was first coined.
Because the span of topics that demand coverage on this, the first evening of Major League Baseball's winter meetings, is so ridiculously diverse, I'll be altering the usual format a little bit through the sporadic utilization of subheadings. Ready? Here we go:
BASEBALL AMERICA'S TOP 10 TEXAS RANGERS PROSPECTS
Though Jason [Parks] and I are obviously quite proud of the BBTiA Top 25 Prospect Rankings we collectively produced in late October and stand by our assessments, we would both be irredeemably remiss in our journalistic duties if we did not briefly review the system rankings published by esteemed industry publication Baseball America on Monday.
Included below for your perusal are those rankings, along with "Best Tools" and "Projected 2012 Lineup" footnotes wherever applicable, and a brief two-sentence snippet procured from each player's subscriber-only scouting report, designed to give you a taste of Baseball America's assessments while hopefully enticing you to purchase a subscription or pick up a copy of the 2009 Prospect Handbook, which is currently available for pre-order and is scheduled to drop late next month.
It's clearly not in our best interest to republish large quantities of subscription-only content, and hopefully the inclusion of the below prospect-related highlights will not agitate the powers that be elsewhere:
1. Neftali Feliz, RHP (Best Fastball; Projected 2012 No. 1 Starter)
"Feliz's fastball might rate as a true 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale ... at Clinton, it sat at 94-96 mph and touched 99, and at Frisco it topped out at 101 mph ... with perhaps the most overpowering fastball in the minors and the makings of two quality offspeed pitches, Feliz has a chance to be a legitimate No. 1 starter."
2. Derek Holland, LHP (Best Change-up, Best Control; Projected 2012 No. 2 Starter)
"[Holland's] slightly across-the-body delivery and excellent extension give his [mid-90s] fastball deception and life, making it a plus-plus offering ... Holland has a chance to be a frontline starter along the lines of Scott Kazmir."
3. Justin Smoak, 1B (Best Power Hitter, Best Strike Zone Discipline; Projected 2012 First Baseman)
"As a switch-hitter with well-above-average power from both sides of the plate and Gold Glove potential at first base, Smoak draws comparisons to former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira ... [Smoak] will start his first full season at [High-A] Bakersfield and could be entrenched in the big leagues by 2010."
4. Elvis Andrus, SS (Best Defensive Infielder, Best Infield Arm; Projected 2012 Shortstop)
"With plus range, sure hands, a strong, accurate arm and uncanny instincts, Andrus has all the tools to be a premium defensive shortstop ... [Andrus] profiles as an All-Star-caliber shortstop in the Edgar Renteria mold."
5. Martin Perez, LHP (Best Curveball; Projected 2012 No. 3 Starter)
"Perez has a compact delivery and a short, clean arm action that produces 90-94 mph fastballs with life down in the zone ... [Perez's] tight, late-breaking 75-78 mph curveball has good depth, giving him a second plus pitch."
6. Taylor Teagarden, C (Best Defensive Catcher; Projected 2012 Catcher)
"Teagarden's receiving, blocking and throwing all rate as above-average ... with his defense, leadership and power potential, Teagarden profiles as a solid everyday big league catcher and perhaps an All-Star."
7. Engel Beltre, OF (Projected 2012 Center Fielder)
"[Beltre's] wiry-strong frame and quick bat easily generate above-average raw power, and his plus speed is an asset on the basepaths and in the outfield ... [Beltre's] arm, which rates as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his good instincts could make him a premium defender in center."
8. Michael Main, RHP (Projected 2012 No. 4 Starter)
"When the Rangers introduced Main to an over-the-head windup to help generate more momentum, his velocity spiked to 92-96 mph in instructional league ... [Main] commands his fastball to both halves of the plate, and his tight downer curveball could give him a second plus offering in the future."
9. Julio Borbon, OF (Projected 2012 Center Fielder)
"More pull-oriented in the past, [Borbon] did a better job using the whole field and keeping the ball on the ground, and he developed a much better feel for bunting ... [Borbon] has strength in his line-drive swing and will hit a few homers."
10. Max Ramirez, C/1B (Best Hitter For Average)
"Ramirez is a gifted natural hitter who works the count and drives the ball to all fields ... [Ramirez's] setup has a lot of movement before he gets into hitting position, yet he commands the zone well and is a good two-strike hitter."
Surprised that the veritably speedy Borbon missed out on "Fastest Baserunner" recognition? Don't be. Recently acquired outfielder Greg Golson, a remarkable five-piece toolbox in his own right, was not only deemed the organization's fastest baserunner, but also the best all-around athlete -- and his cannon arm was appraised as the best outfield arm, on top of that. Curiously, that didn't translate into "Best Defensive Outfielder" recognition, which was awarded to light-hitting short-season Spokane outfielder David Paisano, and Warner Madrigal's slider was identified as the best in the organization.
The "Projected 2012 Lineup" is clearly not so much a set of realistic, carefully honed projections as it is a set of loose assumptions, designed to give us a proximate idea of where each player would likely fit on the big league club three-plus years from now -- assuming, of course, that they progress as the editors at Baseball America expect them to. Still, the slotting of Blake Beavan as the projected closer and the exclusion of Max Ramirez entirely both raise an eyebrow.
It all amounts to an affirmation of the indisputable -- the indisputable reality that the Rangers have accumulated a truly unprecedented stockpile of young talent that promises to soon alter the fortunes of this long-suffering franchise.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE GERALD LAIRD TRADE
Now that we've acquired some modicum of familiarity with the principal piece in Sunday evening's trade that shipped catcher Gerald Laird to the Detroit Tigers (that piece being 25-year-old right-hander Guillermo Moscoso), it's now time to take a quick look at the far more raw, but also far more potential-laden 17-year-old component of the deal -- Dominican right-hander Carlos Melo.
Inked for a cool $165,000 in July 2007, the 6' 3" Melo already packs a serious punch on the bump, flashing an "explosive" low-to-mid-90s heater that already touches 96 mph -- and remember, he's just 17, so there's irrefutably room to add a few additional ticks of velocity, given his projectable frame -- and a developing curveball/change-up combo that all adds up to one very appealing package of talent. General manager Jon Daniels noted on Monday that Melo would be pitching stateside in 2009, presumably in the Arizona Rookie League as an 18-year-old.
ESPN.com's Keith Law is a big fan of the Rangers' acquisition of Melo, defining him as the "potential steal" implicated in the trade:
[Melo's] secondary stuff is all projection at this point, but bear in mind that the Rangers might be the best team at identifying amateur talent in Latin America and have used that knowledge to find throw-ins for trades the past two years. They landed their top prospect, Neftali Feliz, in one of those trades, and toolsy outfielder Engel Beltre in another. Of course, Melo is just a baby in baseball terms, and the odds are against his staying healthy and developing into a big leaguer, but the strategy of collecting as many arms like his as possible and figuring enough will pan out is a sound one.
Per multiple local reports, the Rangers will go into 2009 with the intention of employing Moscoso as a starting pitcher -- a role he is known to prefer over relieving. Given his relief-esque repertoire of pitches and past encounters with the injury bug, however, that plan may or may not hold up over the long haul.
For what it's worth, Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus wrote on Monday that Moscoso's shoulder problems (and subsequent surgery) in 2005 were related to a labrum injury.
Said Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski of the swap (courtesy of Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "We've been working on getting Gerald Laird all winter. We were talking about three-way deals. We throught we had a three-way deal wrapped up last week, but something fell apart."
Richard Durrett of the Dallas Morning News confirmed on Monday that a third unnamed team was involved (ostensibly for the purpose of sweetening the pot for Texas, so to speak), but that version of the deal ultimately collapsed, and the Rangers and Tigers reached an agreement on Saturday.
I posed this question earlier today, but I'm going to repeat it in more visible form here: to those of you who believe that the talent recouped by Texas in this trade is underwhelming, what did you honestly expect Laird to bring back? He's a decent enough player (albeit not so much as a starting backstop, a role which he has historically struggled to consistently produce offensively in), but (a) this is a buyers' market, and (b) he's a good, but not tremendous value at $3 million, even though FanGraphs' Dave Cameron appraised him as being worth approximately two wins above replacement (which is roughly equivalent to $10 million of value on the open market, but then this isn't the open market we're talking about here, for Detroit gave up a relatively nice little pitcher with six years of remaining club control plus an intriguing high-upside arm that the Rangers likely scouted at some point down the line).
Something else worth comprehending: $10 million of value on the open market is not at all equivalent to $10 million of value to the Rangers with regard to Laird specifically, given that there were younger, cheaper and more talented options in the system behind the 29-year-old catcher when the deal was consummated. This is not a bad trade by any stretch of the imagination, and it indubitably has the potential to eventually become a great trade.
According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, the Tigers entered the off-season with Laird ranked higher on their wish list of available catchers than veteran free agent Jason Varitek.
Congratulations to Gerald -- who is understandably ecstatic at the prospect of starting every day behind the plate -- and his family. I sincerely hope he makes the most of the tremendous opportunity that has fallen into his lap.
ARE YOU GOING TO SAN FIER -- I MEAN, LAS VEGAS?
● With the Gerald Laird domino now toppled, one official purported to be "familiar with the Rangers' thinking" says that Texas would now have to be "overwhelmed" to trade another catcher this winter (Alex Speier, WEEI.com)
[Jason Varitek's rejection of Boston's salary arbitration offer adds uncertainty to an already unsettled catching situation in Boston; Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will ultimately find a passable, if not permanent solution, but it may not be optimal, and it's evident that the bargaining power in any future discussions between the two clubs will be firmly lodged in the Rangers' corner when it comes to talking catchers.
That still doesn't mean Clay Buchholz is available for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, however.]
● Even though Texas has already dealt a catcher, Saltalamacchia remains available (Peter Gammons, ESPN.com)
● Now that Texas has traded a catcher, Saltalamacchia will get the chance to prove himself as an everyday catcher in 2009 (John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus)
[But what about Taylor Teaga...]
The Rangers are still open to trading another catcher if they can obtain young starting pitching in return; as far as the 2009 catching alignment is concerned, Saltalamacchia and Teagarden can platoon behind the plate, with Ramirez heading back to Triple-A Oklahoma City or flashing his versatility at the big league level by serving as a right-handed designated hitter/catcher/first baseman if the Rangers succeed in trading Hank Blalock (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
[...this is confusing.]
● A group of Rangers officials met with free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets and his agent, Casey Close, on Monday to discern whether there was mutual interest between the two parties; even if there is, however, Texas would still have to shed significant payroll -- presumably in the form of Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla -- to make a legitimate play for his services (MLB.com)
[Don't get your hopes up. It's just not worth it at this stage.]
● While several Giants officials have confirmed the team's interest in Blalock, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean is evidently reluctant to trade for a player who is eligible for free agency after the 2009 season; the Braves may pursue Kevin Millwood as a backup plan if their attempted acquisition of free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett is sabotaged by the Yankees or another rival club; the Rays covet Nelson Cruz; Texas continues to attempt to incite interest in Frank Catalanotto (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
● The Giants, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Cubs and Rangers have all expressed varying degrees of interest in free-agent southpaw Randy Johnson (Jack MacGruder, East Valley Tribune)
[Does not compute.]
● Free-agent outfielder Milton Bradley went to lunch with his agents, the Levinson brothers, and officials from the American League-champion Tampa Bay Rays on Monday; the Cubs are also believed to be quite interested in signing Bradley, and the Royals have also thrown their hat in the ring (Rosenthal)
[Something tells me they didn't hit up McDonald's.]
In addition to Jon Daniels (and presumably assistant general manager Thad Levine), senior advisor to the general manager John Hart, pitching coach Mike Maddux and team president Nolan Ryan have all been sighted at the Bellagio Hotel & Resort by at least one member of the local print media. No word on whether Hart brought his clubs.
Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, the brother of Mike, retired on Monday. There's apparently a chance the former will make a cameo appearance in Surprise, Arizona next spring.
Texas has re-signed right-hander Brian Gordon to a minor league deal.
According to manager Ron Washington (who is also present in Las Vegas this week), the aforementioned Greg Golson will work with venerable hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in Arlington this week. In light of his potentially crippling deficiencies in the area of pitch recognition, that can only mean good things.
Rangerfans.com's Joe Siegler points out that the Rangers will not be instituting a freeze on ticket prices as clubs like the Reds, Astros, Pirates and Red Sox have done, or even cutting ticket prices for some seats as the Nationals and Giants have done; rather, they have opted to hike most ticket prices on so-called "premium [home] games" by $1 and the ticket prices on more expensive seats at said games anywhere from $6 to $11.
Congratulations to Ian and Tess Kinsler, who welcomed Rian Brooklynn Kinsler into the world on Friday evening.
I'll be working a video clip of David Dellucci's legendary September 23rd, 2004 walk-off double against the Athletics into a team presentation for an upper-level management course on Wednesday morning. Long story.
If anybody who has registered for a free BBTiA account since the website's relaunch has failed to receive their login details at the e-mail address they specified, please contact us immediately so we can promptly rectify that error.
And, above all else, stay tuned.