Yes, I fully realize that it's actually after 3:30 a.m. CST as of this writing. Truth be told, I just wanted to work in a reference to A Tribe Called Quest at some point before spring training, and this seemed like just as good an opportunity to do it as any.
I think this early-morning delirium is beginning to get to me.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"The guy [Young] is well-compensated by the Rangers, and the Rangers are asking him to make a change that they think is good for the team. They should tell him, 'You're unhappy? OK, would you like to void your contract?' And of course the answer would be no."
—One anonymous major league executive (Buster Olney, ESPN.com)
"I think that's unfortunate. I think the guy is allowed to have his reaction to something like this. Anybody who's been around Michael knows he's a tremendous person, a big member of the community. I do think that's unfortunate and that's certainly not coming from us and won't. I've talked to our sales group and our guys and you won't hear a negative word about Michael Young from the Rangers."
—Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, speaking of the aforementioned anonymous criticism being imposed against Young (Richard Durrett, Dallas Morning News)
"We asked Michael -- it's a matter of semantics: asked, requested, told, begged -- to move to third base. We feel the club is best suited having Michael move to third in the short-term and long-term. We love Michael. We have nothing negative to say or will say about him. He's a tremendous player and teammate. We're not looking to trade him and have no plans to. We plan on him being a big part of our ballclub going forward."
—Daniels (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
Presuming that Jim Reeves's assertion in the Tuesday morning edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is factually accurate (with the assertion itself being that club president Nolan Ryan allegedly offered Young the option of displacing Ian Kinsler at second base, but was summarily rebuffed because that, in turn, would constitute an act of unfairness towards Kinsler), I'm more than a little confused -- and here's why:
The Rangers, meanwhile, are not interested in one possible compromise — a move of Young to second and Ian Kinsler to left field.
Young's only problem at short — his limited range — also would be an issue at second. Kinsler, the Rangers believe, is making progress at second and would not be as good as Young at third. Young has a stronger arm than Kinsler and better hands.
The above snippet comes courtesy of FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, whose assessment of the Rangers' thought process with regard to potentially implicating Kinsler -- a neutral third party, by all accounts -- in this conflict dovetails with Richard Durrett's commentary on the matter; in his Tuesday afternoon chat session, Durrett emphasized that the Rangers want to retain Kinsler at second base.
[Editor's note: There was previously a typographical error in the above paragraph suggesting that the Rangers want to move Kinsler to third base, a blatant inaccuracy which has since been corrected. Apologies for any confusion that might have caused.]
Something's obviously not adding up.
Moreover, Rosenthal's abbreviated critique of the Kinsler-to-third proposal is apt; his range at second base is not inherently deficient, and the bulk of his issues with the leather in 2008 (15 plays below average according to John Dewan's plus/minus defensive rating system and 3.9 runs below average according to Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating) appeared to be the product of ill-timed lapses in his focus and concentration on plays that he was capable of making far more often than an explicit lack of raw defensive talent.
Squandering Young's strong arm -- which my esteemed writing colleague, (Professor) Jason Parks, believes is a solid 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale -- by moving him back to second base and perhaps exposing Kinsler's weaker arm by moving him to the hot corner sure does sound like an exercise in futility, which makes it all the more comforting that the organization is evidently no longer considering that option.
The idea of moving Kinsler to left field -- proposed by Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday -- might be even less well-grounded in logic than the previous proposition, however; doing so would severely marginalize David Murphy and Marlon Byrd (and, to a lesser extent, Nelson Cruz as well), and would solve absolutely nothing unless the Rangers somehow acquired an adequate third baseman via trade or free agency. Otherwise, the left side of the Opening Day 2009 infield would comprise Travis Metcalf and Elvis Andrus -- a toxic offensive one-two punch that would probably represent the worst everyday third base/shortstop combination in baseball by a wide margin, in spite of each infielder's defensive accolades.
And as for Kevin Sherrington's bizarre intimation that Texas should be prepared to give Young his job back at shortstop if Andrus should struggle early on (which he assuredly will) ... well, if the Rangers are actually intent on adhering to such an indecisive and wishy-washy player development philosophy (which would consequently indicate a lack of organizational commitment to Andrus), they might as well go ahead and trade him now, since that would all reflect a lack of willingness and preparation to endure the inevitable growing pains that the maturation process will entail.
Lucky for all of us that isn't going to happen. Andrus is a keeper.
NEWS AND RUMORS
● One unnamed Rangers official said the chances of Young being the team's third baseman on Opening Day are at least 90 percent; furthermore, his only real recourse at this juncture is to refuse to report to spring training, which would have serious ramifications for his reputation across the game (Ken Rosenthal, FOXSports.com)
● Texas still covets a right-handed slugger to insert in the lineup between Josh Hamilton and Chris Davis, but a deal for the White Sox' Jermaine Dye isn't going to happen, and the Rangers would rather roll with Hank Blalock as their Opening Day designated hitter than a veteran retread such as Frank Thomas or Nomar Garciaparra (Rosenthal)
● Although Texas has purportedly been attempting to trade Young "for weeks" and have fielded some interest from the Dodgers, Mets and Twins, it's unlikely he'll be dealt (Jon Heyman, SI.com)
[Well, duh. Daniels dismissed the notion that Texas has been shopping Young for more than a month on Tuesday, stating that no conversations at the winter meetings in Las Vegas last month progress beyond the "tire-kicking stage."]
● Free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets remains a "player of interest" to the Rangers, but while Jon Daniels has remained in touch with his agent, Casey Close, no formal offer has yet materialized (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
● Free-agent right-hander Jason Jennings regards Texas as his "No. 1 destination," but is drawing interest from other clubs; there is mutual interest between free-agent southpaw Eddie Guardado and the Rangers on a possible 2009 reunion, though that would be contingent on whether Texas can afford to bring him back; the Rangers will stay in touch with free-agent right-hander Chad Cordero (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
● The Braves have reached a preliminary agreement with free-agent sinkerballer Derek Lowe on a four-year, $60 million deal, pending the results of his physical exam (Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com)
[Jeff Wilson speculates Lowe's signing could escalate Sheets's price tag, while Richard Durrett suggests he could still be forced to sign a one-year deal in the vicinity of $10 million. I'm leaning towards the former as being more plausible, myself.]
● Elvis Andrus, one of six non-roster players invited to big league spring training on Tuesday (along with first baseman Justin Smoak, left-hander Derek Holland, right-hander Neftali Feliz, and catchers Manuel Pina and Kevin Richardson), has not been guaranteed the starting shortstop job and will have to win it outright (Sullivan)
[Given that Andrus's primary competition is Joaquin Arias, I don't imagine he'll have a terribly difficult time ascending the throne.]
● Direct quotes from one unnamed scout on catcher Max Ramirez, who nabbed Venezuelan Winter League Rookie of the Year honors on Tuesday: "Ramirez is more of a pull-oriented hitter—not a dead pull hitter—but his swing is longer. He could hit 25-30 homers in the majors, but he’s more vulnerable against changeups and curveballs [...] That guy is going to be a major league everyday catcher. He still needs to improve his catching and throwing, but he’s still young. He can catch, he can block—you can see him getting better. But this kid can hit in the major leagues" (Ben Badler, Baseball America)