... also known as "that hodgepodge of baseball stuff you're not going to read because today is Jason's day to shine, so there's really no point in needlessly overexerting myself." As such, we'll keep this brief for the moment and perhaps add onto it later in the morning -- and if you should happen to notice something of particular interest floating around the baseball newswires, or just want to rant about the Dallas Mavericks' utterly humiliating 34-point loss in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening, feel free to pass it on:
● Texas has officially agreed to terms with free-agent shortstop Omar Vizquel on a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training, which will pay the 41-year-old defensive luminary $1 million if he makes the Opening Day roster in addition to undisclosed incentives. Vizquel will forgo the opportunity to play for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in order to be in camp with the Rangers:
"The only I thing I know is he's [Elvis Andrus] from Venezuela," Vizquel said. "I've heard he's a special player with all the tools that a manager and general manager look for. My job is going to be to help him become a major league player. A lot of young players get into slumps early and get down on themselves. My job is to keep him focused.
"Once he sees what being a major league player is all about, with all the tools he has, I don't think it will be hard for him to make the adjustment."
● According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers have rejected superagent Scott Boras's overtures on free-agent southpaw Oliver Perez (with one club official flatly stating, "We're 100 percent not in it"), and the Yankees continue to keep an eye on free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets, whose ultimate price tag was recently a subject of speculation for one anonymous baseball executive:
That price, one executive predicts, will be in the $6 million to $8 million range for one year, with incentives that could push the total value past $14 million. A lucrative club option also might be part of the package.
The notion of Sheets snagging something in the sub-$10 million per year range has become more and more prevalent in recent days, to the point where I'd likely be shocked if he did manage to snag the guaranteed two-year, $28 million deal I've proposed in this space more than once over the last several months. How much further can his value fall?
● ESPN.com's Keith Law on the Rangers' insanely stacked farm system, which he tabbed as baseball's best on Wednesday -- an assessment that dovetails with industry publication Baseball America's No. 1 ranking:
The Rangers have far and away the best farm system in the game right now, with impact prospects, lots of depth (particularly in very young pitching) and plenty of prospects close enough to the majors to help the big league club in 2009 and 2010.
What is most impressive about the restocking of Texas' farm system is that the additions have come from across the board. Texas has been one of the most aggressive bidders on talent in the international market, landing Martin Perez, Wilmer Font, Wilfredo Boscan and Esdras Abreu. The Rangers also have integrated their international scouting with the rest of their baseball operations -- for most teams, it's still a separate fiefdom -- and have acquired several top international prospects in trades a year or so after missing out on them as free agents, including Neftali Feliz, Engel Beltre and Carlos Melo. Having one person, A.J. Preller, heavily involved in both international and pro scouting has made this integration easier, and the Rangers also use adviser Don Welke heavily in both areas.
[...] GM Jon Daniels has implemented a clear and consistent philosophy for baseball operations, centered on building pitching depth with an emphasis on upside, a tacit acknowledgment that pitching in Arlington requires better stuff or a stronger constitution than pitching in Seattle or Oakland. The integration across departments -- amateur scouting, pro scouting, international scouting and player development -- is still unusual in baseball, although the success of similar efforts in Boston and Tampa Bay is causing more teams to reevaluate their organizational structures.
Whether this translates into major league success for Texas largely will come down to the young pitching: Can these pitchers succeed in the Rangers' ballpark, and can they stay healthy? If so, the wave of arms coming through Texas over the next five years will give the Rangers the best chance in their history to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.
When Law's Top 100 prospects list drops later today, you'll find right-hander Neftali Feliz at No. 4, first baseman Justin Smoak at No. 15, and left-hander Derek Holland at No. 21 within the top 25.
ESPN.com also conducted a brief but cogent chat session with general manager Jon Daniels on Wednesday, which included this enlightening answer:
David (Flower Mound, TX): What are three or four attributes you look for in a minor league pitcher that tell you he's ready to or capable of producing at the major league level?
SportsNation Jon Daniels: What we look for first and foremost is fastball command. Secondly, the ability to command the secondary pitches, especially when behind in the count. And from a makeup standpoint, the ability to handle failure, because very few of these guys have had to experience any type of failure in the minors and they will likely have to handle it at somepoint in the big leagues and we want to see how they handle that and if they can bounce back from it.
● Finally, the Diamondbacks and Rangers continue to express interest in free-agent right-hander Jason Jennings, who could become a top priority for Arizona if Braden Looper should reject the Diamondbacks' offer.