In keeping in line with the marginally more provocative theme of the website as of late (in terms of inciting more fervent and intelligent baseball discussion, that is), I've opted to temporarily forgo throwing out the standard cavalcade of miscellaneous early-morning notes that may or may not be tangentially related to the Texas Rangers and instead switch things up with a trifecta of open-ended questions, all of which have been borne from some sort of outside stimulus in the last 24 hours:
● I'm not really sure how to summarize this latest missive from the great Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com (and really, he is great -- I honestly think we take him for granted sometimes, in part because he's so ridiculously prolific), so I'll reprint it here in its entirety:
The Red Sox's willingness to trade right-hander Clay Buchholz for Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia does not figure to be any greater now that the team has signed free-agent right-hander John Smoltz.
Buchholz remains an important part of the Sox's future, and the value that club officials sign to him should not change due to the addition of a 41-year-old veteran coming off major shoulder surgery.
Smoltz, Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield are signed only for next season. Penny also had health issues last season. And Josh Beckett is a free agent after 2010.
The Red Sox, rival executives say, are more open to trading Michael Bowden and Class AA reliever Daniel Bard in a package for Saltalamacchia. Bard, the team's No. 1 pick in 2006, is coming off a big season and might be at peak value.
"They're doing everything they can to trade him," one rival executive says.
The Sox and Rangers have not spoken since the winter meetings in early December.
But I thought Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wasn't willing to trade Bowden, a stance adopted in large part on the strength of his projection? Hmmph. Complicating matters further is the delayed return of Smoltz, who evidently isn't expected to return to the majors until May or June after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery last June; that fact alone obviously amplifies Buchholz's immediate value to the Red Sox as a safeguard against further attrition befalling Boston's talented, albeit risk-laden starting corps.
Momentarily setting aside Rosenthal's assertion that the Rangers and Red Sox haven't spoken since early December (which I'm not exactly inclined to believe for one split-second, although I'm certain that's the company line being emitted from executives in both organizations), the question is relatively straightforward: is the proposed two-player package of Bowden and Bard enough to acquire Saltalamacchia straight-up? Should this apparent enthusiastic willingness on the part of Epstein to purge his farm system of Bard while his trade value is at a perceived maximum be regarded as a major warning sign going forward?
● While a beleaguered Terry McGuirk (Braves CEO) loudly bemoans the stunning defection of an iconic figure in Atlanta baseball to the Northeast, internal and external pressure is reportedly building on the Braves to make a big free-agent splash, as Newsday's Ken Davidoff writes:
The Mets have made Lowe an offer of three years and $36 million, and earlier this week, they felt that to raise that package would constitute bidding against themselves. They met with Boras on Wednesday at Citi Field and didn’t make up much ground.
Now, however, the Braves have more than a pitching deficit. With Smoltz gone, they have a public-relations crisis as well. That could spur them to exceed the Mets’ bid and possibly even offer a fourth year to Lowe, 35.
Lowe's representative, the inimitably calculated Scott Boras, continues to seek a four-year, $64 million pact for his client, a price tag which will likely not be met but which can be employed to drive up the value of the contract he ultimately does obtain. More intriguing are the potential ramifications of such a signing on the Rangers' trade opportunities; if, for instance, the Braves eventually shell out something in the vicinity of $45 million for Lowe (which is certainly within the realm of possibility), that presumably takes them out of the running for the likes of veteran rotation reinforcements such as Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla (whom, as you've no doubt heard, purportedly need to be dealt to clear the necessary payroll room to sign free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets).
We all know the book far too well already on Sheets's fair market value, the medical concerns that persistently loom over his head and the slim possibility that perhaps we're all badly overestimating what he's actually going to pull down in an increasingly bizarre free-agent market (though I've seen it vaguely intimated in more than one place over the last several days that his contractual demands are excessive). Thus, the question becomes: does Texas realistically have any chance at inking Sheets without shedding payroll, be it in the form of Millwood, Padilla, Hank Blalock, or somebody else? Have these thousands of words I've hammered out on the Sheets situation over the last several months been all for naught all along?
● And, speaking of Blalock, Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram openly speculated about something I mentioned in passing three days ago, that being the apparent immovability of Blalock (and his healthy $6.2 million contract for 2009):
[...] That would be ironic, if true, because going into the off-season it appeared that Blalock's relatively inexpensive (for a power-hitting corner infielder) deal would be a positive factor in helping the Rangers move him and not a negative one.
I'm not at all convinced that picking up Blalock's 2009 option was exclusively about turning back around and trading him down the line (although I do suspect that somewhat played into the organization's thought process), but assuming that he was retained with the overriding intention of later attempting to convert his perceived offensive value into prospects, doesn't this constitute some degree of market miscalculation on the Rangers' part, especially if the financial burden imposed by his salary upon the 2009 payroll impedes the pursuit of a value-driven acquisition such as Sheets?
Bonus question: do I ever sleep?