Two quick things: first, I haven't been terribly lucid over the last few days, so thanks for bearing with me (although some actually seem to prefer reading my more unintelligible musings), and second ... well, commissioner Bud Selig is going to have a hard time sticking by his "no expansion of instant replay" posture when his umpires are botching the most simplistic of calls during the most important of games:
● The Chicago Cubs will announce the signing of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to a three-year, $2.42 million contract on Wednesday, signifying an average annual pay bump of more than $150,000 over his final-year salary of $650,000 in Texas (Bruce Levine, ESPN.com)
[The Rangers permitted the Cubs to begin communicating with Jaramillo as late as last Thursday, with Rudy's previous reluctance to depart his home state assuredly being put to rest by one of the fattest contracts ever doled out to any non-managerial baseball coach. Texas was clearly never motivated to try to match that offer, and for good reason; in a bit of a non-sequitured postscript, Jaramillo's agent reputedly demanded a five-year, $5 million contract at the outset of negotiations two years ago. He's drawing closer to the seven-digit-per-year mark, if nothing else.
Four days ago, my good friend Jamey Newberg referenced a radio interview in which Jaramillo explained that Ian Kinsler -- one of several eminent examples of promising young hitters going backwards on Rudy's watch -- was guilty as charged of "trying to overdo things" in 2009, with the outcome being a dismal plate approach that Kinsler couldn't figure out how to repair. I'm not sure whether that should be construed as a veiled shot fired towards Kinsler or a friendly parting observation, but it was striking irrespective of Jaramillo's intentions.
One more thing on Kinsler: before he can get back on the right track, he's going to have to drop the flippant attitude towards his detractors. Yes, he enjoyed a great and wonderful 2009 campaign, amassing 4.6 wins above replacement, and yes, he's clearly one of the best second basemen in baseball, but there are warning signs that we can't afford to overlook. Contrary to popular belief, a good season and a concerning season are not mutually exclusive things.]
● Prospective owner Jim Crane visited Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday and convened with multiple high-ranking officials, including general manager Jon Daniels and team president Nolan RyanT.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[But I thought Ryan wasn't going to be allowed to partic ... eh, whatever. The whole "controversy" over Ryan not being privy to the meetings with Crane, Dennis Gilbert and Chuck Greenberg always felt contrived and overblown; seriously, even if Ryan wasn't involved in the formal meetings (and I'm not entirely sure that he would have much to add during this due diligence phase of the sale anyway), what was going to prevent Gilbert or Crane from placing a phone call to Ryan and procuring the information that they wanted one way or another?]
● Left-hander Derek Holland, director of Pacific Rim scouting Jim Colborn and recently promoted scouting director A.J. Preller convened with amateur Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi for approximately 30 minutes on Monday; the 18-year-old hurler is apparently still 50-50 between entering Nippon Professional Baseball and heading stateside for the majors (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Patrick Newman, NPB Tracker)
[Obligatory Kikuchi refresher, if you should need it. The thing about the hearsay that the Rangers might be the front-runner to sign him is that, well, if you consider that there's still only a 50-50 chance that he's going to opt for the majors and that no fewer than eight major league teams dispatched personnel to Japan to meet with Kikuchi, that might only equate to a 15-20 percent chance of successfully nabbing him. NPB's amateur draft takes place on October 29th.]
● Arlington mayor Robert Cluck partially credits the city's lofty 2009 sales tax collections to the success of the Rangers, with future development around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington being oriented more towards entertainment than the retail-focused -- and apparently dead -- Glorypark project (Susan Schrock, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[It's a step in the right direction for those who strongly feel that the atmosphere around the Ballpark is lacking, but the author is pretty vague about what "entertainment" entails. I suppose shoving beer and wings down your gullet is pretty damn entertaining around these parts.]
● "Tanner Scheppers [of the Arizona Fall League's Surprise Rafters] was even more impressive than [Andrew] Cashner, sitting at 95-98 mph with a vicious curveball with hard, late two-plane break [this past weekend]. He appeared to be amped up for the short outing; I doubt he'd sit at that velocity as a starter, but even 92-95 mph with that breaking ball would get hitters out multiple times per game. His arm works well, and his potential to be a front-line starter is really just a question of the state of his shoulder." (Keith Law, ESPN.com)
[On Monday morning, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus suggested that Scheppers "just might be the Rangers' shut-down closer of the future." There we go with the labels again. It occurs to me that the Neftali Feliz "starting vs. relieving" debate might not be resolved before Scheppers -- who reportedly hit 99 mph this past weekend -- launches one of his own, particularly if he keeps stepping on the throats of the competition and dominates through early 2010.]
Quick Hits: Have you noticed the deafening silence on the Josh Lewin front lately? ... According to Carlos J. Lugo of Baseball Prospectus, a chance exists that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will play for Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League this year, a circuit which he terrorized to the tune of .364/.506/.848 last winter; Neftali Feliz seems poised to claim a starting assignment with the same club ... According to the intrepid Scott Lucas, Saltalamacchia and Dustin Nippert fell short of the two-year, 141-day cutoff for "Super Two" arbitration eligibility by four days and one day, respectively.