When a devout Packers fan and unabashed Cowboys hater such as myself is fearful of Sunday afternoon's nationally televised clash turning into a double-digit embarrassment for Green Bay, you know that it's going to be a tense weekend:
● Texas inquired into the availability of Rays outfielder B.J. Upton as part of their standard off-season due diligence, but were evidently rebuffed, as there are "no ongoing talks" (Buster Olney, ESPN.com)
[When we conversed at length about Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon and the fallacy of player labels late last month, there was one specific point that I really wanted to hammer home: "If [Julio] Borbon isn't the player that the Rangers believe will reliably fill the center field void over the next several years, it's imperative that the Rangers identify the right player for the job and begin prudently pursuing that individual -- that "franchise center fielder," if you will, which was what the Rangers originally thought they would be getting with Hamilton."
Well, surprise, surprise -- for the moment, Hamilton is the team's nominal center fielder, but the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes that the Rangers are preparing to finally move him into a full-time right field/designated hitter role, so it seems that we're now down to Borbon or Marlon Byrd or Mike Cameron ... or a guy like Upton or Curtis Granderson, both of whom you could call "franchise center fielders" with varying degrees of conviction. Unfortunately, their moderate declines in 2009 aren't really going to culminate in much lower asking prices, but I like the idea of aggressively pursuing a player of their ilk over, say, throwing $20 million at Byrd.
For what it's worth, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News wrote late Friday evening that the Rangers "might be willing to chase Granderson." Whatever that means.]
● In response to Brewers general managers Doug Melvin remarking that nobody had heard anything from free agent right-hander Ben Sheets, agent Casey Close has proclaimed that his client's rehabilitation is going "very well" and that Sheets expects to be 100 percent by the beginning of spring training (Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com)
[Ah, there we go. Close further states that there has been no shortage of interest in his client, and the thought seems to be that the Sheets situation will, like earlier this year, drag into January/February, with the hope assuredly being that some pitching-needy general manager will put the right amount of guaranteed money on the table and emerge victorious over those teams that aren't quite so inclined to offer anything beyond low-base salary, high-incentive deals.
Recall that the Rangers' original -- and ultimately abortive -- agreement with Sheets would have guaranteed him no less than $10 million over two seasons, as well as significant performance bonuses; he's obviously not going to get that much now, and that's a good thing, because tacking hefty performance bonuses onto a multi-year deal creates a lot of cost uncertainty in year two, and any incoming ownership group may not find that to be an especially desirable thing.]
● The Rangers have reinstated left-hander Matt Harrison, right-hander Eric Hurley and outfielder Brandon Boggs from the 60-day disabled list to the 40-man roster, which is now occupied by 35 players; additionally, Texas has re-signed infielder Guilder Rodriguez and right-handers Jose Diaz and Adalberto Flores to minor league deals (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[After having not pitched for the Arizona Fall League's Surprise Rafters since November 2nd, Harrison returned with a vengeance on Friday, logging three hitless frames while yielding just one walk; of course, he didn't strike anybody out either, and that seems to be a microcosm of what he's been about -- a talented sub-25-year-old southpaw whose results just haven't caught up to the raw stuff. He'll pitch in the majors in 2010, but in what capacity and for how long remains the million-dollar question.
As noted by Wilson, Jamey Newberg and others, the deadline to finalize the 40-man roster in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft is next Friday, and it would seem that Double-A Frisco left-hander Michael Kirkman is best poised to make the leap forward from non-roster status. Among the rest of the candidates for addition, LOOGY-in-training Zach Phillips stands out in the sense that he would likely stand a better chance of immediately helping some team than, say, fellow Rule 5-eligibles Chad Tracy and Fabio Castillo; however, this doesn't figure to be a very difficult round of draft preparation. The real challenge comes next year.]
Random Musings: Two bucks says that Esteban German isn't going to be Omar Vizquel's successor as the Rangers' Opening Day utility infielder; even though it came in a limited sample of games, something about German's defensive play at third base last season really bothered me ... A simple question for those writers who think the Rangers could be a fit for Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay: If he didn't want to come here on July 31st, why would he want to come here now? ... Thankful that John Wetteland is doing fine and well after his Thursday scare, but his explanation hasn't been universally accepted by the media; then again, it's really none of our business ... If you haven't yet pre-ordered the 2010 Bound Edition of the Newberg Report, you just might want to do so.