Now that I've accomplished my goal for the morning by shoehorning another hip-hop song into a baseball post title, here's some stuff that's out there after yet another ho-hum Rangers shutout last night (courtesy of Colby Lewis) ... one that drew Texas to within just 10 innings of the franchise record of 39 consecutive shutout innings, set over a five-day period in late 1981 when the likes of Doc Medich, Fergie Jenkins, Danny Darwin, and Rick Honeycutt decided to make life as miserable as possible for the Red Sox and Royals:
● According to American League sources, the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, and Rangers are all interested in 36-year-old Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is banking a cool $8 million this season -- his actual salary is listed at $12 million, but he is due a $4 million signing bonus from the Dodgers payable in 2012-13 -- and boasts full no-trade protection; on a similar NL West-related note; the Phillies are considered to be a "front-runner" in the chase to grab one of Heath Bell or Mike Adams away from the Padres (Jon Heyman, SI.com; Buster Olney, ESPN.com)
[I'll be straight up with you: the thing about Kuroda (114.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.4 WAR) is that you not only have to worry about the slumping peripherals, but also the possibility that we're seeing some form of age-related decline. That, combined with the fact that he would project as a rather marginal rotation upgrade, probably doesn't benefit Texas much in the present ... but it has also crossed my mind that acquiring a decent mid-rotation guy in the vein of Kuroda might grantthe Rangers the luxury of sticking Alexi Ogando back in the bullpen for a couple of months, provided that they were sufficiently concerned about his second-half workload and wanted to go that way. And the more I've thought about it, the more I've become ready for Texas to let Bell go, if only so that we don't have to read cornball headlines about the Rangers "answering the Bell" and the like for three months.]
● As speculation continues to swirl around the idea of the pitching-rich Marlins and the Rangers hooking up in a trade; Will Carroll shares this cryptic note: "Sounds like the Marlins have their eye on someone in the Rangers [organization] ... and not who you'd think." For what it's worth, Juan C. Rodriguez suggests that the Marlins will hold onto Anibal Sanchez, but will likely trade closer Leo Nunez, who could bank upwards of $5 million next season in what will be his final year of arbitration eligiblity (Twitter; South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
[Funny thing about that -- it isn't clarified whether he's referring to a player, or a coach, or an executive, or a member of the groundscrew, or what. Let your imagination run wild. This would mark the third reported instance of the Marlins and Rangers engaging in some form of trade talks in the last 12 months, as there was the (ugly) Jorge Cantu trade of last July (and a rumored attempt by Texas to ignite trade talks on Josh Johnson that went nowhere), discussions during last year's winter meetings, and now the rumblings in the present. It feels as though something should come out of all those talks that's more significant than Cantu, but I might also be engaged in some type of wishful thinking here.]
● In his newly released top 50 mid-season prospects list, Kevin Goldstein names SS Jurickson Profar (No. 5), LHP Martin Perez (No. 13), LHP Robbie Erlin (No. 32), and CF Leonys Martin (No. 37) as representatives of the Rangers' farm system; two days ago, Keith Law included only Perez (No. 10) and Profar (No. 22) in his updated top 50 prospect rankings (Baseball Prospectus; ESPN.com)
[More from Goldstein: "Profar is hitting, hitting for power, drawing walks, stealing bases, and playing plus defense at a premium position. He’s also younger than Bryce Harper, putting his ceiling somewhere above the roof. ... [Perez] has eliminated the occasional stinker from his starts and earned a mid-season promotion to Triple-A as a 20-year-old. Ceiling remains more No. 2 than No. 1, but the likelyhood of reaching it has increased. ... [Erlin] was arguably the best pitching prospect in the minors, statistically speaking, during the first half of the year, but he's still learning how to use pitches outside the strike zone at Double-A. It's still hard to give him more than the ceiling of a good No. 3 ... [Martin] played fewer than 40 games as a pro, but has already showcased plus hitting skills, gap power, good wheels, an outstanding approach, and good defense. Could play a big role in a pennant race come September."
Law's justification for excluding Martin from his top 50 centers on his bat, which he said evoked serious questions back when he asked a cadre of scouts/executives about it in April, and which he still believes is in question despite his .336/.415/.538 run in the high minors this season. Erlin's exclusion, meanwhile, is apparently based on the lack of 'oomph' on his fastball, as Law explains in the comments section. It would be easy to dismiss his comments on the basis of them simply not being what we want to hear, but that would be criminally short-sighted. I'm obviously hopeful that Goldstein ends up being closer to the mark than Law, but that book has not yet been written.]