Marlon Byrd Trade Watch: Day Four has now all but come and gone, with nary a peep from the Texas Rangers front office in regard to the violently swirling rumors surrounding the immediate fate of the club's probable Opening Day left fielder.
From where I sit on this chilly, gloomy Tuesday evening in north Texas, the sheer amount of media speculation - which has been offered by a wide variety of media sources, ranging from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers - that has been offered to the masses on this proposed Byrd-for-Murton swap suggests, to me, two somewhat obvious things:
a) There is simply way too much smoke present here for there not to be something to these rumors.
b) The longer these negotiations drag out, the farther the odds fall of a deal ever getting done.
Apologies if you were expecting something a bit more substantive. At any rate, only time will tell if Rangers GM Jon Daniels will find a way to transform a 30-year-old fourth outfielder into a younger and likely more talented 26-year-old asset - or if Cubs GM Jim Hendry will suddenly snap to his senses, and put a quick end to this foolishness.
Considering that 96 hours have now passed since T.R. Sullivan published his original report on the matter, I'm betting on the latter scenario being the more likely to come to fruition at this point.
With all of that out of the way, time for some Rangers quick hits!
? T.R. Sullivan's latest edition of his weekly MLB.com mailbag touches on the potential future Hall of Fame merits of shortstop Michael Young, a lifetime .302/.347/.448 (103 OPS+) hitter with 103 HR in 4,315 at-bats to this point in his eight-year Major League career.
Though Young isn't going to blow anybody away with his on-base and slugging percentages, there is something to be said for his astonishing consistency at the dish - he's batted at least .306 and collected 200 hits in five consecutive seasons (including a 2005 AL batting title), and now sits at 1,305 hits for his career.
It would be a little hypocritical of me to overly worship his raw batting average and hit totals, considering that there are much more comprehensive and modern ways of chronicling a player's offensive value - such as EqA, for instance. However, if there's anything we've learned about the BBWAA's convoluted Hall of Fame voting methodology over the years, it's that they absolutely love the 3,000 hit benchmark in determining who should be deemed worthy for election.
Of the 27 players who presently reside in baseball's prestigious "3,000 Club," 23 inhabit Cooperstown. The four who don't? Rafael Palmeiro (who may eventually gain admission, but will suffer as a direct result of the lack of support for Mark McGwire), Rickey Henderson (who attains HoF eligibility in 2009, and will be a first-ballot entry), Craig Biggio (borderline candidate, but will probably get in sooner or later) and Pete Rose, who we all know the story on already.
Assuming that Young manages to hang around in the big leagues for another nine years (which would take him through his age 39 season in 2016), he'll need to accumulate around 189 hits per year to reach the 3,000 hit plateau. Achievable? Certainly. Likely? Probably not, although it'd be foolish to ever bet too heavily against Mike given the obstacles he's had to overcome in reaching the big leagues to begin with.
And let's be perfectly honest here: though I'm certain Young would be positively ecstatic to someday join the ranks of baseball's other immortals in Cooperstown, he's probably exponentially more ecstatic at the thought of helping the Texas Rangers win a World Series.
Hell, even a playoff game would be nice.
Sullivan also touches on the unlikely possibility of right-hander Eric Hurley winning a big league rotation spot outright, defends the wiseness of the Rangers doling out so many one-year contracts this winter, and includes a brief update on the health of left-hander Kason Gabbard, who will reportedly be ready to go by the time spring training activities officially commence next month in Surprise, Arizona.
And as for the Rangers' decision to sign right-hander Jason Jennings over Bartolo Colon?
In your opinion, what may have led the Rangers to show more interest in signing Jason Jennings rather than say, Bartolo Colon?
-- Bruce F., Crown Point, Ind.
Jennings is five years younger than Colon and should be ready from Day 1. That might not be the case with Colon. The Rangers had real concerns about his health and overall conditioning, and it's interesting that he still hasn't signed.
? According to Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia has not been guaranteed a 25-man roster spot coming out of spring training, and could wind up starting the season at Triple-A Oklahoma if he fails to outperform his catching counterpart, Gerald Laird, in Surprise:
"They've talked to me about that," said Saltalamacchia, who was in town for the Rangers Winter Caravan this week. "They said we need you to catch every day and if Laird beats you out, that's the thought we had [Triple A]. I can guarantee I'm ready and I'm going to give everything I've got. But it's their plan and I'm here to play."
You know, I can sort of understand why the Rangers are choosing to go about things in this manner - but at the same time, I really can't. Salty was hardly overmatched during his inaugural big league campaign, swatting 11 homers in 308 AB and hitting a respectable .266/.310/.422 (91 OPS+) between Atlanta and Texas - in other words, more or less league-average offensively for his position. As a 22-year-old rookie. Not exactly something to sneeze at.
And though the Rangers' apparent thought process in declaring the starting catcher's job to be an open competition may seem perfectly reasonable on the surface, the reality of the matter is that Laird is a vastly inferior offensive player. Defensive talent and "game-calling" ability are important, certainly - but not to an extent where the tremendous disparity between their respective offensive capabilities should be completely ignored.
Furthermore, I've long expressed a hatred for the usage of spring training statistics as a key evaluator in determining the winners and losers of positional battles coming out of spring training. Not only is sample size (or the lack thereof) a huge factor, but when considering the environment and odd makeup of talent in the way of non-roster invitees and minor league prospects, there's simply too much variability present to draw any accurate conclusions.
If you're looking for the abridged version of my basic argument, here you go: Saltalamacchia, irregardless of how he plays in spring training (barring an nagging injury that dramatically hinders his production, or some such), needs to be the Rangers' starting catcher on Opening Day. It's good for his development, it's good for the organization, and it's good for those ticket sales that are so desperately coveted by team owner Tom Hicks.
It's that simple.
? Speaking of Hicks, guess who's suddenly unwilling to part ways with his 50% ownership stake in Liverpool FC, despite reportedly being offered upwards of �350 million by Dubai International Capital to sell out?
"I have not received any offer to purchase the club from the DIC or anyone else, much less accepted any such offer. Nor do I have any intention of doing so. I and my family have always been, and remain, fully committed to co-owning the club; that no one in my family has ever indicated any intention or desire to sell our stake in the club; and that we expect and intend to be co-owners of the club, and to actively and enthusiastically support the club's manager, players and fans for many years to come."
As Bob Sturm of the Ticket's BaD Radio writes, Hicks has "picked the wrong fight" to battle:
It is one thing to torment and torture the Texas Rangers fan base. It is a similar or perhaps easier proposition to frustrate the Dallas Stars fan base. But, friends, make no mistake, it is quite another to instigate a battle with the fans of one of the most powerful sports institutions in the world, Liverpool FC.
The fans of that team see it as a lifelong obsession, a way of life, and hope every morning.
Tom Hicks saw it as another passionless money making opportunity, they say.
Here we go again.
The fans, meanwhile, have gradually progressed from restless to enraged:
"The fans want them out, unconditionally," said Kevin Sampson, of Reclaim The Kop. "It's as simple as that. They�re no good for us; no good for the club. As the world is seeing it right now, Liverpool is the most welcoming city and its people are the most generous hosts you're going to find anywhere.
"But cross us, and that's that. We're enemies, for life. Ask Mackenzie. Ask Thatcher. Ask Boris The Buffoon."
In less than a year, Hicks has gone from the fan-labeled American savior of Liverpool FC to perhaps one of the most hated men in England. His blatant refusal to dispense the necessary funds needed for his club to compete has infuriated his widely beloved manager, frustrated his players, and have angered the fans to the point of rebellion.
Tom may want to hire an extra bodyguard or two. Or ten. Some background checks to ensure that his new hires aren't Liverpool natives might be in order, as well.
? Along with the Reds, Twins and Rays, FOXSports.com's Dayn Perry has pegged the Rangers as one of his four "under the radar" teams who have the potential to pull off a major divisional upset in 2008:
On balance, the Rangers were a disappointment in 2007. But it's worth noting that Texas was .500 after the break. Here's what they've got going for them in 2008: the potential for excellent up-the-middle offensive production (Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher, Michael Young at short, Ian Kinsler at second, and Josh Hamilton in center), a strong outfield defense, and an underrated bullpen.
However, if the Rangers are to make the necessary strides this year, then a few things need to happen. To wit, Kevin Millwood needs to pitch as he did in the second half (6.16 ERA before the break, 4.29 ERA after the break), Milton Bradley needs to stay healthy and hinged, and Jason Jennings needs to rediscover his 2006 self.
This division, by all rights, should belong to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but the Rangers, given a small miracle or two, could make the worst-to-first leap in 2008.
This assessment seems about right. A lot of things would have to fall perfectly right for Texas to win the AL West in 2008, but there's little arguing against the talent this organization currently possesses, even at the big league level.
? Baseball Prospectus's Christina Kahrl is a fan of the Jason Jennings signing, from the Rangers' perspective - though she doesn't seem to believe (and perhaps rightfully so) that he'll propel Texas beyond third place in 2008:
Give me a choice between Jennings for this sort of money and similar signings like Kip Wells, and I think you have to credit the Rangers for taking a risk on the right one-year rental vet. Jennings needs to deliver the kind of season that can get him back to where he thought he was heading before last season�big money for multiple years�so he needed to find a solid one-year option somewhere.
I'd bet on his returning to being a solid mid-rotation starter, perhaps leaving him shy of Meche money in a rotation, but good enough to get him a three-year deal next winter after helping propel the Rangers into third place.
Meanwhile, Kevin Sherrington offered a decidedly more mainstream slant towards the signing in his DMN chat session on Tuesday:
Rangers in 08: What are your thoughts on the Rangers signing Jason Jennings?
Kevin Sherrington: He's not the type who will sell a lot of tickets, and obviously he's had some health issues since his rookie season. But the Rangers are not going to ask a lot from him other than to be healthy and put up close to 200 innings. If he does that, and Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla do, too, the Rangers will contend. If you get innings from your starters and a great bullpen, it mitigates somewhat the lack of an ace.
Of course, given the health problems that Jennings dealt with in 2007, that probably sort of is a lot to ask.
? Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has named Blake Beavan, Engel Beltre, Taylor Teagarden, Cristian Santana and Neftali Feliz as the 5th through the 9th best prospects in the Rangers organization. I'm still looking to publish my own top prospects list at some point before spring training; hopefully, the addition of Craig to the BTiA writing staff will help to facilitate that goal.
And no, I haven't forgotten about the "Texas Rangers Top 10" series. More installments are still forthcoming, though I'm uncertain as to exactly when that will be.
? Former Texas Ranger and current Chicago Cub infielder Mark DeRosa is less than pleased at the thought of his club acquiring second baseman Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles, since that would relegate him to a strict utility role:
"I'm on the fence with it," DeRosa said Monday. "My personal opinion is that I find it hard to believe a utility man is as important as an everyday player. He's not. Period."
One of my loyal readers and commenters, Jon, deserves some props for calling attention to the possibility of DeRosa becoming miffed when I summarily dismissed it as a total non-issue. Granted, the Cubs have yet to pull the trigger on a deal for Roberts - but should a trade eventually be consummated, it'll be fun to see how DeRosa publicly reacts.
? Free agent outfielder Sammy Sosa will not be returning to the Rangers in 2008, though that was more or less a foregone conclusion already:
"Sammy provided a lot to the club and our fans last year," Daniels said via e-mail. "We wish him the best going forward."
Earlier in the winter, Sosa was purported to be seeking a guaranteed Major League contract worth at least $7 million. That's going well then, is it?
? Along those same lines, Sosa's free agent cohort Brad Wilkerson reportedly wants a three year, $21 million contract. Yikes. The Red Sox have expressed some interest in bringing Wilkerson aboard as a backup first baseman/outfielder, but not even a franchise as flush with cash as Boston is going to shell out that kind of dough for a struggling 30-year-old coming off a mediocre season.
? Finally, Jon Daniels has agreed to answer some reader-submitted questions for Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors, which are being fielded as we speak.
For a lack of idiotic fan-engineered trade proposals in T.R. Sullivan's MLB.com mailbag this week, here's a humorous (or perhaps depressing, I'm not entirely sure which) sampling of questions from some of the best and the brightest MLBTR readers to take us out tonight:
"Why didn't you trade for Adam Dunn of the Reds?? He is a Home Run hitter who is from Texas."
"what are you going to do to make the rangers not suck? quit?"
"Outside of yourself and your staff, was there ANYONE who thought trading Chris Young and Adrian Gonzales for ADAM EATON AND AKINORI OTSUKA was a good idea?"
Just twenty-two days until Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Surprise, Arizona.