Last night was Newberg Report Night at the ballpark. As always, it was lots of fun and Jamey did a good job of putting it together. I would like to thank Jamey Newberg and Eleanor Czajka for making it happen, and Will Carroll, Kevin Goldstein, and Jon Daniels for doing the Q&A sessions.
The Q&A sessions were held in the Legends of the Game Museum’s theater like usual. We got there at about 2:45 and went on up to the theatre. Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein (both from Baseball Prospectus) were the first guests and were already up there hanging out when we arrived, even though they weren’t supposed to start until 4:00. They started taking questions at about 3:00 and went for 90 minutes. Will was great as always. This was the first time I had met Kevin. Both of them seem to know everything that’s going on in baseball and they’re funny too.
Here are some of the questions that I asked and their answers:
Q: What was the strategy of the Mariners and Reds at the trading deadline, when they both traded prospects for veterans, and then traded veterans for prospects?
A: Mariners: They have a long-term strategy, and they think that the Mariners are way ahead of where they thought they would be, although Will and Kevin are still trying to figure out the Jack Wilson trade.
Reds: They don’t understand what the Reds did with getting Scott Rolen. They said that they are confused by it and that the Reds got him because they could for a reasonably cheap price, even though Kevin wonders what it does for the team.
Q: What was the most surprising trade to you?
A: The Jake Peavy trade because nobody saw it coming and there were no rumors whatsoever. They also said that it might be the best trade and that it came so quickly, they didn’t even talk to the medical people because apparently this deal got done in minutes.
Q: What teams do you think are best at starting pitching and relief pitching?
A: Starting Pitching: Red Sox and Giants
Relief Pitching: Brewers
Will and Kevin also said that if the Rangers traded Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter, Wilfredo Boscan, and Thomas Diamond, it would be about the equivalent of what the White Sox gave up for Peavy, and if the Rangers traded Wilfredo Boscan and Tommy Hunter, it would be about the equivalent of what the Tigers gave up for Jarrod Washburn. Kevin also said that he could see Justin Smoak and Kasey Kiker coming up to the majors around this time next year.
After the Will and Kevin Q&A, Jamey auctioned off some prizes, with proceeds going to the Hello Win Column Fund. They raised thousands of dollars, which was great. There were two items that were very exciting for me personally. First, I won an inning in the TV booth with Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve! That was awesome. Second, I had donated one of the items for auction (a baseball with autographs from a lot of different Rangers players) and it went for $200.
Then, at 5:00, Jon Daniels came in and did 90 minutes of Q&A. When Jon kicked off the Q&A he said ‘I typically open up with Grant but his questions are usually a little challenging so I’m going to warm up with a few others first.’
I was able to ask the following three questions:
Q: Can you please name 3-5 minor leaguers who are most likely to be called up and have an impact on this year’s pennant race, including at least one who’s not currently on the 40-man roster?
A: ‘A handful of guys have the chance to play some role for us either as part of a September call-up or earlier. I think guys like Julio Borbon, Doug Mathis, and Guillermo Moscoso have done nice jobs while they’ve been up here. I think (Neftali) Feliz is certainly an option. Esteban German has had a very good year for us. I think he has the chance to help us in some regard. He’d be a nice guy for any contending club to have on their bench down the stretch.’ (Note that Mathis and Feliz were activated for that evening’s game.)
Q: The Rangers have managed to remove a number of players from their 40-man roster over the last couple of years, get them through waivers, reassign them to the minors, and then repurchase their contracts later to help the major league team, like Nelson Cruz and Doug Mathis. Is there a key to the timing of these moves that increases your chances of keeping the player?
A: ‘Absolutely. Nelson Cruz cleared waivers right at the beginning of the season. That’s the toughest time to claim a guy on waivers just because you have your roster set, your big league club’s set, and you’re breaking camp. Unless it’s a slam dunk upgrade, everyone just says ‘hey, let’s go with our own’ rather than taking someone else’s discard. So I think that’s probably the easiest time to slide a guy through waivers. Mathis was a non-tender re-sign. In that situation, it’s basically explaining to the player the options and, if they agree to resign with you at that point, you can give them some things that they might not get as free agents. That’s more of a leverage situation than anything.’
Q: Can you name three Rangers prospects that are not on most people’s radars who have made their way onto your radar?
A: ‘I’ll put (Jurickson) Profar on there. I’ll put Leury Garcia on there, shortstop at Hickory. And I’ll put Tim Murphy on there.’
Other interesting comments from Jon in answer to questions:
· After receiving a huge round of applause when someone thanked him for not trading some of the guys that were rumored to be traded, Jon said ‘I’ll do nothing more often. That was awesome.’
· Jon was asked why he didn’t wait a month or so to promote Elvis so that he could keep control of him for an extra year. He said that they looked at it and talked about it but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. To tell Elvis that he’s the shortstop but that they were going to wait a few weeks because they wanted to exploit his arbitration eligibility didn’t feel right. There are certain times you make business decisions and separate your emotions from those decisions, but they were telling this 20-year old kid that they believed in him and he would be a big part of the club. Plus they were telling the players on the big league club ‘Hey, trust us on this’. He felt it would have been talking out of both sides of their mouth. They would rather deal with the financial consequences than create a potentially divisive situation.
· When asked about the media not giving much coverage to the Rangers, he said that he doesn’t totally buy into it just being because Dallas is a football town. A lot of it is because the Rangers haven’t won to create the fan base and interest. He feels that the media will cover whoever the fans tell them to cover.
· They’re still watching Ben Sheets to see if he’s an option for next year.
· When asked if the starting center fielder for next year is in the organization, he said that candidates internally are Hamilton, Byrd, and Borbon. He feels that one of them will very likely be starting for the Rangers in center field next year.
· When asked why Borbon was brought up earlier this year if he wasn’t going to play, Jon said that he doesn’t completely buy into the philosophy that you shouldn’t call a top prospect up if he isn’t going to play every day. He feels that Borbon got a lot out of the experience.
· He typically goes out to see the A clubs once per year. He sees Frisco and Oklahoma City more often.
· 90% of trade rumors reported are inaccurate.
· When asked who would be called up if Salty or Teagarden were hurt, Jon said that Max Ramirez would be recovered from his injury soon. Manny Pina would also be considered, especially since he’s Rule 5 eligible this year. Richardson and Frostad could also do the job in the short term.
· Main internal candidates for the starting rotation next season are Kevin Millwood (he expects him to vest his option), Scott Feldman, Vicente Padilla (the club has an option on him), Matt Harrison, Brandon McCarthy, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter. Others in the mix are Neftali Feliz, Dustin Nippert, Guillermo Moscoso, and Doug Mathis. The position will be high on the list of priorities during the off season.
· When asked if it bothers him when a player like Halladay doesn’t want to come to Texas, he said that it does a little bit but that it’s sort of like his answer about media coverage. The team needs to win first and then people will be more interested in coming here.
· The cost to put a dome on the ballpark is prohibitive plus the ballpark wasn’t engineered to facilitate something like that. There’s a company that said they can put a screen over the park to lower the temperature 10 degrees. But odds are that there’s really not a realistic option to help with the heat.
· Benoit is throwing. There’s a chance he could be back in September but it’s unlikely.
· People need to keep in mind that Josh Hamilton is still recovering from surgery.
· They’re not trying to preach a philosophy of more pitches per plate appearance. He doesn’t think that it directly correlates to success. Getting a good pitch to hit is directly correlated to success.
· They’ve discussed moving McCarthy to the bullpen to ease the strain on his shoulder. They’re focusing on a starter’s routine during his rehab, which allows them to go either way with it. He’s pitched in the bullpen successfully in the big leagues. It will depend on what their needs are when he’s ready to come back.
· They’re not sure why Blake Beavan’s velocity is down but he’s 20 years old and time is on their side. They’re going to let him keep pitching and see if it improves.
· He would be in favor of moving the deadline for signing draft picks up to June 30th. It would be a challenge to sign them quicker but it would let them have the rest of the summer to focus on other things and also let the players start playing and getting on with their development sooner.
· Chris Davis is still very much in their plans. He will be a strong consideration for a September call-up, if not before then.
· Eric Hurley’s on pace to be 100% for spring training.
· Jurickson Profar will likely be developed as a position player not a pitcher. He thinks he’ll be one of the top shortstop position player prospects in the game.
· He expects that Tanner Scheppers would start out higher than Low-A to start his minor league career.
· Right now, Chris Davis is better defensively than Justin Smoak.
Like usual, Jon did a great job answering the questions and I would like to thank him for giving us so much of his time.
After the Daniels Q&A, we went to our seats for the game. I got to talk to Will, Kevin, Jamey, Eleanor, Scott and Courtney Lucas, and Barry Newberg a lot during the game (and Ted Price and Adam Morris a little too). It’s really cool to watch a game and talk baseball with all of those people.
It was a very good game, as the Rangers won 4-2. Scott Feldman picked up the win, to make him 10-4 on the season. He allowed 2 runs, both earned, on just 5 hits, and he lowered his ERA to 3.91 on the year. CJ Wilson picked up his 13th save on the year, on one of the strangest last outs I’ve seen. It was a 1-2 count with 2 outs and Jack Wilson at the plate, and CJ threw him a breaking ball in the dirt that he swung at, and the ball got away. But he thought that he tipped the ball, so he didn’t run. But Salty ran and got the ball and tagged Wilson out, as none of the umps saw him tip the ball.
The Rangers scored all of their runs on homers. In the bottom of the 1st, David Murphy crushed a ball into the upper home run porch to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Then, after the Mariners scored two runs in the top of the 6th, Michael Young hit a solo home run to tie the game at 2, which would change when Salty came up in the 7th, as he hit a two-run home run off the foul pole in right to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead, which would be the final score. And Scott Feldman’s 7 innings are even more noteworthy since he was pitching on short rest. That’s pretty good.
We didn’t get to see Feliz make his major league debut, but we did get to see him going to the bullpen before the game carrying a pink backpack.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone that made this happen. It was a blast.
Come back next week for a report of a recent baseball road trip I took.