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Bankrupt Rangers ruled trade deadline
For everyone still wondering how the Rangers made one trade after another while in bankruptcy, consider the team’s 2007 draft.
That’s right, nine players from one draft are either in the majors or were part of trades for major leaguers — and several others from the ’07 group still have a chance to break through, Rangers officials say.
No wonder so many teams were scrambling Monday night to sign their draft picks. The Rangers’ example offers the latest proof of how valuable such investments can be.
Through scouting and player development, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels not only had the talent to make trades before July 31, but also to get cash back in all five of his deals, including one that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Red Sox.
The Rangers, drawing from their international budget and off-season savings, had about $4 million to spend before the deadline, sources say. Thanks to an uptick in revenues, they ended up spending about $5 million.
Average home attendance has risen from 27,641 last season to 29,759 this season — an increase of more than 2,000 per game.
The averages before and after the acquisition of Lee on July 7 are even more striking — 26,919 pre-Lee, 39,498 post-Lee, an increase of more than 12,500 per game.
Lee, then, is helping pay for himself. No wonder Chuck Greenberg, the team’s new managing partner and CEO, is talking about trying to sign Lee as a free agent this off-season, Yankees be damned.
Every dollar the Rangers borrowed from baseball will be repaid with interest; their debt was covered in the team’s $593 million sale price. Moving forward, the team’s financial position should only improve.
Money, though, is only part of the equation. Even wealthy teams rely on scouting and player development to produce young, inexpensive talent, and the Rangers already are ahead of the curve.
At the deadline, they took straw and spun it into gold.
YANKEES’ POSTSEASON ROTATION BLUES
If the postseason started today, the Rangers’ rotation would be something like: Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter. The Rays’ rotation, while less certain, would include David Price, Matt Garza and, if healthy, Jeff Niemann.
The Yankees’ rotation?
A.J. Burnett? Total wild card. He produced three quality starts and two clunkers in the 2009 postseason.
Andy Pettitte? He recently suffered a setback in his recovery from a strained left groin, and already has missed nearly a month.
Javier Vazquez? His velocity is down, and he threw 106 pitches in four innings against the Tigers on Monday night.
The Yankees won the World Series last season using only Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte — and Pettitte entered the postseason a question mark after skipping a start in mid-September with shoulder fatigue.
No doubt, the Yanks will be in good shape if Hughes remains effective and Pettitte comes back healthy. But at the moment, their rotation is far from a sure thing — and that’s not to mention the latest nicks suffered by position players Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Nick Swisher.
BURRELL: “I COULDN’T MAKE IT WORK”
Burrell, though, says he simply could not adapt to the DH’s role after signing his two-year, $16 million free-agent contract with the Rays prior to the 2009 season.
“I’m truly disappointed and embarrassed that I couldn’t make it work,” Burrell says. “They were paying me a lot of money to do that job. I tried everything. I just couldn’t grasp it.
“I’ve always been someone, if they ask me to do it, I’m going to do it. I’m disappointed and frustrated, not that I was released, but that I couldn’t do what they wanted me to do.”
Burrell, who turns 34 on Oct. 10, went to Triple-A for five games after signing a minor-league deal with the Giants, needing to determine whether he could still play defense.
“I had to. I had to for me,” says Burrell, who had played only nine innings in the outfield with the Rays last season and none this season.
“If I wasn’t able to do it, I wasn’t going to waste anybody’s time. The last thing I wanted to embarrass myself and not help the team.”
Was he worried that, as a player with defensive limitations, his career might be over?
“In the back of your mind, you have to be,” Burrell says. “Baseball is not like other situations. I can’t simply decide that I’m going to keep playing. You have to have someone willing to take a chance. And in this day and age, that’s not happening. Jermaine Dye is at home. A lot of guys are at home.”
Burrell, though, is back, a viable threat again.
THE BUCK STOPS IN BALTIMORE
An NL veteran could not hide his disdain when he asked me over the weekend, “What do you have on the turnaround in Baltimore? Is everyone scared now so they’ve got to play hard?”
Well, that certainly appears to be the case, but fear is not the only reason for the Orioles’ improvement under Buck Showalter, their first manager with actual presence since Davey Johnson in 1996-97.
-- The return of Brian Roberts from a strained abdominal muscle on July 23 gave the Orioles something they had been missing virtually all season -- a bonafide leadoff man. The team’s previous managers, Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel, had tried seven others in the leadoff spot.
-- The trade of Miguel Tejada, the team’s most frequent No. 2 hitter, forced Samuel to rearrange his batting order, using Nick Markakis, Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott in the 2-3-4 spots. Showalter stuck with the new look, and Markakis started seeing more pitches to hit behind Roberts.
--The starting pitching snapped to attention under Showalter, producing 11 quality starts in his first 14 games. Right-hander Kevin Millwood is 2-12 with a 5.74 ERA, but his value again transcends his numbers. Just as Millwood was a strong influence on CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee with the Indians in 2005, he seems to have helped right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who is 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA since the All-Star break.
Some of the Orioles’ success under Showalter is attributable to plain old luck. The team batted .347/.407/.614 with runners in scoring position in Showalter’s first 13 games before going 2-for-11 on Monday night. That’s quite impressive — and quite unsustainable.
In any case, it’s embarrassing that a major-league club would respond only to a manager who exercised greater authority and held the players more accountable. Then again, if any club needed such a kick in the rear, it was the Orioles.
A Showalter-influenced overhaul of the farm system also might be warranted — one rival scout says the O’s minor leaguers display “the worst body language of anyone in baseball.”
A BETTER BUSTER
Remember how scouts were critical of Buster Posey’s catching in the Arizona Fall League, expressing concern over his struggles to handle velocity?
One of those scouts says that Posey not only has improved markedly since then, but also is 100 percent better than he was at Triple-A at the start of the season.
The Giants say that Posey was simply tired by the time he got to the Fall League last October, and understandably so: He had just completed his first full professional season, and had been going non-stop since February.
Additional notes that I gathered while in San Francisco for the Giants-Padres series:
• Padres right fielder Ryan Ludwick says he sensed that the Cardinals might trade him before the non-waiver deadline. For one thing, he knew the Cardinals had a surplus of outfielders. He also noticed the tell-tale sign -- a large number of scouts who were in attendance while he was on a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A.
• Mike Fontenot, meanwhile, had only one question when Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush and acting manager Alan Trammell informed him that he had been traded in the middle of the Giants-Cubs series in San Francisco: “What do I do, just walk over there?”
The answer was yes — and as Fontenot strolled to the home clubhouse, a television cameraman tracked his every step.
• Sometimes bouncing around can work to a player’s advantage. Giants center fielder Andres Torres was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in 2002, but didn’t start taking medication regularly until ’07 during his second stint with the Tigers’ organization.
A coach who remembered him from his first go-around said, “Hey, you’ve got a condition. You should take the medication.” Torres, who is tied for the NL lead with 38 doubles, says the advice helped him turn around his career.
• Miguel Tejada says he did not take groundballs at short after moving to third base with the Orioles this season. The Padres did not intend for him to play short regularly after they acquired him. But they have needed Jerry Hairston at second while awaiting David Eckstein’s return from a calf injury.
Hairston, Tejada’s teammate with the Orioles in 2004, says he is “shocked” by how well Tejada has played at short.
AROUND THE HORN
• Dave Stewart, the agent for Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, might simply have been defending his territory when he spoke out on behalf of his embattled client last week. Stewart nearly lost Kemp to Scott Boras last off-season, according to a major-league source.
Kemp, at times, appears a scapegoat for the Dodgers’ troubles, but his inattentive play and resistance to instruction are legitimate concerns. Stewart, one of the game’s fiercest competitors in his pitching days, likely would not have tolerated some of Kemp’s actions.
• Braves first baseman Troy Glaus might be heating back up, as evidenced by his eight RBIs in his last nine games. But from June 14 to Aug. 6, Glaus batted .158/.307/.233 and one scout says, “He can’t move. His body has no agility.”
Club officials are not ready to give up on Glaus, but they also are not ignoring Freddie Freeman’s .311/.370/.513 line at Triple A. Freeman is a certain September callup. The Braves could turn to him before then and make him eligible for their postseason roster, but such a move is not likely.
• Even before Bobby Valentine told Jack Curry of YES Network that he did not consider himself “a fit” for the Mariners, the pairing seemed unlikely.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik probably wants a personality less forceful than Valentine’s, and Valentine probably wants more of a sure thing than the M’s.
• The A’s lead the AL with a 3.57 rotation ERA; the Rays are next at 3.62. The average age of the A’s five starters is 23.6, and the rotation’s collective achievement is especially impressive considering that left-hander Brett Anderson has been limited to 10 starts due to elbow trouble.
In case you missed it, right-hander Trevor Cahill tied a modern major league record with 20 straight starts of five innings or more and allowing six hits or fewer. The only other pitcher to achieve such a feat: Nolan Ryan with the Angels in 1972-73.
• The Rangers are looking into the possibility of signing infielder Alex Cora, who was released by the Mets earlier this month.
The team has yet to make Cora an offer, according to a major-league source, but signing him would provide additional protection behind second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has not played since July 27 with a left groin strain, and infielder Cristian Guzman, who recently joined Kinsler on the DL with a strained right quadriceps.
Lyon, in the first year of a three-year contract, has made six appearances in the last eight days, throwing a total of 94 pitches. Lindstrom pitched for the first time in six days Monday night and allowed two runs in the ninth inning of a 3-1 loss to the Mets.
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