Friday morning, and the First Place Texas Rangers are in Boston to face the Red Sox tonight, while the Second Place Oakland A's are in New York, squaring off against the Yankees.
As has been pointed out at length in the papers, the Rangers are starting a pretty critical stretch of games. This is the beginning of 20 straight games without a day off, at Boston, New York, and Houston, and then at home against the Angels, A's and Mariners. If the team doesn't snap out of this recent funk, they could find themselves out of the race at the end of May...
The big news yesterday, of course, involved the minor leagues, with John Hudgins and Vince Sinisi being traded for Freddy Guzman and Cesar Rojas, and Tim Ireland being fired as Redhawk manager. Evan Grant has a piece on that activity, quoting Ireland as saying that he and new direct of player development Scott Servais never hit it off:
"It was a bad marriage, so we got a quickie divorce," he said. "There just wasn't any chemistry between us. His style and mine are a lot different. There is no animosity. It's just the way it goes."
Grant also says that Guzman will be headed for AAA, with the team wanting him to get some regular ABs after missing last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and has a quote from Daniels on Guzman:
He's got great speed and plays great defense," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He can be an offensive catalyst. We had conversations about these guys going back to the time we made the Adam Eaton trade. We've made it public that we'd like to add some speed."
The one thing everyone seems to agree on in regards to Guzman is that he's real fast and has no power. His OBPs in the minors have been fairly good, although they don't appear to translate into what you'd want from a leadoff hitter in the majors, so the thought that he's an ideal #1 guy would seem to be off-base.
There are also mixed reviews on his defense...a piece in the San Diego paper last year raved that he had outstanding range, and Baseball America also graded him as having plus range. Both BA and BP, though, say he doesn't take good routes, and BP has questioned how good his reads are, both of which would be problems. BP and John Sickels peg Guzman as a backup outfielder, while BA seems to think he could be a regular CF in the Juan Pierre mode.
A lot of Guzman's value -- and thus how good a trade this will be for the Rangers -- depends on his defense. And while offense and pitching stats translate fairly well to the majors, it is hard to get a good statistical measure of how good a minor leaguer (or a major leaguer, for that matter) is defensively. Obviously, the fact that Guzman is fast is a plus, defensively, but Lonnie Smith and Ramon Nivar were fast, as well...if you are fast, but don't get good reads or take good routes to the ball, you aren't going to be a real good defensive centerfielder.
If Guzman is going to be an everyday player, he's going to have to be an above-average defensive centerfielder. Otherwise, you are looking at a guy who is, basically, a younger version of Adrian Brown.
In some non-trade-related stuff, Kat O'Brien has a feature on the Kronkster, who, O'Brien reports, was told repeatedly by his fiancee that he was going to end up playing for the Rangers while he was still with the Cubs organization...
And Christina Kahrl has some praise for Jon Daniels' roster management:
The Rangers are gaming the system, having sorted out that once you sort out that you don't have a reliable fifth starter, you don't need to keep any one of the aspirants around for much time between starts. It appears that John Rheinecker will get the next call to handle the role, but it's more than a week until the Rangers need a fifth again, and why let the roster spot go slack with a last-reliever-in-the-pen guy when you could instead let someone like Tejeda continue starting by shipping him back to Okie? Unless Tejeda (or Rheinecker) can't handle the psychic trauma of yo-yo'ing back and forth, the only thing the Rangers have to worry about racking up are frequent flyer miles. Consider this a successful little bit of gaming the system. In taking the disadvantage of not having a steady fifth man, and instead using it as a way to make sure you have a spare reliever around. Feldman's pretty handy, keeps the ball on the ground and throws hard, so credit the Rangers for making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. (Beats feeding the thing to the dog, donchaknow.)
Again, I think Daniels gets high marks for being creative in his use of the 25 man roster, moving optionable guys on and off the roster to maximize the bullpen options Buck has available from day to day.