A few observations and comments...
* C.J. Wilson is taking Pedro Astacio's spot in the Ranger rotation. While Astacio should have been gone a long time ago, I don't understand the decision to replace him with C.J. Wilson. Wilson had an ERA over 6 in AA Frisco this season, making the decision to call him up rather baffling in the first place.
Every once in a while, I've commented on what appears to be a fundamentally flawed decision-making process in the Rangers' front office. The whole C.J. Wilson thing is a perfect example of that. He's a guy who didn't perform at AA, who was brought up to join the bullpen for no clear reason, and he's now being thrust into the starting rotation in the majors.
My guess is that he'll only be in there for a start or two, before he's replaced by Wil Rodriguez or someone obtained via trade, so it may end up being moot. But I don't understand why you'd pick Wilson to be the guy to get the ball on Sunday.
* Something old, and something new. The Rangers have apparently agreed to terms with both 2nd round pick Johnny Whittleman and 35 year old Fort Worth Cats pitcher Tim Crabtree, according to the S-T. Both will likely end up in Arizona, Whittleman with a $550K bonus, Crabtree with gas and beer money.
Whittleman seemed likely to sign, although his commitment to UT could have been a bit problematic. As for Crabtree, there's been noise about the Rangers being interested in him in a while, and Kathleen O'Brien characterized the Rangers as being "impressed" by his workout. Crabtree was a solid contributor to the Rangers, back when they were good in the late-90s, but his resurrection now makes me a tad uncomfortable. It is a bit reminiscent of the organization's infatuation with Doug Brocail...another old reliever who doesn't seem likely to be any good, but who hangs around because of his moxie, good face, and veteran presence.
* Joaquin Benoit, Ron Mahay, and Nick Regilio could also be back within a week, according to O'Brien. The question then becomes...if all three are ready, how do you make room for them?
Regilio seems a likely candidate to go back to AAA, since he's got options remaining and has already had an option used this season. C.J. Wilson would seem the prime option to be bumped for Mahay, except for the fact that he's now in the rotation. You could move John Wasdin into the rotation, put Mahay back in the pen, and send Wilson down, but given his nice debut this season, I think Buck & Co. like the idea of using him as a setup man.
Benoit, meanwhile, has been the Rangers' best reliever this year, and is out of options. If Jason Standridge doesn't immediately impress, he could be let go to make room for Benoit. Otherwise, you could see Kam Loe or Juan Dominguez sent down to make room for Benoit.
The most obvious candidate to kick out of the pen is Doug Brocail, who has been awful this year, and was awful for much of last year. Buck has stood by Brocail, though, even after Brocail precipitated that embarrassing Bueno incident in Oakland last year, and the Rangers ended up giving him a guaranteed deal for 2005, even though it seems unlikely any other team would have done so.
On the other hand, we've seen the team cut loose Pedro Astacio -- a guy with a guaranteed contract and guaranteed spot in the rotation, whose "makeup" had Buck gushing all season -- so it may be that good face may not outweigh an inability to perform for much longer. It is worth keeping an eye on, once those guys are ready to return.
* Buck Showalter, who was on with Norm Hitzges yesterday, reportedly hinted that Ryan Drese refused to go on the disabled list prior to being waived. (I didn't hear it myself, so I can't attest to it firsthand). This morning, though, T.R. Sullivan has a quote from Ryan Drese, where Drese says that the Rangers never gave him the option of going on the disabled list, which would have given him the opportunity to work on the side and do a rehab assignment in the minors, of up to 30 days, to try to get straightened out.
Buck, though, has mastered the art of cryptic Buck-talk, saying lots of things without coming out and saying anything in particular. Part of his motivational tactics appears to be keeping his players guessing about what is going on, with the idea that it keeps them on their toes and keeps them from getting complacent.
* Speaking of Ryan Drese, I thought that Buck's explanation for the timing of the move -- the fact that Drese would have the option of refusing an outright assignment and declaring free agency if the team had waited another 10 days -- made sense and offered some justification for the move.
However, I'm now thinking that was a red herring.
According to Jamey Newberg, if a player with three years of service time refuses an outright assignment to the minors and declares free agency, he forfeits his contract. If the Rangers would have been on the hook for the whole contract, then there is no way that they'd send Drese down, because Drese has no reason to accept the demotion...he's better off becoming a free agent, collecting his entire paycheck, and seeing what else is out there.
But if he forfeits his contract by declaring free agency, he's not going to do that unless he thinks he can make more money elsewhere. However, Drese would have to clear waivers before he could be demoted, and if a team were willing to pay Drese more than what he was already making, then that team would just put in a waiver claim on him, and the Rangers would lose Drese anyway.
So the fact that Drese could declare free agency if he were outrighted, if the Rangers had waited another week or two, really should have played no role in their decision to send him down. So I'm now starting to believe that that was just a smokescreen, something that the front office is throwing out there to spin the decision to put Drese on waivers.
* Tom Hicks' and John Hart's recent declaration that the Rangers weren't going to be trading prospects to acquire help at the trade deadline got me to wondering...
Supposedly, the justification for firing Grady Fuson was that the players he drafted didn't have enough trade value, that the team needed to deal prospects to upgrade the team. That was supposedly the motivation behind drafting guys like John Mayberry Jr. and the plethora of big, hard-throwing pitchers this year...they weren't any more likely to succeed than the John Hudgins and Thomas Diamonds, but their trade value would be higher.
But if the organization is now back to saying that they are building from within, and aren't going to trade prospects for veterans, then what difference does it make what the trade value of the minor leaguers is? Is this another example of the front office being unable to make up its mind as to what direction it wants to go?
* Speaking of prospects...Edison Volquez and John Danks had electrifying back-to-back outings against the Corpus Christi Hooks Thursday and Friday night. Volquez threw a complete game 3-hit shutout, with 7 Ks against just 2 walks, while Danks went 7 innings last night, allowing just one run while striking out 7 and walking just 1.
The general rule of thumb is to not get too worked up about prospects until they succeed in AA. Well, Volquez currently has a 2.57 ERA in AA, and Danks is sitting at 3.55. Plus, the 21 year old Volquez and the 20 year old Danks are among the youngest players in the Texas League right now. These two are posting seasons that are as impressive as any posted by any Rangers pitching prospect in recent memory.
The biggest concern with these two may simply be keeping them healthy, given how young they are, given Volquez's slight build, and given the attrition rate for minor league pitchers in general, which is why seeing Volquez hit 105 pitches on Thursday worries me slightly. But all in all, these two, plus Thomas Diamond -- who likely will be joining the Frisco rotation by the 4th of July -- have to make you excited about the possibilities for the future.
* Joe Kennedy's name has been coming up in trade discussions, with the Rangers identified as one of the teams that has been following him. Kennedy was a hot prospect for the D-Rays back at the turn of the century, debuting to impressive reviews at age 22, but then regressing, to the point the D-Rays sent him to Colorado before the 2004 season for Mark Hendrickson. Kennedy was great for the Rockies last year, but has struggled again this year, with an ERA sitting at 7.22.
Ken Rosenthal indicates that the A's, who were interested in Kennedy initially, lost interest when Colorado's asking price turned out to be stud AAA reliever Jairo Garcia (who was just recently promoted) and catching prospect Kurt Suzuki. If the Rangers decide to make a push for Kennedy, Gerald Laird's name will almost definitely come up.