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With the winter meetings starting shortly, Jim Reeves calls out Jon Daniels, taking him to task for letting too many free agents go, and for watching the team go backwards so far this offseason...

Reeves says that the Rangers are likely going to go with a stop-gap centerfielder this season, and are going to be lucky if they land one veteran starting pitcher, with two Rangers prospects joining Millwood and Tejeda in the rotation.

You know, maybe the departures of John Hart and Buck Showalter have turned me into Jimmy Sunshine when it comes to the Rangers, but I'm just not that worked up about the offseason so far. Reeves goes through the litany of players who departed:

Gary Matthews Jr.: Gone.

Mark DeRosa: Gone.

Carlos Lee: Gone.

Adam Eaton: Gone.

Kip Wells: Gone.

Vicente Padilla: Booked, I fear, on the last bus out of town.

The only player on that list I really wanted the Rangers to really prioritize bringing back was Padilla...who, of course, is the one guy who the Rangers are still talking to.

Reeves later specifically laments the departure of Wells, but if Daniels does land the two veteran starters, as is the plan, he wants them both to be more solid bets than Wells, and bringing back Wells plus two other starters means that you don't fill #5 spot from within, which I think is another Ranger goal.

For all the harping on the outfield and DH slots, I don't have a problem with going into 2007 with a plan to have the DH, left field and right field filled with some combo of Botts, the Cat, Wilkerson, Cruz, and Diaz, particularly if you think Cruz and/or Wilk can give you a fair amount of innings in center field.

As I've mentioned before, I have no problem with Daniels prioritizing the rotation this offseason, giving the guys currently in place the first couple of months of the season to show that they can handle the outfield/DH slots, and then making a move to get another bat in June or July if need be. Again, this is the method that Billy Beane seems to use every year -- use the first couple of months to evaluate whether the guys you have on hand can do the job, and then adjust as needed.

And to reiterate, I'd rather see the Rangers shopping for a bat in June than a #2 or #3 starter in June.

Speaking of Wilkerson, T.R. Sullivan has this note on him yesterday:

Rangers trainer Jamie Reed looked in on outfielder Brad Wilkerson last week in Florida. Wilson, recovering from shoulder surgery on Aug. 22, has hired a personal trainer, lost weight and is ahead of his rehabilitation program. He's scheduled to start swinging the bat again this week.

Good news there...and there's more from Sullivan on the free agent market today:

A baseball official described right-handed free agent pitcher Miguel Batista as "steady, durable and not very sexy."

But the Rangers would find him possibly desirable as a No. 3 starter in a rotation headed by Kevin Millwood and Barry Zito.

I like Batista, and he would be an interesting fallback option, particularly since, as Sullivan also notes, he'd likely require only a two- or three-year deal.

Richard Durrett has an item on the meeting between Zito and the Rangers, mentioning in particular that pitchers Kam Loe and C.J. Wilson -- guys about Zito's age who are also from California -- joined Hicks and Daniels at dinner with Zito.

Not a bad move there, getting those guys there to shmooze with Zito...and maybe it is just me, but I have a hard time imagining John Hart bringing a couple of not-yet-arb-eligible players to have dinner with him, Hicks and a free agent the team is interested in.

Kat O'Brien reports that Barry Zito is the type of player that Tom Hicks would be willing to bump the payroll up to acquire.

O'Brien also mentions that Buck Showalter has officially joined the Cleveland Indian front office...and thus the Eric Wedge watch begins. Wedge is a young manager, coming off a bad season, with John Hart protege Mark Shapiro running the show and Hart's BFF joining the team...if I'm Wedge, I'm watching my back, and not signing any long-term leases in Cleveland. If the Indians get off to a bad start, I imagine Buck will be in the dugout by the All Star Break.

The New York Times and New York Post both have the Mets interested in Vicente Padilla, although Padilla seems to be a fallback option if they can't land Barry Zito.