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Wednesday a.m. things

Evan Grant has a piece on the Rangers' pursuit of Barry Zito, saying that the Rangers aren't going to pay $100 million, but that Tom Hicks isn't likely to be out-bid for Zito, either.

Grant also mentions that the Rangers have been having lots of trade talks, but haven't really gotten anywhere with any of them.

Kat O'Brien also has a piece on the Zito hunt, saying that the Rangers, if they can't land Zito, are interested in Ted Lilly, Jeff Suppan, and (ugh) Gil Meche, among others, but aren't interested in Jason Schmidt.

O'Brien also discusses the Rangers' pursuit of a centerfielder in the trade market, mentioning Jeremy Reed, Brian Anderson, and Jason Repko as guys the Rangers have interest in, and suggests that the Rangers may go with a combo of a younger player (such as Freddy Guzman) and a vet (like Kenny Lofton) to man center in 2007.

O'Brien also says that Mike Piazza is expected to make an announcement today about his decision on 2007, and that Andy Pettitte's agent says that Pettitte "could be of interest," which doesn't exactly fill me will confidence.

Piazza and Pettitte would both be nice additions this offseason, but it sounds like neither is going to be here.

New York Newsday's Ken Davidoff takes a shot at the Rangers today, with an article headlined "Texas Has Money, Little Else":

An aspiring musician who has expressed zero reservations about dealing with the intense New York fan and media base, Zito must decide whether he wants to make a blatant money grab, or whether he'll defy the perception that his agent always directs clients to the most dollars.

Zito, Scott Boras said, "is geographically free," in that he has no real family concerns tying him down to any specific area of the continent. He visited the Rangers last week, and enthusiastic owner Tom Hicks - the same man who once gave Alex Rodriguez $252 million - showed Zito the cosmopolitan side of Dallas.

"I think they did an excellent job of courting Barry," Boras said. "I think it's a place he looks at very differently than before he came there [last week]."

It's hard to write this without coming off as a New York snob, but the Dallas/Fort Worth area really can't compare to the Big Apple, for those who yearn for culture and exposure. A-Rod, for instance, was already famous enough that he could get national endorsement deals while playing in Texas. But Zito wouldn't be able to elevate his celebrity as a Ranger.

The New York Post reports that two major league executives thought the Rangers would be the high bidder for Zito, and that Zito would end up in Texas.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer has a quote from a scout, discussing why Barry Zito shouldn't sign with Texas:

Texas is pushing hard for left-hander Barry Zito. So are the Mets, but they're afraid the Rangers will outspend them.

One National League scout said Zito would be making a mistake to sign with Texas and pitch at Ameriquest Field at Arlington. "He'd be a high-ball, finesse pitcher going to a park where the ball flies," said the scout.

The flyball tendencies are a concern, although there seems to be a certain level of confidence within the Ranger organization that Zito can adapt to pitching at TBIA...

Phil Rogers has an item today that includes a compliment from a scout about the Rangers' system, and some discussion about the ChiSox desire to get their hands on some Ranger pitching prospects:

In Williams' world, pitching is first, and everything else is tied for last. That philosophy rings very soundly to a longtime major-league scout who spent the 2006 season evaluating the minor leagues.

"You're seeing the price for pitching jump, and people are asking me if this is just a cycle," the scout said. "I don't think it is. I think quality pitchers are just going to get more valuable, more expensive. It is shocking how few good pitchers there are in the minor leagues.

"Some organizations have some pitching--the Dodgers, Houston, Texas--but there are some that don't have a single pitcher. You watch a [minor-league] team for a week, every day you're thinking, OK, I'll see somebody today, and you never do."

Williams knows firsthand how tough it can be to fill out a rotation.

"We never want to be in that position again where we can't find a fifth starter," he said.

As deep in pitching as the Sox are at this point, as strong as their bargaining position is for making a trade in a market that has more demand than supply, they know they can't stay still for long.

Buehrle and Garcia are eligible for free agency after next season. Vazquez, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras are under their control for only two seasons. The next contract for any of them could be a nightmare for Williams and the guy who balances his checkbook, Rick Hahn.

That's why Williams' goal is to parlay Garcia or Vazquez into a younger workhorse, like the Los Angeles Angels' Ervin Santana or prospects John Danks of Texas or Jason Hirsh of Houston.

The Rocky Mountain News has this item on Kenny Lofton:

Then they got word Tuesday that while Kenny Lofton is going to sign for one year, he is expecting to get $6 million, most likely from Texas.

That's a lot of money...but on a one year deal, I guess you can live with it.

Also from the Rocky Mountain News is a report that the Rangers have talked about sending Akinori Otsuka to the Phillies for Gavin Floyd and Aaron Rowand. I'd probably do that, but I doubt Pat Gillick would.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says that Pat Gillick says he's involved in trade talks with three teams, and identifies the Rangers as a team that they believe to be one of the three, with talks apparently centering around Otsuka.

The same item indicates that the Phillies are talking to Rod Barajas's folks about Barajas potentially playing for Philadelphia.

T.R. Sullivan mentions a Blalock for Wells rumor that is floating around, but that appears to be the product of someone's imagination.

The Denver Post says the trade talks involving Jason Jennings have cooled. The Rockies can afford to keep Jennings for 2007 -- it isn't as if they have to move him -- so they may feel they will have more leverage come February, when all the free agent starters have signed, and someone is left with a hole in their rotation.

There are a couple of reports out of Chicago that say that the Rangers "could" be interested in outfielder Jacque Jones, but I find that to be doubtful. The Rangers don't need another lefty-hitting platoon corner outfielder.

The New York Times says that the Rangers are "intrigued" by Eric Gagne, but again, I don't see a match there, given how many bullpen options the Rangers already have.