A whole lot of stuff in the news today...
Tim Cowlishaw has a column on the bullpen today, saying that the Rangers' success or failure in 2006 is going to depend on how well the bullpen performs. T.R. Sullivan, meanwhile, calls Francisco Cordero's return to 2004 form a key to the Rangers' 2006 success. Interestingly, in the Sullivan piece, Jon Daniels indicates that the Rangers are going to wait until after the 2006 season before making any decisions about working on an extension on Cordero's current deal, which expires after next season (assuming the Rangers exercise their $6 million option for 2007 -- otherwise, Cordero will be a free agent this offseason).
Obviously, the bullpen is a key, and the collapse of the pen last season after a strong 2005 performance was probably the biggest factor in the team's disappointing season. But the revamped rotation, the the questions that have to be answered about some of the positional players (Can Nevin and Blalock bounce back? Can Wilkerson and Mench stay healthy?) are just as important...
Kat O'Brien also writes on the Rangers' bullpen battles, with Antonio Alfonseca drawing praise from Mark Connor, and Connor marveling at the depth the Rangers have in lefthanded relief options.
I'm not an Alfonseca fan, but if he's on the roster instead of, say, John Wasdin, then it isn't necessarily a bad swap.
In another piece that examines what the Rangers will have to do to contend this year, Sullivan says that "[n]ext to closer Francisco Cordero, Eaton and Padilla are the biggest keys to the Rangers season." Eaton and Padilla are crucial, but I wouldn't go as far as Sullivan does, saying that the Rangers need 15 wins apiece from each of them. If Kam Loe steps up the way a lot of us think he can, and if Kevin Millwood has a solid season, then the need for both Eaton and Padilla to have strong seasons is lessened. Realistically, if the Rangers need 30 wins combined from those two to compete, then I think we're going to be very disappointed with the 2006 season.
Sullivan also hits on the need for big seasons from Kevin Mench, Hank Blalock, and Phil Nevin, which I'd generally agree with, although I'd say that the Rangers need a solid season from their DH, whether it is Nevin or someone else. I think Erubiel Durazo or Jason Botts could be a solid option at DH if Nevin can't get the job done, and I am hopeful that the Rangers aren't going to ride too long with Nevin if he looks like he did in 2005.
Over at the S-T, O'Brien reports that the Rangers have begun talks with Adam Eaton on a multi-year extension. Jennifer Floyd Engels urges the Rangers to give Eaton a 3 year, $25 million contract. I have my doubts that would be enough for Eaton, and given his lack of production throughout his career, I think 3 years, $25 million would be overpaying anyway.
As it is, Engels logic makes no sense...she says that the Rangers overpaid to get Eaton, so they have to lock him up now, before he can walk as a free agent after the season, suggesting that dire fates await the Rangers if Eaton and Vicente Padilla walk after the season.
However, overpaying for Eaton now would just compound the mistake. Engels says that, "A chance to build on that with a steady No. 2 cannot be ignored." I would agree with that...however, the Rangers currently don't have a steady #2. They have a guy who has been, perhaps, a #4 starter (in terms of performance) throughout his career, and who hasn't stayed healthy.
Evan Grant has some notes on John Danks, whom the Rangers have been impressed with, but whom they are going to be sending back to the minors, at least for the start of the year. Another of the DVD trio, Edison Volquez, is the subject of a piece by T.R. Sullivan today, with Sullivan indicating that the Rangers will probably send Volquez to Oklahoma to start the 2006 season.
Grant's Sunday report also mentions that today will be big for the #5 starter battle, as Juan Dominguez and Josh Rupe will both be pitching. Grant also says that the Rangers have brought Erik Thompson over for major league games a few times, but he may be mixing Erik Thompson up with Travis Thompson, as the Rangers did in their press release earlier this week.
O'Brien also has a feature on the relationship between Mike Young and Vernon Wells, with both players saying that they want to be on the same team at some point down the road, and O'Brien noting that "the chance to play with Wells would be a significant factor" in where Mike Young decides to sign when he becomes a free agent.
Remember the note a couple of days ago, about the Rangers supposedly being interested in Tony Graffanino? Well, as seemed obvious, that appears to no longer be the case, with the Providence Journal now saying that "[t]hanks to the strong play of rookie second baseman Ian Kinsler, the Texas Rangers' interest in Tony Graffanino has cooled."
Phil Rogers, meanwhile, has a quick note on Fabio Castro's struggles this spring, suggesting that the Rangers are now more likely to offer him back to the ChiSox.
Finally, on the non-Rangers front, everyone's favorite DMN writer, Gerry Fraley, has a feature on Jumanji, the new Mariner catcher.