Inbox: Are trade angles in the outfield?
Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers Rangers fans' questions
The mailbag is back. Sorry for the extended hiatus but MLB.com has been reviewing our content and ultimately it was decided that we wanted the mailbag back, mainly by popular demand. Now it's called Inbox in keeping with the current vernacular but the format is the same so Senna, Matt, Drew, Cameron, Aaron and everybody else keep those questions coming. We are back.Assuming that Andruw Jones makes the Opening Day roster, will the team try to trade one of the other outfielders or Hank Blalock for more pitching? With Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, David Murphy and Marlon Byrd already in the outfield, that gives the Rangers five outfielders with Jones.
-- Eric J., Johnson City, Texas
Marlon Byrd is coming back from surgery on his left knee. This surgery was more serious than initially expected and Byrd is still not ready to play in Cactus League games. If all the Rangers outfielders were healthy, then a trade might be a possibility, but the club will likely watch Byrd's progress and where Jones is before it makes any rash decisions.Some time back, I asked the question about the Rangers obtaining Pat Burrell and that I had seen a piece in USA Today that had mentioned this. Your reply at that time was something like, "the Rangers have said all along that their number one priority is pitching and Pat Burrell does not fall into this category. Well, if this was the case, what's your take on the Rangers signing of Andruw Jones?
-- Bruce F., Crown Point, Ind.
There is a huge difference between the two-year, $16 million contract that Burrell signed with the Rays and the Minor League contract that Jones agreed to with the Rangers. My feeling is the Rangers would not have signed Jones if not for the uncertainty involving Byrd. Also, the Rangers really need to commit to Cruz as an everyday player. With Jones, the financial risk ($1.5 million) is minimal but it's way too early to tell if he's closer to the same player who hit 51 home runs and notched 128 RBIs in 2005 with the Braves or the one who hit .158 for the Dodgers in '08. It's the most interesting story of the spring.Being a long-time Rangers fan, I obviously know we need pitching. Even with that being said, I think there are a few offense options that might work. Do you see Pudge Rodriguez as being a good fit to work with our young catchers for a year?
-- Jeremy B., Austin, Texas
The Rangers plan to open the season with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden as their catchers. If for some reason -- trade or injury -- they were left with one of them, I would take Rodriguez in a New York minute. He may not be the Hall of Fame caliber catcher he once was, but he can still contribute significantly to a team.
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It looks like Elvis Andrus will be the starting shortstop this year for the Rangers. What impact and numbers do you project for him in 2009?
-- Ron S., Alexandria, La.
As far as the Rangers are concerned, here is the difference between a young position player and a pitching prospect. The position player joins an already potent lineup and doesn't have the pressure to produce offensively. There are others who will protect him. A young pitcher is far more exposed and has much higher expectations. I can't give you the numbers, but Andrus should be fine, offensively.Since the Rangers didn't trade either Saltalamacchia, Teagarden or Max Ramirez during the offseason, do you think Texas will start the 2009 season with one that they don't see as their long-term choice to enhance the value of a trade chip?
-- Aaron R., Dallas
The organization appears divided as to whether Saltalamacchia or Teagarden is the catcher of the future. Saltalamacchia needs to be better on the defensive end while there is still some unknown as to whether Teagarden will hit enough or be healthy enough to be the long-term answer. Right now it appears the Rangers will give Saltalamacchia a chance to be the No. 1 guy. Teagarden will have to wait his turn. A trade is a possibility. Not only do the Rangers like Ramirez but Manuel Pina, who will likely be at Double-A Frisco, is a legitimate prospect, especially from the defensive side.It is becoming quite obvious that Frank Catalanotto has no place in the 2009 Rangers organization, so why aren't we seeing more effort to trade him?
-- Wayne P., Sherman, Texas
Catalanotto is making $4 million this year with a $2 million buyout on a club option for 2010. That makes him difficult to trade in this economic environment. The Rangers may at some point be willing to pick up some of that salary, but would like a viable prospect in return. That may be asking for too much. Catalanotto could be a valuable player on a winning team, but it seems more likely that it would have to be a team in the National League, where the lack of a DH places a higher premium on a pinch-hitter coming off the bench. There seems to be a good chance that the Rangers will try to do something with Catalanotto before the end of the spring.Why don't the Rangers sign Pedro Martinez? They could probably get him for $1 million? And if he is working as hard as he claims he is, they could get the best bargain this offseason.
-- Zac M., Stamford, Texas
Martinez isn't interested in a Minor League contract and is determined to use the World Baseball Classic as a stage to display his worth. If he pitches well, then $1 million might not be enough, especially if Spring Training injuries around the league increase demand. He's a definite Hall of Famer who doesn't appear interested in taking the Kris Benson route and try to win a job with some club. The economy may force him to do otherwise.With both Joaquin Benoit and Eric Hurley out for the season, do you think there's anything wrong with how the Rangers players, in particular pitchers, condition? The Rangers seem much more prone to injuries than most teams.
-- James A., Plano, Texas
Club president Nolan Ryan has noticed that as well. He has mandated an increased emphasis on conditioning among pitchers in the organization. This is the first Spring Training under that philosophy and the Rangers are definitely pushing their pitchers harder this spring. We just have to wait and see what happens under the Ryan philosophy, but he has willingly put his reputation on the line.What is in store for Joaquin Arias now that Andrus is at shortstop and Ian Kinsler has second base locked up? Is he a possible trade prospect at some point? I know he was injured, so just I'm curious as to what they are going to do with him.
-- Marco M., Big Lake, Texas
Arias suffered a shoulder injury two years ago and is still trying to fully recover. Like Andrus, he was once considered a premium defensive shortstop. He could be trade bait at some point but will likely need some time in Triple-A to re-establish that.Is there any thought of moving Blalock to shortstop to ease the strain on his shoulder?
-- Brendan S., Carrollton, Texas
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.