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11/24/08 7:02 PM EST

Mailbag: Pitching remains top priority

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers Rangers fans' questions

Do you foresee any trade involving either Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla that could happen this offseason and to what possible teams, with what possible players?
-- Christopher B., Arlington

Just about everybody is looking for starting pitching. There are teams that have expressed preliminary interest in Millwood and Padilla but it's tentative at best. The Rangers will listen because if they can clear one of those big salaries, it would open other options.

But with such a deep free-agent market, clubs will likely explore that route first before giving up young players for Millwood and/or Padilla. The one advantage of trading for Padilla or Millwood is they are short-term one- or two-year options. That might appeal to a team not interested in giving a four- or five-year contract to a free-agent pitcher.

Chances are you will not post this but are the Rangers too scared to put money down? It seems the Rangers want to get Grade-A quality players without having to pay them big sums.
-- Kyle H., Arlington

In this decade alone, the Rangers have signed no less than five free-agent pitchers to a contract of three years or more: Darren Oliver, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park, Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood. Padilla was re-signed after declaring for free agency two years ago. Total outlay for all five was approximately $205 million. In the 1990s, the Rangers signed just one free-agent pitcher to a contract of three years or more: reliever John Wetteland.

The Rangers won three division titles and had seven winning seasons in the 1990s. Nine of their 10 winningest pitchers in that decade were either from their own system or acquired (or re-acquired in some cases) by trade. The one exception was Nolan Ryan.

Why isn't anyone talking about bringing back Ramon Vazquez to play third base? He did a stellar job last year when needed.
-- Jim M., Waco, Texas

Vazquez, who is an excellent utility infielder, was one of 35 Major Leaguers who started at least 75 games at third base over the past two seasons. Among those 35, he was 27th in fielding percentage and 23rd in zone rating. Offensively, he was 13th among third basemen in on-base percentage over the past two years and 21st in slugging. Vazquez is a valuable utility player but the Rangers don't see him as a regular third baseman. Second base is his best position.

Tell me why it's a bad idea to go after Ben Sheets, when he is not going to demand top dollar due to his injury. An injury that our new pitching coach said was a bump in the road.
-- Cameron P., Wylie, Texas

No pitcher is a bad idea if the price is right. With the state of the economy and the glut of pitching on the market, nobody really knows what the price is going to be for pitching this winter. But giving out a three- or four-year contract to a pitcher with a history of injuries is undeniably risky. Sheets has had many "bumps" in the road.

The Rangers need help with their pitching, and they had one the best offenses in the league last year, so what about a trade involving Chris Davis (and change) to the Braves for Tommy Hanson (and change)?
-- Jared B., Tallahassee, Fla.

Hanson is an excellent prospect but he doesn't seem that much further along than Neftali Feliz or Derek Holland. Davis is the Rangers' best young power hitter and their farm system seriously lacks offensive power at the upper levels. If you trade Davis, you need to get a young pitcher (Matt Cain) who can make an immediate impact.

I saw in a recent edition of USA Today concerning the baseball free-agent market that Pat Burrell of the Phillies was listed as a possibility for the Rangers. Do you know of any interest the team might have in trying to sign him?
-- Bruce F., Crown Point, Ind.

The Rangers have consistently said two things this winter. They have said that pitching is the No. 1 priority and they don't have much money to spend. That would seem to preclude investing in Burrell.

Even though the Rangers have a surplus of catchers, it seems like they are having problems finding a trading partner for young pitching. Will the Rangers be patient enough to wait on the right deal, even if it means holding on to the catchers for another season?
-- Sean H., Pampa, Texas

General manager Jon Daniels has set a "high bar" for his catching. He wants Clay Buchholz in any deal with the Red Sox. He keeps insisting that he doesn't have to trade a catcher, even if that makes for an uncomfortable situation next spring.

Does Greg Golson have more of an upside than John Mayberry Jr.? Or were the Rangers just unwilling to protect Mayberry on the 40-man roster?
-- Tim E., Fort Worth, Texas

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This deal gives the Rangers some outfield depth that might allow them to include Marlon Byrd in an offseason trade. Otherwise, that was simply a case of two teams being down on their own player and hoping that "change of scenery" might benefit somebody.

I read a recent report that Ed Wade of the Astros was looking to trade reliever Jose Valverde. First, do the Rangers have a shot at a trade with Houston, and what, other than a catcher, would it take to get him?
-- Jimmy K., Houston

Valverde, who made $4.7 million in 2008 while saving 44 games, is eligible for arbitration and indeed being shopped by the budget-conscious Astros. They need catching and young pitching. The Rangers aren't really eager to give up top prospects and take on a high-priced reliever who can be a free agent after next season. Asked if the Rangers are interested, a club official said, "Doubtful."

Do you think Nelson Cruz can start in the outfield for an entire season in 2009 or if he gets off to a slow start will the Rangers give up on him again?
-- Darrin K., Red Oak, Texas

I would expect Cruz to be the Rangers' Opening Day right fielder and be given every chance to keep that job.

I think the Rangers should seriously go after one starting pitcher who is highly underrated in Oliver Perez. He would be great in out rotation. Your thoughts?
-- Andrew M., Carrollton, Texas

My thought is I doubt his agent, Scott Boras, has him listed as "underrated."

How about a trade for Freddie Sanchez? He has experience at third base.
-- James T., Fresno, Calif.

He is a nice player, but you're paying $6.1 million for a guy who is a lot like Michael Young, although with a lower on-base and slugging percentage. It gets back to pitching being No. 1.

Is there any chance the Rangers go after Trevor Hoffman? He would be a good addition to the bullpen and Frank Francisco could go back to being the eight-inning setup man.
-- Randy L., Mesquite, Texas

Guys who seem out of the Rangers price range right now may not be later in the offseason. But the Winter Meetings (Dec. 8-11) will give a better indication of who might be on the list.

What do you think of trading Josh Hamilton for a veteran pitcher such as Tim Wakefield? I think he would give us a lot of veteran leadership atop the rotation.
-- Mike H., Madison, Wis.

Good to see Red Sox Nation is well-represented in the Wisconsin capitol.

So I noticed that, since 2001, the leagues have rotated sending a team from relative obscurity to the World Series (with the exception of 2004 Red Sox who only broke a century-long curse). Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Astros, White Sox, Rockies, Rays. Do you think it's safe to say the Rangers will play in the World Series in 2010?
-- Kevin T., Austin, Texas

Not if they trade Hamilton for Wakefield.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.