Starting pitching targeted at GM summit
Rangers draw from abundance of catchers for possible deal
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers will explore two specific avenues of trades when Major League general mangers hold their annual meetings Monday-Thursday in Dana Point, Calif., next week.General manager Jon Daniels, who has already been working the phones through October, will be trying to satisfy the club's quest for starting pitching, and is talking to clubs who are looking for a catcher. He should find much to talk about with his colleagues. Catching is the Rangers' top trade chip, and various clubs have expressed an interest in Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez over the past year. The Rangers seem in a position where they have to move at least one, but the question is if they can get starting pitching in return. The Rangers are also expected to talk to teams about infielder Hank Blalock. The Giants and the Mariners have shown some interest in him. Starting pitching remains a coveted commodity in baseball, and more than 20 teams have that at the top of their offseason to-do list. But there is starting pitching out there that may be available to trade, according to Major League sources. The big prize this winter could be Jake Peavy. The Padres appear to be in a rebuilding mode and are at least willing to talk about the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner. But he has a full no-trade clause and is unlikely to agree to a trade to an American League club, especially the Rangers. But there are other possibilities. The Giants have depth at starting pitching, and they wouldn't mind moving Barry Zito, who was 10-17 with a 5.15 ERA in the second season of a seven-year, $126 million contract. But they may have to talk about either Matt Cain (8-14, 3.76) or Jonathan Sanchez (9-12, 5.01) if they want to fulfill their need for a corner infielder who can hit with power, and the Rangers would have to discuss Chris Davis if they were serious. The Rays are another team with starting pitching depth. They expect to move postseason relief ace David Price into the rotation next year and would probably be willing to talk about either right-hander Edwin Jackson (14-11, 4.42) or Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38) to do that. Tampa Bay needs more offense in its outfield and would likely want to talk about David Murphy in return. The Rangers would rather talk about their catchers, and the Marlins are looking for catching help. Florida could be willing to talk about left-hander Scott Olsen (8-11, 4.20) or right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-5, 5.57) in return. The Reds are also looking for catching help and may be willing to part with Homer Bailey, (0-6, 7.93), a former No. 7 overall Draft pick from Texas who was a disappointment last year. Some teams aren't interested in trading pitching, but probably would have to if they want to acquire one of the Rangers' catchers. The Red Sox are looking for somebody to replace Jason Varitek, but must be willing to part with a young arm, whether it's Clay Buchholz (2-9, 6.75), Michael Bowden (9-7, 2.62 in the Minors) or Justin Masterson, who has been used both as a starter and reliever. The Rangers want more than one-year help. They would like to add a starting pitcher who could fit into their overall building program. That's why they may talk with the Royals about Brian Bannister (9-16, 5.76) or Kyle Davies (9-7, 4.06); the Twins about Boof Bonser (3-7, 5.93) or Phillip Humber (10-8, 4.56 at Triple-A) or the Braves about Jo-Jo Reyes (3-11, 5.81) or Charlie Morton (4-8, 6.15). Ian Kennedy was 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA in 10 games, including nine starts, with the Yankees last year, but he is a former first-round Draft pick in 2006 who is 18-6 with a 1.99 ERA as a Minor Leaguer. Most starting pitchers come with either high price tags or some risk, or some teams are just interested in shedding high salaries. The Cubs may try to do that with Jason Marquis (11-9, 4.53), and the Mariners will certainly listen if teams are interested in either Jarrod Washburn (5-14, 4.69) or Miguel Batista (4-14, 6.27). Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55) can be a free agent after this season, so the Phillies may be interested in a pre-emptive move this winter, and the Athletics will likely talk about two-time All-Star Justin Duchscherer (10-8, 2.54), although probably not with a team within their own division. The Pirates and the Rangers seem to talk about Ian Snell (7-12, 5.42) every winter. Most of these pitchers aren't coming off strong seasons, but a turnaround of any one of them is not unprecedented. Aaron Sele, for instance, was 7-11 with a 5.32 ERA for the Red Sox in 1996 and 13-12 with a 5.38 ERA in 1997. Then the Rangers traded for him and he won 37 games over the next two seasons on two division championship teams. Certainly, there are more attractive pitchers on the free agent market, but they also come with high price tags. Full-scale bidding also doesn't commence on free agents for another couple of weeks. Right now, at the General Managers Meetings the focus will be on trade talks, and the Rangers are ready for some serious discussions.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.