Texas GM: Sheets a 'person of interest'
Rangers check righty's medical reports, but yet to extend offer
LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is staying in touch with Casey Close, the agent who represents free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets.Right now, though, there is little to suggest that the Rangers will eventually sign Sheets, other than the fact that there has been negligible public interest from other teams in a pitcher who was the starter for the National League in last year's All-Star Game. "We still want to upgrade our pitching," Daniels said after a Town Hall-style meeting with fans on Tuesday night. "Beyond that, I don't want to speculate. It's safe to say he's a person of interest." Texas met with Sheets at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas in December, and is the only team that so far has publicly expressed interest. The Rangers are also a team that has a significant need for pitching after having the highest ERA in the Major Leagues last season. Put those two factors together -- plus the fact that Sheets is from Louisiana and the Rangers have hired former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux -- and there has been much media speculation that he'll end up in Texas. "I've read some things, too," Daniels said. "I don't know what to make of that, except people think it's a good fit. There is a level of interest, but what materializes from that, I can't tell you." Sheets should have been one of the top free-agent pitchers this offseason after going 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts and 198 1/3 innings for the Brewers in 2008. But he closed out the season with a flexor tendon tear in his right elbow and did not pitch in the playoffs. That was the latest in a series of injuries. Sheets has been on the disabled list five times in the past four years, and has averaged 150 innings per season during that stretch while going 41-30 with a 3.45 ERA. That seems to have put off teams while other top-tier free-agent hurlers have found places to pitch. Derek Lowe was the latest, agreeing to a four-year, $60 million contract with the Braves on Tuesday.
Sheets is also a Type-A free agent and was offered arbitration by the Brewers. That means a club would lose a Draft pick if it signed him.The Rangers would lose a second-round pick, but that hasn't deterred them from showing interest. Both Maddux and club president Nolan Ryan have high regard for Sheets. The Rangers have also looked at Sheets' medical reports. But they have also yet to make an offer. Sheets was one of the topics brought up by fans to Daniels at Tuesday's Town Hall meeting. The status of shortstop Michael Young was another. Daniels reiterated his stance that he expects Young to stay with the Rangers, but also is hoping he'll agree to move to third base. "We asked Michael -- it's a matter of semantics: asked, requested, told, begged -- to move to third base," Daniels said. "We feel the club is best suited having Michael move to third in the short-term and long-term. We love Michael. We have nothing negative to say or will say about him. He's a tremendous player and teammate. We're not looking to trade him and have no plans to. We plan on him being a big part of our ballclub going forward." Daniels expressed those sentiments to Young's agent, Dan Lozano, in a phone call on Monday night. The GM has not spoken to Young lately.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.