What does Hank Blalock's future look like with the Rangers? We have young guys in Travis Metcalf and Chris Davis and even Max Ramirez. Are Blalock's days limited with the Rangers or will we see one or two of these guys go to bring in a proven starter?
-- Mike M., Waco, Texas
The Rangers hold a $6.2 million option on Blalock for next year. Otherwise he's a free agent. The Hank Blalock checklist:
1. Watch him for the next two weeks to see if he can still play third base. Arm strength is the biggest issue.
2. Watch him for the next two weeks to see if he can still swing the bat and be a force in the middle of the lineup. Plate discipline is the biggest issue.
3. Listen to what other teams say about him but don't get your hopes up too high. Be prepared to either sell cheap or ride him to the end of the year. At that point ...
4. Make the decision if he is still good enough to be your 2009 Opening Day third baseman.
5. If not, make a decision if Milton Bradley could be a full-time outfielder in 2009. If so, Blalock could be the DH if his offense is deemed worthy.
6. Davis isn't going anywhere. If Blalock doesn't fit at third or DH, the Rangers would likely decline his option.
What are your thoughts on the Rangers trading Michael Young? Many teams need a quality shortstop (i.e. Dodgers and Red Sox) and maybe they would part with a Clayton Kershaw or a Clay Buchholz.
-- Drew T., Plano, Texas
Young has a no-trade clause in his contract. If you do trade him, you need to get Major League-ready players and not more Bakersfield/Clinton superstars. You need to get three good ones, and they better get here immediately because you're cutting the heart out of your team by trading Young. His tangibles may not be what they once were, but his intangibles are beyond the measure of a sabrematician. His future position may be in doubt but not his future leadership. Championship teams needs great young players/pitchers but they also need a definite heart and soul. Guys like Mike Lowell and Tim Salmon (2002 Angels) come to mind.
I know that we have Josh Hamilton locked up until 2012. But do you think that we will have him beyond that? He seems to enjoy being a Ranger, but does he enjoy it enough to want to play his whole career here?
-- Steven J., Carrollton, Texas
Anybody loves playing where they are winning. That will be a significant factor. He will also be 30 at that point. Will he still be healthy? Plus gas could be $12 per gallon at that point. He may have to take the best deal out there.
With Francisco Rodriguez saying he will test the free-agent market this offseason instead of re-signing with the Angels, wouldn't it be smart for the Rangers to take a hard stab at him?
-- Thomas H., Weatherford, Texas
Obviously, it depends on how they feel about C.J. Wilson. But it would definitely be smart to at least look into it.
Do you think Ron Washington handles his pitchers intelligently? How many other managers in MLB leave their starters in while giving up seven or eight runs in first three innings, digging a hole so deep the offense doesn't have a fighting chance to win. In some cases he takes a starter out after pitching six great innings.
-- John P., Grand Prairie, Texas
First of all, if you take your starters out early at the first sign of trouble, you're going to blow up your bullpen. So you can't fault any manager for wanting his starting pitcher to work out of early troubles. Secondly, the six-inning starter is a virus that has infected all of baseball. Starters averaged 6.5 innings per start in the A.L. in 1978 and just 5.9 last year. Complete games went from 645 in 1978 to 64 last season.
The overall tendency in baseball is let the bullpen take it from the seventh inning on rather than invite trouble and/or second-guessing by sticking with a starter. But, in the Rangers' case, they are dealing with some young pitchers and others with tenuous physical issues that require prudence in innings pitched.
If the Rangers fall out of the playoff race prior to the Trade Deadline, what are the chances of them trading away the contracts of Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood to pursue players like Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia and other free agents-to-be this winter?
-- Chris A., Rockwall, Texas
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Ben Sheets has made 208 Major League starts and is 83-77 with a 3.74 ERA, an opponents batting average of .256 and 7.7 strikeout per nine innings. In C.C. Sabathia's first 208 starts, he went 94-62 with a 3.91 ERA, a .250 batting average and 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
In Kevin Millwood's first 208 Major League starts, he was 91-63 with a 3.87 ERA, a batting average of .246 and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. In Chan Ho Park's first 208 Major League starts, he was 88-62 with a 4.05 ERA, .237 batting average and 8.0 strikeout per nine innings.
Are you sure Sheets, who has been on the disabled list six times, and Sabathia are going to be better investments than Millwood or Park?
Is trading Marlon Byrd, Joaquin Arias, and Taylor Teagarden enough to get a pitcher like A.J. Burnett and would that be worth it?
-- Daniel H., Fort Worth, Texas
Burnett, who has never won more than 12 games in his career, pitched just 200 innings twice and has been on the disabled list 10 times in his career, is readily available for the right package for a team willing to pay him $12 million in 2009 and 2010. But the Rangers and the Blue Jays have a much strained relationship when it comes to trade talks and that package may be light.
David Murphy has some competition with Rays third baseman Evan Longoria for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. How good of a chance do you think Murphy has at winning that award?
-- Arik H., Burleson, Texas
They are easily the two best candidates right now unless someone -- Minnesota pitcher Glen Perkins? -- has a big second half. Longoria might have the edge right now because the Rays have been at the top of the AL East, but Murphy is a serious candidate.
Was it a Commissioner's Office decision that brought about players and coaches tossing balls into the stands, and, if so, does MLB participate in the cost?
-- Jim M., Fort Worth, Texas
It used to be absolutely forbidden to throw a baseball into the stands for fear of injury and lawsuits. Now it's considered accepted standard behavior. It's a great marketing tool that no other sport has and a baseball has such a short lifespan in a game anyway, maybe 5-6 pitches at the most.
Do you think it is likely that Sidney Ponson wanted to leave the Rangers? He got rowdy in a bar, then pitched poorly and, when that didn't earn his release, he simply insulted the club, all because he already had a wink/nod deal in the works with the Yankees? I'll hang up and listen.
-- Wilbur A., Dallas
The real story of what happened with Ponson and the Rangers will come out soon enough. Director Oliver Stone is working on a movie that will examine all conspiracy theories, including the mythical shower-room brawl.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.