BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Baseball’s winter meetings began today at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.  There are a myriad of predictions as to what may transpire in the next few days.  Peter Gammons of the MLB Network has predicted that there would be more activity on the trade front and less activity in the area of free agent signings this week, with the latter to occur after the winter meetings.  Gammons is certainly highly regarded in the industry, but even his predictions are simply that – predictions.

One writer in particular is known to be closely aligned with Scott Boras.  His tweets are picked up instantaneously and spread as if the gospel, but you have to wonder at times if he is simply making up rumors to assist clients of Boras.  So be careful believing the rumor mill that with text messaging and tweets has become super fast in the 21st century.

As for the Rangers, they indicate they are interested in C. J. Wilson, who is said to have in hand at least three offers.  No financial terms have been released on those offers, but it is probably safe to say that none of them total $100 million the threshold Wilson’s agent is seeking.  Otherwise, they would be working feverishly to complete the transaction.

The Rangers have made it clear that they are not going to go after a starting pitcher unless he is clearly better than the six they already have.  The only other free agent that fits that billing besides Wilson is Mark Buehrle; and on the surface, he makes more sense than signing Wilson.  He is just 18 months older than Wilson and has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last 11 seasons.  He is also said to be looking for a significantly smaller dollar figure than Wilson – something in the range of three to four years at $50 – $60 million.

Reports from local writers suggest the Rangers are not players in the $100 plus million range for first baseman Prince Fielder.  Nolan Ryan was quoted last month flatly saying they were not interested in going in that direction.  The national media however continues to promote the idea that the Rangers are in on Fielder.  One report goes so far as to indicate that Fielder has narrowed his choices down to three teams, one of which is Texas.  Interesting.

On the trade front, it is again difficult to know what to believe about who is really available.  Supposedly the Cubs are willing to trade their ace Matt Garza.  Texas took a run at acquiring Garza last winter prior to Tampa Bay choosing the Cubs’ offer over the prospect package Texas proposed.  However, looking at Garza’s age and salary status, it makes little sense for Chicago to trade their ace unless they get an overwhelming offer.  Such a scenario is basically unrealistic, so it is questionable whether Garza is really available.

Texas has made it known that they intend to continue to seek bullpen arms.  There is no question that last season’s team lost games early in the season that they should have won because the bullpen was slow to come around.  In fact, the bullpen essentially did not come around until the Rangers acquired pitchers such as Mike Adams and Mike Gonzalez in the latter part of the season.  For certain, the Rangers are in need of one and probably two lefties for the pen.  Darren Oliver and Adams are candidates, but at this point in time, both are still free agents.  There are other left-handed options available on the market.

This is one of the good things about the Rangers though.  The team is so good, it doesn’t need much.  Even if they do virtually nothing, they will be the favorite to win the West next season.  There is no sense in spending a lot of money or prospects to make a move that makes the Rangers just marginally better.  Ranger fans should know much much more soon.

COCKTAIL CONVERSATION:  Longtime Cubs third baseman and television announcer Ron Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame Monday, voted in by the Golden Era Committee.  He received 15 of 16 votes for election and was the only player elected out of 10 that were considered.  The announcement was made by his former Cub teammate, Hall of Fame outfielder Billy Williams.  Santo played 15 years in the Majors, all in Chicago – 14 with the Cubs and one with the White Sox.  He hit .277 with 342 home runs.  He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner.  The Cubs have retired his uniform number 10.  After his playing days, he joined the Cubs radio broadcasts in 1990.  He passed away last December at the age of 70.

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