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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hot Stove Kiss

The Rangers quietly filled their gaping hole at first base last week by acquiring left-handed slugger, Ben Broussard, from the Mariners for a minor-league infielder and right-handed castaway, Chris Shelton, from the Tigers for a minor-league outfielder. This is the makings of a pretty potent platoon. The Rangers pick up two former top prospects, both of whom have fallen from favor. Broussard came up in the Cleveland organization and was once considered by many to be the left-handed equivalent of Travis Hafner. Hafner clearly got the better of that comparison and the presence of Ryan Garko and Victor Martinez made Broussard expendable. The Indians traded him to the Mariners for another former hot prospect, Shin-Soo Choo, in the middle of 2006, at the time Broussard was hitting .321 with an 880 OPS. Broussard disappointed the Mariners, struggling in the second-half of '06, then hitting only seven dingers in 240 AB in '07. Still, Broussard has shown promise when given regular playing time, including an 806 career OPS against right-handed pitching. In Texas' ballpark, he could be this year's Carlos Pena. Chris Shelton, similarly, started like gangbusters in 2006. He had ten homers by the end of April and an 856 OPS at the All-Star break, but the league caught up to him, his OPS dropped to 596 in the second half, and the Tigers replaced him with Sean Casey. The 27-year-old Shelton spent all of 2007 at AAA. While he is unlikely to display enormous power, he has consistently improved his pitch selection, resulting in a .380 OBP in the minors last season. Shelton is also an excellent defender, whereas Broussard is quite mediocre, perhaps even better suited for DH. Giving up next to nothing, the Rangers have acquired two players who may be primed for breakout campaigns in '08. The franchise admitted to itself that no amount of free agent spending was going to assure their competitiveness for next year, so they found reasonably-priced alternatives (including the one-year deal for Milton Bradley) who could become cornerstones for the next several seasons.

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