Soto back, Soria added as Rangers keep looking

Posted Monday, Dec. 03, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- At no point during the first day of baseball's winter meetings did general manager Jon Daniels say that the Texas Rangers are out of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes.

While Daniels wouldn't speak specifically about Zack Greinke from his suite at the Gaylord Opryland, he said the Rangers are looking to upgrade their starting rotation.

But Hamilton and Greinke aren't necessities, as the Rangers' roster as presently constructed has a viable mix of outfielders and an above-average rotation.

This year's free-agent prizes took a back seat Monday as the Rangers addressed their two immediate needs, catching and relief pitching.

Mike Napoli is no longer an option behind the plate, but the Rangers have closed in on signing reliever Joakim Soria to help fortify a bullpen that has three big holes.

The Rangers aren't done in those two areas, but finding another veteran catcher to pair with Geovany Soto won't be easy.

"It was not a great catching market to begin with this winter based on the sheer number of guys available and a lot of clubs looking," Daniels said.

"It's a tough position to fill right now. There are some ways that we're exploring to find the right guy to compliment Geo."

The Rangers could seek a trade with Toronto, which has four catchers on its 40-man roster, or sign one of the remaining free-agent catchers. A.J. Pierzynski tops that list, and the Rangers are considering a lower tier of players that includes Miguel Olivo.

Napoli took three years and $39 million from Boston to be the Red Sox's primary first baseman and occasional catcher. He had informed the Rangers that he wanted four years and $40 million, but they were comfortable with offering only two guaranteed years for a player who declined sharply in 2012.

Napoli hit just .227 with 24 homers in his second season with the Rangers, and he also struggled throwing out base stealers and with passed balls.

The Rangers, though, put themselves in a tough spot with Napoli last month when they declined to make him a one-year qualifying offer with $13.3 million.

"They were very upfront with us throughout the process," Daniels said of Napoli and agent Brian Grieper. "It's not a surprise, and I'm hesitant to use the word 'disappointed' because we had a decision we had to make."

Soto's one-year deal, which was worked out Sunday night, became official Monday after he passed a physical. The Rangers will pay him $2.75 million with another $250,000 available in incentives for a catcher who was non-tendered Friday and wants to show the Rangers how good he can be.

"Texas is where I want to be," said Soto, a former National League Rookie of the Year who was acquired July 30. "I feel that I have a lot more to offer. I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. I want to prove myself and prove to the Texas Rangers that I am an All-Star caliber catcher."

He will be on the receiving end of Soria's work out of the bullpen. The Rangers were putting the final touches on a two-year, $8 million deal with the former Kansas City closer, pending a physical today.

Soria, though, won't be ready until late April or early May while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery April 3. He hopes to be throwing off a mound next month.

Daniels wouldn't comment on Soria, who has 160 career saves. Soria, though, is a high-risk, high-reward player, the kind that Daniels likes to sign. Joe Nathan is the most recent example.

"We've hit on a few.... We've missed on a couple of guys," Daniels said. "I think each situation is unique, and I don't just mean the injury but the individual. The makeup, the work ethic, those things play in big as far as a guy's ability to get back."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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