Right-hander Nick Tepesch and newcomer James Jones were not tendered contracts by the Texas Rangers for 2016 late Wednesday, and catcher Chris Gimenez agreed to a club-friendly contract ahead of the 11 p.m. tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players.
Tepesch and Jones, a speedy outfielder, are free agents and no longer on the 40-man roster, but the Rangers are hopeful that Tepesch and Jones, acquired last month in a trade with Seattle, will agree to minor-league deals.
Gimenez signed a one-year split contract for $975,000, avoiding arbitration. Tanner Scheppers, another player on the non-tender bubble, will be offered arbitration after an injury-plagued season in 2015.
General manager Jon Daniels and fellow club officials worked different angles up to the deadline before announcing the moves.
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Gimenez seemed the least likely to be non-tendered, in part because catching depth is hard to come by and also because he is highly regarded by staff aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.
Gimenez, though, is out of options, and his performance at the plate declined late last season after a hot start once he was added to the big-league roster July 31. Nevertheless, the was one of the two catchers on the Rangers’ roster for the American League Division Series.
Scheppers and Tepesch have become expendable only a year after they were expected to be significant contributors for 2015.
Instead, Scheppers was injured throughout the season and struggled when healthy to the point that he was sent to Triple A Round Rock. Projected to be a key late-innings bullpen piece, Scheppers was pushed aside when the Rangers acquired Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman at the trade deadline.
5.63 ERA for Tanner Scheppers in 2015. Among the contributing factors were injuries and 23 walks and six homers in 38 1/3 innings.
The Rangers have already acquired another hard-throwing right-handed bullpen piece, Tom Wilhelmsen, this off-season, and rookie Luke Jackson is having an impressive winter in the Dominican Republic and pushing his way into the bullpen pecking order.
Tepesch didn’t pitch for the Rangers because of an elbow injury and surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He was expected to compete for a spot in the rotation last spring, but has been lapped by Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Martinez and Anthony Ranaudo.
Three minor-league starting pitchers — Connor Sadzeck, Yohander Mendez and Jose Leclerc — were added to the 40-man roster last month.
The Rangers also have interest in bringing back Colby Lewis for 2016, though they are waiting for the results of an exam on his surgically repaired left knee before delving into negotiations.
Jones was part of the Nov. 16 trade that sent center fielder Leonys Martin and righty Anthony Bass to Seattle for righty Tom Wilhelmsen, Jones and a player to be named.
The Rangers acquired Patrick Kivlehan on Wednesday from the Mariners as the final piece, and in the process might have found a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder and infielder to fill a critical roster spot for 2016.
Patrick Kivlehan played football for four seasons at Rutgers before capturing the Triple Crown in 2012, the first in Big East history. He was a fourth-round draft pick.
Josh Hamilton is set for duty in left field, but the Rangers don’t expect him to play a full season based on his injury history. Kivlehan, who played all three outfield spots and the two corner infield spots last season in Triple A, could be a fill-in for Hamilton and face tough left-handed pitchers in placed of the lefty-hitting Hamilton and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
Kivlehan, who turns 26 on Dec. 22, hit 22 homers last season and has 266 RBIs the past three seasons, but has never played in the majors. Ryan Rua, the Opening Day left fielder in 2015, is also a candidate for that role, and the Rangers are shopping for outfield help this off-season.