A baseball source said that the Texas Rangers have been working at the winter meetings on a possible deal with reliever Tony Barnette, who starred as a closer in Japan last season and has been posted by the Yakult Swallows.
Barnette was originally drafted by Arizona but went to Nippon Professional Baseball in 2010 as a starting pitcher. He has had two dominant seasons as a closer, including in 2015 when he saved 41 games while posting a 1.29 ERA and issuing only one homer in 62 2/3 innings.
The Swallows are seeking only a posting bid of $500,000 for the right to negotiate with the 32-year-old Alaska native.
97 Saves for Tony Barnette in Japan since 2011
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The Rangers are already loaded with quality bullpen pieces, but the addition of Barnette would add depth to their relief stable and potentially allow them to use a reliever as trade bait in their pursuit of starting pitching or a catcher.
Another baseball source said that the Rangers were to meet Wednesday morning with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who suddenly have a surplus of starting pitcher and would want bullpen help in return.
First baseman Mitch Moreland and a young reliever could be enough of a package to entice Pittsburgh to part with catching prospect Elias Diaz.
The Rangers have also made headway in finalizing their minor-league staffs, and are expected to hire former big-league All-Star Howard Johnson as their manager at High A High Desert.
Johnson, a star third baseman for the New York Mets in the 1980s, was the Seattle Mariners’ hitting coach in 2014 until getting reassigned in June of last season.