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
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.