ARLINGTON, Texas -- Reliever Eric Gagne and the
Texas Rangers reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday on a one-year
contract worth about $6 million.
The agreement was confirmed by a person familiar with the
negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no
announcement had been made. The deal would allow Gagne to earn
about $5 million more in performance bonuses.
While Gagne's deal was still pending, the Rangers finalized and
announced a $6 million, one-year contract for center fielder Kenny Lofton, a six-time All-Star, and
met with pitcher Mark Mulder.
"It was a case where a team was wanting to win," Lofton said.
"That's what I'm all about, and I talked to [new Rangers manager
Ron] Washington a lot about it. They said they were going to put
the pieces together and if they had a guy like me on the team that
the pieces would fall together a little bit quicker. So, I'm like,
here we go."
The Rangers will be the 11th team for Lofton, who has been to
the playoffs 10 times (with six different teams) in his 15 major
league seasons. He is a .299 career hitter with 599 stolen bases.
Lofton, who turns 40 in July, hit .301 with 32 stolen bases for Los
Angeles Dodgers this year.
Gagne is the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner and holds the major league record for consecutive saves converted with 84, set over the 2003-04 season. He must pass a physical
before his contract can be finalized.
Injuries limited Gagne to 14 games and eight saves in 2005 and
two outings with one save this year. The right-hander had surgery
in April to remove a nerve from his pitching elbow -- the same arm
that required elbow-ligament replacement surgery in 1997. He then
had season-ending surgery July 8 to repair a herniated disc in his
Texas also is negotiating with starter Barry Zito, who like
Gagne is represented by Scott Boras. Zito met with Rangers general
manager Jon Daniels and owner Tom Hicks in Texas last week and
Mulder, his former teammate in Oakland, visited with his agent
Boras has completed several big contracts with Texas in the
past, including the $252 million, 10-year deal for Alex Rodriguez
in December 2000 and a $65 million, five-year contract for Chan Ho Park the following year. Kevin Millwood, the Rangers' key
free-agent pickup last winter, is another Boras client, getting a
deal for $60 million over five seasons.
Gagne became the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, and
saved 52 games with a 1.97 ERA in 77 appearances. The following
season, when he won the Cy Young Award, he pitched in the same
number of games and innings (82 1/3) and converted all 55 save
chances with a 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts. He saved 45 more games
Gagne was primarily a starter during his first three seasons in
Los Angeles, going 11-14 in 48 games (38 starts) from 1999-2001. He
became a free agent last month when the Dodgers declined his $12
million option for 2007.
"He's a guy who wants to win as well, so I think with him
deciding to come here knowing what they're trying to do here, I
think he also wants to be part of a winner," said Lofton, Gagne's
teammate in Los Angeles last season.
Akinori Otsuka took over as the Rangers closer last season after
Francisco Cordero set a major league record with five blown saves
in April. Otsuka converted 32 of 36 saves with a 2.11 ERA in 63
Cordero set the Rangers record with 49 saves in 2004, the same
year he was an All-Star. Texas traded him to Milwaukee in July as
part of the six-player deal for Carlos Lee, who has since agreed to
a $100 million, six-year contract with Houston.
If Gagne takes over as the Rangers closer, Otsuka could move
back into the eighth-inning set-up role the Rangers planned for the
right-hander when they got him in a trade from San Diego last
offseason. Or Texas could move Gagne into that setup role.
Lofton fills the void in the Rangers lineup created when
All-Star center fielder and leadoff hitter Gary Matthews Jr. agreed
last month to a $50 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Matthews had a career-best year, hitting .302 with 19 home
runs and 79 RBI.
"We feel with the signing of Kenny Lofton, we fill both holes
with the best player on the market," assistant GM Thad Levine
said. "In addition to be an excellent leadoff hitter and an
accomplished center fielder, Kenny is a winner. ... He's going to
bring an element to our club which we need. He's going to be able
to help our younger nucleus of players learn how to be winners."
Levine stood in for Daniels, who was still meeting with Mulder.
Texas has announced final agreements with two other major league
free agents this offseason: a $13.5 million, three-year contract
with outfielder Frank Catalanotto and a $33.75 million, three-year
deal to bring back right-hander Vicente Padilla.