Infielder, Rangers reach deal for one year

Updated: January 17, 2005, 9:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alfonso Soriano agreed to a $7.5 million, one-year contract with the Texas Rangers, who avoided salary arbitration with the All-Star second baseman they insist they aren't trying to trade.

Alfonso Soriano
Second Base
Texas Rangers
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
145 28 91 77 18 .280

"We've never been looking to move him. If there was an opportunity to make the club better, of course you have to listen," Rangers assistant general manager Jon Daniels said Monday. "It was rumors and speculation, not reality."

Several teams have inquired about a trade for Soriano, but none of the talk has been serious enough to intrigue Texas.

Soriano came to the Rangers last February in the trade that sent Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees. Although he had an AL-worst 23 errors, Soriano hit .280 with 28 homers and 91 RBI last year before missing the last 16 games of the season with a strained left hamstring.

"I think he's going to have a big year for us," manager Buck Showalter said. "We can forget about a lot of the adjustments he had to make [last season]. ... He's very happy here."

Soriano is getting a $2.1 million raise from last year, when the Rangers' payroll was around $63 million. The second baseman will be eligible for free agency after the 2006 season.

Owner Tom Hicks wants the payroll to remain in the same range as last year, and has no plans to again spend more than $100 million. His desire, and the team's interest in free agent Carlos Delgado, raised speculation about Soriano being traded.

"Regardless of who it is, we'll listen to all things," Showalter said. "But if it doesn't work for the Rangers, we're not going there."

Texas has two players remaining in arbitration: outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and right-hander Carlos Almanzar. Players and teams are set to swap proposed salaries Tuesday, with hearings to be scheduled for next month.

Daniels said that the Rangers talked to Soriano's agents only briefly about a multiyear deal but that the primary goal was to get a deal in place to avoid arbitration. He said talks about a longer contract might occur later.

Showalter expects to visit with Soriano this week when he and other Rangers officials, including owner Tom Hicks and general manager John Hart, are in the Dominican Republic as part of the organization's effort to have more presence in the area full of prospects. Hart has been there since last week, and the rest of the group is to leave Texas on Tuesday.

"I think everybody is intrigued," Showalter said. "Look at all the different risks in the free-agent market; he's a pretty steady guy. We're talking to him. A guy like him, there is a lot of competition."

The Rangers also are scheduled to meet with Delgado later this week while in the Caribbean. Texas is among several teams pursuing Delgado, who hit at least 30 homers in each of the past eight seasons for Toronto.

On Monday, agent David Sloane told ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark that his client had narrowed his list to four teams: the Rangers, Marlins, Mets and Orioles.

The Marlins, who met with the left-handed slugger over the weekend, have offered him a three-year, $35 million deal, and Delgado met with New York executives in his native Puerto Rico.

Matthews started 77 games, had a team-high eight outfield assists and hit .275 with 11 homers, the second-highest total in his career. Almanzar was 7-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 67 games.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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