With Matthews Jr. gone, Rangers agree with Lofton

IRVING, Texas -- Free agent Kenny Lofton reached a
preliminary agreement Monday on a one-year deal with the Texas
Rangers worth about $6 million.

The deal for the center fielder was confirmed by a person
familiar with the negotiations. The person spoke on condition of
anonymity because the agreement was pending a physical on the
39-year-old Lofton, a six-time All-Star.

Lofton is expected to fill the void in the Rangers lineup
created when All-Star center fielder 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.

Lofton, who turns 40 on May 31, hit .301 with 32 steals and 41
RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season but was just 1-for-13
(.077) as the Dodgers were swept by the New York Mets in the first
round of the playoffs.

Over 16 major-league seasons with Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta,
the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs,
the New York Yankees, Philadelphia and the Dodgers, Lofton has a
.299 career average.

The Rangers last week signed Marlon Byrd to a one-year contract.
Byrd was the Opening Day center fielder for Philadelphia as a
rookie in 2003 and went on to his best season, hitting .303 with
seven home runs and 45 RBI in a career-high 135 games. He hit .233
in 78 games last season for Washington.

Texas has reached 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.

Catalanotto or Brad Wilkerson, who missed the last two months of
the season after shoulder surgery, will likely play left field
after Carlos Lee also left as a free agent. Wilkerson and
Catalanotto could also split time as designated hitter.

Nelson Cruz, part of the trade with Milwaukee that brought Lee
to Texas last July, ended the season as the starting right fielder.

The Rangers never showed interest in re-signing Lee, the
two-time National League All-Star they got last July. Lee instead
agreed to a $100 million, six-year contract with the Houston