Rangers near deal with reliever Soria, keep Soto

RONALD BLUM AP Sports Writer Published:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- While waiting to find out whether there will be more talks with Josh Hamilton, the Texas Rangers neared agreement with reliever Joakim Soria and reached a deal to keep catcher Geovany Soto.

Soria, a two-time All-Star, is recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery on April 3. The 28-year-old right-hander also had the ligament replaced in 2003.

"We're very close to a deal with the Texas Rangers," agent Oscar Suarez said Monday.

Texas general manager Jon Daniels wouldn't confirm an agreement and wouldn't even say whether medical reports suggest Soria will recover by May or the All-Star game.

"I'm not going to comment on him at this time," Daniels said. "I've got to protect the organization."

On the day starting catcher Mike Napoli agreed to a $39 million, three-year contract with Boston, a deal subject to a physical, Texas retained Soto for a $2.75 million, one-year agreement. He can earn an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses.

Soto, who turns 30 next month, hit .196 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 47 games last season. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2008 when he batted .285 with 23 homers and 86 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs.

"It was not a great catching market to begin with," Daniels said. "It's a tough position to fill in the game right now."

Texas allowed Soto to become a free agent when it failed to offer a contract by Friday's deadline. The move allowed the team to cut his salary, which was $4.3 million this year, by more than 20 percent.

"He's in an environment where he's comfortable," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The key is that we make sure he'll be in the best physical and mental shape that he possibly can be and maybe we can get out of him what he did in his rookie year and the year after in Chicago. But the main thing is everyone loved throwing to him."

Texas decided not to guarantee three seasons for Napoli. He hit .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs as the Rangers won their second straight AL pennant in 2011, then slumped to a .227 average with 24 homers and 56 RBIs this year as he became a first-time All-Star. His on-base percentage dropped from .416 to .343.

"They were very upfront with us throughout the process. So not a surprise," Daniels said. "I'm hesitant to use the word disappointment because ultimately we had a decision to make."

Hamilton, who hit 43 home runs with 128 RBIs for the Rangers last season, was in Nashville but not to speak with the Rangers.

"I saw Josh on the flight here Sunday by accident. Coincidence, I guess, is a better word than accident," Daniels said. "Chatted with him a little bit in the airport. I know he's here probably to meet with some other teams."