The Rangers have agreed to a one-year, $3.05 million contract with Geovany Soto, with the expectation for him to be their regular catcher next season.
Soto was mainly a backup to A.J. Pierzynski this year, though he became the primary catcher for Rangers ace Yu Darvish the second half of the season.
”He’s done a tremendous job with our pitching staff,” manager Ron Washington said Tuesday. ”It’s exciting watching him get our pitchers through innings.”
Texas acquired Soto in a trade from the Cubs in July 2012. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2008, when he hit .285 with 23 homers for Chicago.
Soto got a raise of $300,000 and was the first of the 168 major league free agents to agree to a big league contract. Cleveland’s Jason Giambi agreed to a minor league deal last week.
”Starting catching is nothing new for me. I feel the Texas organization is a great organization. The chemistry in that clubhouse is unbelievable,” Soto said. ”I feel I have that gift, that passion from the defensive side getting our pitchers in line. I think that’s the biggest armor this team has, great pitching.”
Soto hit .245 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 54 games this season, then became a free agent. He also re-signed early last offseason before the Rangers added Pierzynski, who is now a free agent.
At the All-Star break in July, Soto was hitting .185 with four homers and nine RBIs in 30 games. He hit .324 with five homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games after that.
In 99 games in 2012 for the Cubs and Rangers, Soto hit a career low .198 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs. He credits Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan for helping him improve this year, especially the second half of the season.
”I was trying too hard, searching too much,” Soto said. ”Dave himself told me to start searching, keep it simple and do what you have to do. I quit searching and found myself again.”
General manager Jon Daniels said as for a second catcher, the Rangers could add a guy who has been a traditional backup, or maybe a player that Washington would want to have in the lineup every day. That could be someone in a similar role that Mike Napoli had, when he also was a designated hitter and first baseman for the Rangers in 2011 and 2012 before going to Boston this season.
”The plan going into the season, Geo will be the regular guy,” Daniels said.