Big Cat Lands In Texas

The Texas Rangers bolstered their lineup Friday, signing free agent first baseman Andres Galarraga to a $6.25 million, one-year contract.

"We're happy to add a player of his caliber and character to the organization," general manager Doug Melvin said. "It fills one of our needs. We were looking to add a bat with RBI and home run potential. We certainly missed that last year."

The Rangers also have a $7 million club option for 2002, with a buyout of either $250,000 or $500,000, depending on his plate appearances.

The Big Cat, who was not offered salary arbitration by Atlanta, hit .302 with 28 homers and 100 RBIs last season for the Braves after missing all of 1999 because of a cancerous tumor in his back.

"I'm happy and excited," he said. "I think it is a great organization and I look forward to playing with the Rangers. I'm excited about going to the American League."

Galarraga, 39, saw his power numbers drop as the season progressed, hitting only eight home runs and driving in 38 runs after the All-Star break.

"He's a professional hitter and in our ballpark he's got a good chance to get back to his 40-homer years," Melvin said.

He will likely be the designated hitter with the Rangers, who already have Rafael Palmeiro at first base.

"I think it is going to be a great combination with Rafael and me," Galarraga said. "I'm just looking to help my team. I don't mind at all being the designated hitter."

In fact, the Rangers hope that limiting his time in the field will help Galarraga stay fresh down the stretch of the season.

"We think that will be good at this stage of his career," Melvin said. "He doesn't have to stand out there in that Texas heat. That may help him at this stage of his career to do a lot of DHing."

The Rangers were looking for a short-term solution while they wait for top prospect Carlos Pena to be ready for the major leagues. Pena is expected to start the 2001 season at Triple-A.

"We know we have Pena coming along and Andres can be a good influence on Carlos," Melvin said.

Galarraga just completed a $24.5 million, three-year deal with Atlanta.

In his 15-year career, Galarraga is a .291 hitter with 360 homers and 1,272 RBIs. He topped the 2,000-hit mark last season and has 2,070 for his career.

The Rangers, who are also talking to the agents for Alex Rodriguez and Ken Caminiti, have made bolstering their offense their top offseason priority.

Texas was ninth in the AL in runs scored last season, after trading away Juan Gonzalez and losing Todd Zeile to free agency.

"He will hit somewhere in the middle of our lineup and get us back to the run production we missed last year," Melvin said.

Galarraga had expressed some interest in reuniting with former manager Don Baylor and playing for the Cubs. But it was not clear whether Chicago, which lost free agent Mark Grace to Arizona, had any interest.

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