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Monday, December 11, 2006
With Matthews Jr. gone, Rangers agree with Lofton news services

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

Keith Law's take
Keith Law
Acquiring Kenny Lofton gives the Rangers the potential to have five quality left-handed bats in their lineup against right-handed pitchers -- no small matter when both Oakland and the Angels currently have five right-handers in their respective rotations.

• For more of Keith Law's analysis, click here. Insider

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 Astros.