ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached agreements with their three remaining arbitration cases.Left-handed pitcher Jake Diekman reached an agreement on a one-year contract worth $2,712,000 while right-handed pitcher Keone Kela settled at $1.2 million and infielder Jurickson Profar at $1.05 million.The Rangers have not had an arbitration hearing with a
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached agreements with their three remaining arbitration cases.
Left-handed pitcher Jake Diekman reached an agreement on a one-year contract worth $2,712,000 while right-handed pitcher Keone Kela settled at $1.2 million and infielder Jurickson Profar at $1.05 million.
The Rangers have not had an arbitration hearing with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000.
Kela enters the 2018 season as one of the leading candidates to be the Rangers' closer. The crucial factor is health: Kela was on the disabled list twice last season with a strained right shoulder, and missed almost three months in 2016 while recovering from elbow surgery.
He was outstanding when he was healthy last season, going 4-1 with two saves, a 2.79 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. Opponents hit .135 off him and he averaged 11.87 strikeouts per nine innings.
Alex Claudio finished last season as the Rangers' closer but the job is open going into Spring Training. Kela, right-hander Matt Bush and Diekman are also possibilities.
Diekman missed the first five months of last season while undergoing three surgical procedures to alleviate ulcerative colitis. He returned in September and had a 2.53 ERA in 11 appearances. He was selected by the local media as the winner of the Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man Award.
The Rangers are counting on Diekman to be at full strength going into Spring Training, and be one of their late-inning relievers. He appeared in 66 games for Texas in 2016 and was 4-2 with four saves, a 3.40 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has averaged 11.03 strikeouts and 4.8 walks per nine innings in his career.
Profar enters a pivotal year, going into camp as the leading candidate to be the Rangers' utility infielder, and is out of options. He must make the team out of Spring Training or be exposed to outright waivers before being sent to the Minor Leagues.
Profar played in just 22 games for the Rangers last season, and hit .172. He spent the rest of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, where he hit .287 with seven home runs, 45 RBIs, a .383 on-base percentage and a .428 slugging percentage.
Profar was one of the Rangers' top Minor League prospects, but his career was derailed when he missed the 2014-15 seasons because of a torn muscle in his right shoulder. He was been the subject of trade speculation, but he remains with Texas as a utility infielder who can also play left field.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.