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Rangers make it official with backstop Arencibia

Club announces one-year contract; catcher could compete for starting role

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rangers have addressed their catching situation for the 2014 season by signing free agent J.P. Arencibia to a one-year contract. The contract became official on Tuesday after Arencibia passed his physical.

He will team with Geovany Soto behind the plate. Soto goes into the season as the No. 1 catcher, but it is clear both backstops will get playing time. Arencibia had been the Blue Jays' No. 1 catcher for each of the past three seasons.

"We feel very good where we are at with Geo and J.P.," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We wanted to make sure we have two guys who are capable of carrying the load in case of injury. We were very impressed with J.P. His goal is to win and to be a tandem with Geo. These are two selfless guys who want to put the pitching staff in the best possible position to win."

Arencibia became a free agent after the Blue Jays non-tendered him. The Rangers tried to trade for him before the non-tender deadline, but the discussions ended when they were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract that would have avoided an arbitration hearing.

Arencibia ended up agreeing to a one-year, $1.8 million contract with incentives.

"From playing against the Rangers, I like the way they go about their business on the field," Arencibia said. "They've had a winning team for quite some time, that's a big deal for me. Whatever it takes to win, my goal is to go out there and work with Geo every day, and put the best team on the field and help our pitchers get through the game."

Arencibia played in 138 games for the Blue Jays in 2013, including 131 behind the plate, and hit .194 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs. He had a .227 on-base percentage and a .365 slugging percentage. He had lowest batting average and on-base percentage of any player with at least 450 at-bats in the American League. He also had just 18 walks and his 148 strikeouts were the 14th most in the league.

Only A.J. Pierzynski had fewer walks than Arencibia among AL players with at least 450 at-bats. Pierzynski had 11 for the Rangers this past season before leaving as a free agent and signing with the Red Sox this winter.

But Arencibia can hit the ball out of the ballpark. Arencibia has a total of 62 home runs over the past three seasons, the fourth-highest total among any Major League catcher in that span behind only Matt Wieters (67), Carlos Santana (65) and Brian McCann (64). Those four are also the only catchers with at least 18 home runs in each of the last three seasons.

"I'm looking forward to this opportunity," Arencibia said. "Change is good -- you've seen it with a lot of players. You look at David Ortiz, he was a guy at Minnesota who got non-tendered, signed with the Red Sox and look what he's done with Boston. You learn from struggling. It makes you stronger and more well-prepared."

Arencibia, a right-handed hitter, does have seven home runs and 10 RBIs in 11 career games at the Ballpark in Arlington.

"Whatever it is, I'd like to bottle it up over the course of a season," Arencibia said. "I enjoy the park. I really like the heat, I enjoy playing in the hot weather, and the atmosphere the stadium has, that also makes playing there more enjoyable."

Arencibia was the Blue Jays' No. 1 pick (21st overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Tennessee. He made his debut with the Blue Jays on Aug. 7, 2010. He said there were no hard feelings with the Blue Jays over being non-tendered.

"Absolutely not," Arencibia said. "At the end of the day, this is a business. Guys have to do what they have to do. I'm very grateful for the opportunity Toronto gave me to pursue my dream, ultimately getting to the Major Leagues and playing three years there. There are no hard feelings."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.

Texas Rangers, J.P. Arencibia