The 28-year-old Cantu, now with his fourth organization, is expected to join the Rangers on Friday in Anaheim. He hit .262 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs in 354 at-bats for the Marlins this season while appearing in 80 games at third base and 40 games at first.
"We feel good," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. "We were looking for the right-handed complement at first base and Jorge is a guy that's really come with rave reviews from around the league.
"People that have played with him, been with him in different organizations, guys that have managed him all speak real highly of him and his work ethic, his desire to win and the way he goes about it. I think he's a good complement for us."
The Rangers will use Cantu more at first base with Michael Young already established at the hot corner. They have been looking for a right-handed-hitting first baseman.
The Rangers also called up Mitch Moreland, another left-handed-hitting first baseman, on Thursday to replace Ian Kinsler, who went on the disabled list with a strained left groin muscle.
The Rangers did not get Cantu for his defense, but to add some balance to their lineup from the right side of the plate.
As a third baseman, Cantu has a .926 fielding percentage over the past three seasons, the lowest among 43 Major League third basemen with at least 100 games played during that stretch. His range factor was the fourth lowest. At first base, he ranked 23rd in fielding percentage among 40 Major League first basemen with at least 100 games played.
"This is the side of the business where you have to realize what's going on," Cantu said after the Marlins' game on Thursday. "My turn is to go right now to the Texas Rangers, and help that ballclub out any way possible. They're leading their division. I'm just going to plug away and keep doing my thing. Obviously, when you go to a new team, it's always fun and exciting."
Cantu has played second base in his career, but he has only notched two games there since 2007. Instead, he has been splitting time between first and third base over the past three years with the Marlins. The Rangers may look at him at second base while Kinsler is out, but it's not a priority.
"It remains to be seen," Daniels said. "In a normal circumstance, I don't think we'd be looking at that too much. The versatility, he played the middle of the diamond in the past, was kind of an attractive footnote. It wasn't the reason we acquired him.
"We've been looking at him long before Ian got a little banged up. We expect Ian to be back before too long. I would expect most of his playing time will come at first base, but you never know."
Cantu is the third veteran the Rangers have acquired in the past month. They also traded for catcher Bengie Molina and pitcher Cliff Lee in attempt to reinforce a team that now leads the American League West by 8 1/2 games.
"We do really believe in the club," Daniels said. "We've said that all along, that if we had a team that performed up to, and arguably above, expectations, we would support them in any way we can. Again, another hat tip to our scouts and player development folks. Without their work, we don't have Evan Reed, we don't have Omar Poveda and we don't have Jorge Cantu.
"This is an organizational deal. We've been building toward this year that we hope opens up a window of opportunity for us for many years to come. But this is the first one where something is in front of us that we feel like is attainable. We believe in the group down there, we believe in the staff and the players, and we support them."
The Marlins signed Cantu as a free agent after the Reds let him go in 2007, and it turned out to be an excellent move for them. Cantu hit .277 with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs in 155 games '08, and he batted .289 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs in 149 games last season.
Poveda was once one of the rising young pitching stars in the Rangers' organization before coming down with a torn ligament in his right elbow in Spring Training. He underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and is out for the season.
The Venezuelan was a combined 11-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 22 starts in 2009 at Double-A Frisco, one start at Triple-A Oklahoma City and one start on rehab assignment with the Arizona Rookie League Rangers.
Reed was a third-round pick in 2007 out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who was 1-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 30 games for Double-A Frisco this season. He has also made one appearance at Oklahoma City.
To make room for Cantu on the 40-man roster, the Rangers recalled Brandon McCarthy from Oklahoma City and placed him on the 60-day disabled list.