The Texas Rangers announced today that the club has signed right-handed pitcher Tony Barnette to a two-year contract through 2017 with a club option for 2018. The team has also re-signed catcher Bobby Wilson to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.
With the addition of Barnette, the Rangers' major league roster now has 39 players.
Barnette, 32, has spent the past six seasons with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Central League in Nippon Professional Baseball. In his final season with Yakult in 2015, he went 3-1 with a franchise-record 41 saves and a 1.29 ERA (9 ER/62.2 IP) over 59 relief appearances, posting his best Japan figures in saves, ERA, and opponents average (.168). His 41 saves tied two other closers for most in NPB last season. He allowed one run over 5 games and 5.0 innings in the postseason, as Yakult reached the Japan Series for the first time since 2001. Barnette opened last season with 26.0 scoreless innings over his first 23 appearances, and he converted his first 40 save attempts before his lone blown save in his next-to-last outing of the regular season. Overall in his six seasons in Japan, Barnette had an 11-19 record with a 3.61 ERA in 260 games/15 starts, converting 97 of 110 save chances (88.2%).
Barnette will be seeking his major league debut next season. His only professional action in the United States came over four seasons in the Arizona farm system from 2006-09 after he was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 10th round of the 2006 June draft. He has a 39-27 record and 4.74 ERA over 97 games/96 starts in his minor league career, most recently pitching with Triple-A Reno in 2009. Barnette was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and would be the first player in Rangers history to hail from the 49th state. He graduated from high school in Federal Way, Washington, and pitched at Arizona State University.
Wilson, 32, spent the final two months of last season with Texas after he was received on a waiver claim from Tampa Bay on July 31. He batted .221 in 31 games/25 starts for the Rangers in 2015, compiling a .189 batting average in 56 games overall with Tampa Bay and Texas. Wilson started 20 of the Rangers' first 39 games after he joined the club last season, but was not on the Texas postseason roster for the American League Division Series against Toronto. He has played in 249 major league games with Los Angeles-AL (2008-12), Arizona (2014), Tampa Bay (2015), and Texas (2015).
SCOUTING STAFF TRANSACTIONS: The Rangers have announced the following four transactions in the professional and amateur scouting staffs:
· Jonathan George joins the pro scouting staff after four seasons as an amateur scout in the Mid-Atlantic region.
· Former Texas right-hander Brian Sikorski has been hired as a pro scout. Sikorski made his major league debut in 2000 with the Rangers and appeared in 40 games over two seasons with Texas, San Diego, and Cleveland.
· Josh Simpson has been hired as the club's amateur scout in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Simpson had been the head coach at New Mexico Junior College since 2007.
· Brian Matthews will be the club's amateur scout in the Mid-Atlantic region. Matthews spent the two seasons as a video coordinator in the Toronto Blue Jays amateur scouting department.
CHAD SMITH RE-SIGNED: Texas has re-signed right-handed pitcher Chad Smith to a minor league contract, and he will be in minors camp this spring. The 26-year-old Smith was signed by the club on August 19 and made 4 relief appearances for Double-A Frisco. Smith has appeared in the big leagues in each of the last two seasons, logging 12 relief appearances with the Athletics and Tigers.
WINTER BALL NOTES: Hanser Alberto (Cibao) was named MVP of the Dominican Winter League All-Star Game on Sunday, delivering a 2-run single in Team Felipe Alou's 2-0 win over Team Juan Marichal…Alberto still leads the DWL in batting with a .370 average (51-138) over 36 games with the Gigantes…INF Alberto Triunfel (Cibao) was also selected to play in the All-Star Game…1B/OF Patrick Kivlehan (Escogido) went 5-for-6 with 3 doubles and 5 RBI in a 12-10 loss to Este on Thursday and is batting .395 (15-38) over his last 9 games to raise his winter ball average to .333 (21-63) over 15 contests in the DWL.