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Rangers sign Mathis, add four to roster

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The Rangers have officially announced the signing of catcher Jeff Mathis and have added four players to their 40 man roster

Chicago White Sox v Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers transactions: Taylor Hearn, Scott Heineman, Wei-Chieh Huang and Edinson Volquez all had their contracts purchased today by the Texas Rangers. In addition, the Rangers officially announced the signing of catcher Jeff Mathis to a 2 year, $6.25 million deal. These moves bring the Rangers’ 40 man roster to 37 players.

The Mathis move has been public knowledge for a few days now, with this simply making it official. As we have discussed, this appears to be the Rangers getting a stellar defensive catcher to be the backup for 2019-20, working with some of the team’s young pitchers and possibly Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jose Trevino, the Rangers top two upper level young catchers.

The other four players were added to protect them from possibly being selected in next month’s Rule 5 draft. Edinson Volquez is an unusual situation of sorts — he was signed to a two year minor league deal last offseason, with the Rangers knowing he would miss all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. The 35 year old was originally signed by the Rangers, and then dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in the trade that brought Josh Hamilton to Texas. Volquez was dealt to San Diego by the Reds in the deal that brought Mat Latos to Cincy and sent Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso to the Padres. He then was dealt to the Dodgers in 2013, had a solid season for the Pirates in 2014, followed that up with a good 2015 season in Kansas City, was not good in 2016, and then was okay in 2017 for the Marlins before going down with injury.

The Rangers apparently felt that Volquez had progressed enough that there was a risk a team would draft him in the Rule 5 draft, meaning Texas would lose him after investing the 2018 season in his recovery. This move suggests that Texas is penciling Volquez into the rotation for 2019, along with Mike Minor and Drew Smyly.

Hearn, 24, is a lefthanded pitcher who came over from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that sent Keone Kela to Pittsburgh. The big, hard-throwing lefty spent the 2018 season in AA, and was the one player seen as a lock to be added. He will likely be in Nashville’s rotation to start 2019, and should be in Arlington at some point during the year.

Huang, 25, is a righthander out of Taiwan who came to Texas from Arizona in the Jake Diekman trade. Huang split the 2018 season between high-A and AA, though he struggled with the long ball after coming to Texas. Huang is a multi-inning reliever who has registered big strikeout rates in the minors.

Heineman, who turns 26 next month, is not a big time prospect, but is the type of player that is often targeted if left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, due to being potentially capable of immediately stepping into a bench role in the majors. The righthanded hitter was an 11th round pick out of the University of Oregon in 2015. After a solid 2017 season for Frisco, he returned there to start 2018 but was promoted after just a week, and slashed .295/.355/.429 for the Express. Heineman is a righthanded hitter who can handle all three outfield positions, and gives the Rangers outfield depth on the 40 man roster.

There are a variety of players who could end up being selected from the Rangers’ organization in the Rule 5 draft next month — Mike Matuella, Jake Lemoine, Andy Ibanez, Reed Garrett, and Brady Feigl are all names that have been bandied about as potential draftees, and there are another half-dozen names that could get a look. Even if someone is taken from the Rangers, however, most Rule 5 picks end up being returned to their original organizations by the end of spring training.