Rangers sign Murphy, final arb-eligible player
Conversation may soon turn to possible multi-year deal for outfielder
ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder David Murphy has received a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. The next step for Murphy and his agent, Mike Moye, is to secure a multi-year contract from the Rangers to avoid free agency.Murphy, who agreed to a $5,775,000 salary for 2013 on Monday, can be a free agent after this season, and the two sides have explored the possibility of a multi-year deal as well, according to assistant general manager Thad Levine. "When we went into the offseason, we identified a handful of players that we wanted to pursue multi-year deals with, and [Murphy] was one of them," Levine said. "We have had conversations with Mike Moye on that. But we agreed with the firm deadline of arbitration, we want to get through this first and then continue that dialogue later." Spring Training could be the time to re-visit that. The Rangers have had success in the past getting multi-year deals done during Spring Training, including pitcher Derek Holland and second baseman Ian Kinsler last season. "There's something about it that makes it easier to bend that last little bit when you're watching the player every day and seeing him in the clubhouse, and being in close proximity to him," Levine said. Both Murphy and outfielder Nelson Cruz can be free agents after the season. Cruz signed a two-year deal last offseason to avoid his final two years of arbitration. Levine said the Rangers would be interested in signing Cruz beyond 2013 but it's likely that won't get serious until Spring Training. One reason is both players would like to see what the Rangers' future plans are in the outfield. The Rangers have had multiple trade discussions with the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton, and they have some possible interest in free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn. Murphy, in particular, isn't likely to be interested in a long-term contract if it means ending up in his old role of fourth outfielder. Right now, he is going into the season as the Rangers' starting left fielder unless the club makes a significant move before Spring Training. Cruz is the Rangers' starting right fielder and has been for four straight seasons. Center field remains unsettled. Right now, it appears that Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin will share time, although Julio Borbon is still on the 40-man roster and the Rangers plan on looking at rookie infielder Leury Garcia at that spot in Spring Training. Engel Beltre, who hit .261 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs at Double-A Frisco in 2012, is also on the 40-man roster, and Aaron Cunningham, who will be in camp on a Minor League contract, has some Major League experience as a center fielder. But most of his Major League time has been at one of the corner spots. James Adduci, another outfielder signed to a non-roster deal, has played center field in the Minors. Murphy was the last of the Rangers' potential arbitration cases. They signed Matt Harrison to a five-year, $55 million contract last week, and reached a one-year agreement with Neftali Feliz. Infielder Elvis Andrus is entering the second season of a three-year deal signed last winter. That allows him to avoid an arbitration hearing at any point before he becomes a free agent following the 2014 season. The Rangers have not had an arbitration hearing with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.