Rangers close the deal on Vizquel

Rangers close deal with Vizquel

ARLINGTON -- Omar Vizquel, who has played more games at shortstop than anybody in Major League history, is officially with the Rangers and coming to camp as a candidate to be their utility infielder.

The Rangers announced on Wednesday that Vizquel has agreed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He will earn a base salary of $1 million if he makes the team, plus incentives.

The Rangers' signing of Vizquel comes after they announced last week that Michael Young was moving to third base to make room for 20-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus. Vizquel gives the Rangers an option at shortstop if Andrus, who has yet to play above Double-A, is deemed not ready for the Major Leagues. But it's more likely that Vizquel will be looked at as a utility infielder, even though he has spent his entire career as a shortstop.

"He's a possible Hall of Famer and a winner," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's somebody who cannot only help us on defense, but he's somebody who can teach guys how to play fundamentally sound. He brings a lot."

Vizquel, 41, is a three-time All-Star and an 11-time Gold Glove winner who is entering his 21st season in the Major Leagues. He was originally signed by the Mariners in 1984 and made his Major League debut in 1989.

The Mariners traded him to the Indians on Dec. 20, 1993, and he spent 11 years in Cleveland as the shortstop on six division championship teams. John Hart traded shortstop Felix Fermin to the Mariners for Vizquel and once said it was the best trade he made as the Indians general manager.

Vizquel left as a free agent after the 2004 season and spent the last four years with the Giants. He won two Gold Gloves with the Giants and is second all-time among shortstops to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who won 13.

Hot Stove

Vizquel has played 2,654 games at shortstop, the most in Major League history, but has played just one game at second base. That was back in 1991. He has never played third base at the Major League level.

But the Rangers need a backup shortstop more than they need somebody at third or second. Young and second baseman Ian Kinsler play every day while Vizquel can give Andrus days off against tough pitchers and keep the rookie from being overexposed offensively.

Vizquel is renown for his superb defense but has been a productive offensive player in his career. He is a lifetime .273 hitter with a career high of .333 in 1999. He is currently the career active leader with 2,082 singles and 239 sacrifice hits. He is third with 2,657 hits, fourth with 385 stolen bases and 14th with 1,361 runs scored.

He hit just .222 for the Giants in 2008 after beginning the season on the disabled list because of surgery on his left knee, his lowest average since his rookie season in 1989.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.