ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have declined to pick up their option on designated hitter Lance Berkman for 2014. He was one of 147 players who became a free agent on Thursday, the day after the conclusion of the World Series.
The Rangers had a $12 million option on Berkman for 2014, but will instead pay a $1 million buyout. The move is no surprise, but it is official. Berkman, 37, played in just 73 games for the Rangers this season, hitting .242 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. He had a .340 on-base percentage and a .359 slugging percentage.
Berkman played the entire season with a sore right knee and missed most of the second half with inflammation in his left hip. He went on the disabled list on July 7, and had just 12 at-bats after being activated in September.
Berkman was one of eight Rangers who are listed by the Major League Players Association as being free agents. Pitcher Jason Frasor is also on the list, but he has already agreed to a one-year, $1.75 million contract for 2014.
The other six are outfielders Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, catchers Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski, and pitchers Colby Lewis and Matt Garza. The Rangers are planning to extend a $14.1 million qualifying offer to Cruz and would received Draft pick compensation if he signs with another team. The Rangers cannot tender an offer to Garza because he was acquired via trade during the season, so they will not receive compensation if he signs with another team.
The Rangers have not yet made a decision on closer Joe Nathan. Texas has a $9 million option on him for 2014 with a $750,000 buyout. If the Rangers pick up the option, Nathan has the right to void it and become a free agent.
With Pierzynski and Soto becoming free agents, the Rangers do not have a catcher on their 40-man roster. Jorge Alfaro, ranked as their No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, is currently hitting .415 (17-for-41) in the Arizona Fall League but has yet to play above Class A Advanced. Jose Felix, who played in 32 games at Triple-A Round Rock, is hitting .207 (6-for-29) in the Mexican League.
Brian McCann, a seven-time All-Star with the Braves, is the top free-agent catcher on the market, and the Rangers have interest in him. Other top free-agent catchers include Jose Molina, Carlos Ruiz, John Buck and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
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.Less