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Rangers and Lofton close to deal

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Outfielder Kenny Lofton and the Texas Rangers are closing in on a contract agreement.

While a deal hasn't yet been reached, a person familiar with the negotiations said Sunday the sides are getting close. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing.

Lofton, who turns 40 on May 31, hit .301 with 32 steals and 41 RBIs for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season but was just 1-for-13 (.077) as the Dodgers were swept by the New York Mets in the first round of the playoffs.

The six-time All-Star has a .299 career average over 16 major league seasons with Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia and the Dodgers.

Lofton would likely fill the void created when All-Star center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. agreed to a $50 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Matthews had a career-best year, hitting .302 with 19 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Brad Wilkerson, who missed the last two months of the season after shoulder surgery, or newly acquired Frank Catalanotto will likely play left field after Carlos Lee also left as a free agent. Wilkerson and Catalanotto also could split time in the outfield and as designated hitter.

Nelson Cruz, part of the trade with Milwaukee that brought Lee to Texas last July, ended the season as the starting right fielder.

The Rangers never showed interest in re-signing Lee, the two-time National League All-Star they got last July. Lee instead signed a six-year, $100-million deal with the Houston Astros.

Mark DeRosa, who started at six different positions including the corner outfield spots last season, went to the Chicago Cubs with a chance to be their everyday second baseman.

Texas has reached agreements with two major league free agents during the offseason, a $13.5 million, three-year contract with outfielder Catalanotto and a $33.75 million, three-year deal to bring back right-hander Vicente Padilla.
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