Former Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson is returning to the organization on a minor league contract, per a team announcement. Texas also announced minor league deals for right-hander Paolo Espino, outfielder Brett Eibner and right-hander Zeke Spruill. (Spruill’s deal had been previously reported.) Tolleson and Espino received invitations to Major League Spring Training, though Tolleson will still be working his way back from Tommy John surgery at that point.
Tolleson, 30 in January, was cut loose by the Rangers after a dreadful 2016 campaign. Tolleson shined with the Rangers from 2014-15, tossing 144 innings and logging 35 saves with 9.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 against a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate. Tolleson limped to a 7.68 ERA and served up eight homers in just 36 1/3 innings with the Rangers in ’16, and he never appeared in a game for the Rays after signing a one-year deal last offseason before TJ surgery in May. Tolleson was used heavily in 2014-15, including five straight games to close out that 2015 regular season.
Espino made six appearances for the Rangers last year after being picked up from the Brewers. Though he’ll turn 31 next month, last year marked Espino’s first taste of the big leagues — a debut that included 24 innings with a 6.00 ERA and a 20-to-10 K/BB ratio. Espino brings a 3.76 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 505 1/3 career innings at the Triple-A level and will bring some depth to a rotation mix that has plenty of injury question marks.
Last season, the Dodgers attempted to convert Eibner into a pitcher, but he ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 1. The Rangers announced Eibner as an outfielder, seemingly indicating that they won’t continue experimenting with him on the mound. Once healthy, Eibner can handle all three outfield spots and will come to the Rangers organization with a .274/.348/.464 career batting line in parts of four Triple-A seasons and a .191/.263/.355 slash in 244 MLB plate appearances.