ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Right-hander Todd Van Poppel became the first of the 155 free agents to sign, agreeing Monday to a $7.5 million, three-year contract with the Texas Rangers.
Van Poppel, 29, was briefly with the Rangers during the 1998 season. He was 4-1 with a career-best 2.52 ERA in 59 relief appearances for the Chicago Cubs this year after going 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 2000. He has a 30-43 career record with a 5.50 ERA.
In Texas, Van Poppel will rejoin pitching coach Oscar Acosta, who was hired by the Rangers earlier this month. Acosta was the Cubs pitching coach for two seasons until he was forced to resign in October because of a conflict with manager Don Baylor.
The Rangers had the worst pitching staff for the second season in a row, with a major league-high 5.71 ERA. Texas allowed more runs (968) and hits (1,670) than any other team.
Van Poppel appeared in just four games for Texas in 1998, when he was 1-2 with a 8.84 ERA before being traded to Pittsburgh. He spent 1999 in Pittsburgh's minor league system before signing as a free agent with the Cubs.
Before his first stint with Texas, Van Poppel played for Oakland (1991, 1993-96) and Detroit (1996).
Van Poppel, who made $850,000 this year, gets $2 million in 2002, $2.5 million in 2003 and $3 million in 2004. He can make up to $500,000 per year in performance bonuses based on appearances, getting the full amount if he has 65, and he can earn more for if he becomes a closer, with bonuses based on games finished.
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