Coming off a season in which the Rangers went to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, the team has made a couple of small moves that should improve, if only slightly, the 2011 squad.

Specifically, they signed catcher Yorvit Torrealba for two years for a total of $6.25 million, and they also signed right-hander Japanese reliever Yoshinori Tatekama to an undisclosed one-year deal with club options for 2012 and 2013.

These are small moves, indeed, but they are good moves. The Rangers improve at two positions (catcher and bullpen) where they need improvement, and neither move cost them much.

You pretty much know what you can expect from Torrealba: A veteran presence, decent defense and acceptable offense for a catcher. He won’t win any pennants by himself, but the odds are good that he will be well worth the money he’ll get under this contract.

The biggest knocks on Tateyama are that he’s old (35 in 2011) and he’s been inconsistent in his Japanese NPB career: 1.80 ERA in 2010, but a distinctly unimpressive 3.43 career ERA. Nevertheless, I like his chances for 2011 sucess.

First, no one in MLB has seen him pitch, which is almost always an advantage for a pitcher. Second, his peripheral numbers the last three seasons in Japan suggest he’s a better pitcher than his ERAs necessarily indicate and he’s also got MLB-worthy command.

Finally, mid-30′s Japanese relievers have had more success in the U.S. than mid-30′s Japanese starters, most likely because the relievers don’t face any hitter in the line-up more than once. I don’t know what Tateyama cost the Rangers, but I suspect the guaranteed amount is more than reasonable, given his potential upside.

Deals like these won’t build a pennant winner, but assuming the Rangers retain most of the true stars who got them to the postseason in 2010, these moves make the 2011 Rangers just a little bit stronger.

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