ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Maybe it was just a coincidence that the Texas Rangers finished last in the AL West the two years they were without Juan Gonzalez.
New general manager John Hart isn't taking any chances in finding out.
Despite a late entry into the bidding war for Gonzalez, Hart still landed the grand prize Tuesday night when the slugging outfielder agreed to a $24 million, two-year deal that includes $10.5 million in deferred payments.
Presuming Gonzalez passes a physical, he'll return to the team he helped win division titles in three of his last four seasons and try adding to his franchise-best totals in homers, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits.
He'll also find himself in the middle of a Texas lineup that's even better than when he left.
Alex Rodriguez and recently acquired Carl Everett have joined longtime Rangers Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez, ensuring Gonzalez of seeing lots of hittable pitches.
"This gives us a very strong club that should compete every day against any pitching," Hart said.
"We've got four potential first-ballot Hall of Famers on this club, so he doesn't have to come in here and carry the load, be the guy. But being in the middle of the order, he'll be a key component to our offense."
The New York Mets were hoping Gonzalez would do that for them and offered him a $25 million, two-year deal that included a $12 million signing bonus paid over the two years with no deferred money.
But Gonzalez preferred the American League, where he's spent his entire career, and Texas, which he still considers home.
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