Posted on December 29, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Even at this stage of the offseason, there are still plenty of impact free agents available on the open market. The Texas Rangers have been hesitant to go after many of the top free agents available this winter, but there are now reports that they have zeroed in on Mike Napoli and are making a strong push to sign him.
The latest reports indicate that both the Rangers and Napoli are motivated to complete a deal, although nothing is considered imminent. The sides are reportedly discussing a two-year deal. Napoli appeared to be seeking a three-year deal earlier in the offseason, but the market has not been kind to many of the power hitters available this winter, and so a two-year deal may be the most reasonable for the 35-year old Napoli.
Despite the Rangers stepping up their efforts to sign Napoli, there are also other teams still showing interest in Napoli, so it’s not a lock that he goes to Texas. The Cleveland Indians were interested in re-signing him earlier this offseason, but after landing Edwin Encarnacion, they are likely out of the running. The Baltimore Orioles are likely to be one of the teams still interested in Napoli, as they’ve broken off talks with Mark Trumbo. The Oakland Athletics may also jump into the mix after they reportedly made a strong effort to sign Encarnacion.
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Rangers GM Jon Daniels has spoken all offseason about the Rangers not being involved with any of the high-priced free agents available. However, it appears an exception could be made for Napoli. At this point, Napoli may not receive the kind of contract he thought he would get at the start of the offseason, potentially putting him in the price range that Texas would be able to afford.
On top of that, the Rangers are in need of an impact bat. Texas is poised to lose Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, and Mitch Moreland from the lineup on the field when the Rangers were swept in the ALDS in October. Merely retaining Carlos Gomez and keeping Shin-Soo Choo healthy may not be enough to make up for the loss of Desmond, Beltran, and Moreland.
Moreover, there is little clarity for the Rangers in terms of who will play first base and DH in 2017. The Rangers would like to make Choo their regular DH, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have the outfield depth to make that happen, meaning Napoli could provide a solution at that spot. The Rangers are expecting Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo to cover first base and DH this season, but neither is a natural first baseman, and so Napoli would be a fit to cover that position, at least part time, as he did last season in Cleveland.
Napoli, of course, has had two separate stints with the Rangers, so with Cleveland off the table, it’s possible that Texas would be his preferred destination. He had the best season of his career with the Rangers in 2011, although had a more modest season in 2012. He then put together an impressive two months for the Rangers when he was traded back to Texas from Boston in August 2015. The Rangers now appear to be the favorites to bring Napoli back for his third stint in Texas.