Napoli played for the Rangers during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, as well as part of 2015. After spending the first five years of his major league career with the Los Angeles Angels, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and then to Texas during the 2010-11 offseason.
Though his playing time was somewhat limited over the following two seasons, as he appeared in a total of 221 games between the campaigns, Napoli was a productive force in the Rangers lineup. He slashed .275/.379/.552 (143 OPS+) during his first Texas stint with 54 home runs and 131 RBI. He earned an All-Star spot in 2012 and split his time between catcher, first base and designated hitter.
Napoli returned to the Rangers for the final two months of 2015 after the Boston Red Sox traded him for cash considerations in an August waiver deal. Napoli appeared in 35 games, posting a .295/.396/.513 slash with five homers and 10 RBI in 91 plate appearances while taking his glove to first base and left field.
After signing a one-year contract with Cleveland prior to last season, Napoli couldn’t have asked for much more out of his 2016. (Except for maybe another World Series title to add to his resumé.) He produced a .239/.335/.465 batting line with 34 home runs and 101 RBI – both career highs. Though his bat cooled off in the postseason, Napoli’s veteran presence and toughness played a key part in driving the Indians’ run to the Fall Classic.
The Rangers will hope that Napoli has a similar influence on their own club this year, and he should fill in quite capably in a first base/DH role. His 2016 campaign wasn’t all great, however. He struck out a career-high 30.1 percent of the time, as much of his value came from his renewed ability to hit the ball out of the park. Napoli’s 20.5 percent HR/FB (home run to fly ball) ratio after three straight years of a sub-20 percent mark suggests he might be due for some regression in that regard. However, being back in the hitter-friendly confines of Globe Life Park in Arlington could also have a positive effect.
Texas doesn’t need Napoli to be the biggest bat in its 2017 lineup, but they will want to see him do his share of the heavy lifting, especially after watching Ian Desmond and Carlos Beltran depart in free agency earlier this offseason. The Rangers scored 765 runs last season, good for fourth-most in the AL, but that strength is in danger of waning this year. Bringing back Napoli on a cheap, one-year deal just makes sense for the team’s current situation.