Texas Rangers Getting Aggressive in Pursuit of Mike Napoli
With the new year approaching and spring training drawing ever closer, the Texas Rangers are making a strong push to sign free agent first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
A strong showing with the Cleveland Indians this past season dramatically raised Napoli’s stock on the market, but his chances to bargain slipped when Edwin Encarnacion took his place on the Indians roster. Napoli was reportedly seeking a three-year deal before Encarnacion signed, but is now open to a two-year deal, as noted by Jon Heyman of Fan Rag.
A two-year deal to sign Napoli could be quite a steal for a Rangers team lacking a reliable first baseman. The 35-year-old hit .239/.335/.465 with 34 homers and 101 RBI – which was the first time in his 11-year career that he topped the 30/100 mark. The Indians did not offer Napoli a qualifying offer, meaning any team that signs him will not have to give up a draft pick – which could cause Napoli to sign quicker than Jose Bautista.
Napoli and the Rangers already have a strong relationship, seeing that Napoli saw success with the team in 2011-2012 and the second half of 2015. In 2011, Napoli had one of the best seasons of his career, as he hit over .300 with 30 home runs in 113 games. His follow-up 2012 season wasn’t quite as spectacular as 2011, but he still was a power threat for much of the season.
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Three years later, Napoli had struggled through the first half of the 2015 season with the Boston Red Sox – and eventually wound up back in Texas for the team’s playoff push. Napoli’s return to Arlington rejuvenated his career, and he hit .295 with a .908 OPS and five home runs in 35 games down the stretch.
But it’s not entirely certain that Napoli winds up back in Texas. The Oakland Athletics nearly signed Encarnacion, and may target Napoli to bring some power to their infield.
At this stage in his career, however, it’s unlikely that Napoli would go to a rebuilding team only to be traded at midseason. If Napoli doesn’t sign with the Rangers in the next few weeks, his market will likely depend on where Mark Trumbo winds up signing.
With plenty of power left in his bat, Napoli will likely have more than a few suitors in the near future.