Mike Napoli has never been Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate.
He's not awful, but Napoli is hardly redefining the way we think about catcher defense when he gets down in a crouch. His bat makes up for it, though. Even after a mediocre first half, Napoli offers the Rangers offensive production at catcher that most teams can't put on the field.
That isn't true when he moves over to first base. Napoli's offensive output looks a lot more ordinary at first base, something that matters more to him than it does to the Rangers. Napoli's a free agent after this season and he stands to make much more money at catcher than he does as a hybrid catcher/first baseman/designated hitter, so it's not surprising that he told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he prefers to remain behind the plate.
“I’d rather catch than play first base,” Napoli said. "Sometimes, at first base, I feel a little lost. I just want to make the routine play. Knock it down and flip it to the pitcher — that’s basically my mindset. I love catching. I like working with different personalities, just getting trust from pitchers."
Napoli's real motivations aside, the Rangers seem to have a problem on their hands when it comes to first base. Napoli doesn't want to be there, Mitch Moreland is out through at least the end of the month and Michael Young hitting this season has been about as good as his fielding every season. With Young also the team's primary designated hitter, that raises the question of whether the Rangers need to go shopping for help at first.
The addition need not be a splashy one that generates banner headlines across the baseball landscape. It could be a righty bat to platoon with Moreland and perhaps take some DH at-bats away from Young if he continues to do an impression of a dead ball era middle infielder.
That doesn't rule out a bigger move, although the Rangers still make the somewhat dubious claim that they are on course to lose money this season. It would be a luxury move to add another bit of thunder to the lineup, although it could also be spun as a proactive move with Josh Hamilton and Napoli possibly leaving after the season.
Or they could just call up Mike Olt and see what happens with a prospect that's been universally praised this season. And, of course, there's just telling Napoli to suck it up and sticking him at first whenever the urge to do so strikes Ron Washington.
There are a lot of options, in other words, and the Rangers may find it makes sense to avail themselves of one of them to shore up the one troubling spot in a lineup that's otherwise built to make another run at a championship.