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Rangers, BoSox Atop Napoli Sweepstakes

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One way or another, it appears the Texas Rangers are the biggest competition the Boston Red Sox have in their quest to re-sign free agent first baseman Mike Napoli.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Rangers have emerged as the main stumbling block in the Red Sox bringing back their bearded friend, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons in Texas and became a fan favorite.

The Rangers let Napoli walk last winter before he signed a three-year deal in Boston. That deal, however, was eventually voided due to a degenerative hip condition that meant Napoli could no longer catch. Instead, Napoli signed a one-year, incentive-loaded deal with the Red Sox, and he met all of them, pulling $13 million in 2013 after hitting .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs.

But according to Olney, the big thing scouts have noticed in Napoli is the way he picked up first base and ran with his new position, which he had played occasionally in the past, including during his in Texas.

The Rangers could be on the prowl for a new first baseman, as it's still undetermined what they're planning to do with Mitch Moreland. Ideally, using him as a part-time platoon player might work best, but it would take a proven bat at first base, and Napoli would give the Rangers just that.

There's also the possibility that the Rangers are just showing all this interest in Napoli to drive up his price and force Boston to pay big money to bring him back, potentially eliminating them from other free-agent pursuits.

Whatever the case, having Napoli back in a Texas uniform after one season away would be a slam dunk with Rangers fans.

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