The big story for the Texas Rangers this week has been the fact that they placed the winning bid of $51.7 million to give them exclusive negotiation rights with Japanese superstar hurler Yu Darvish.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels has said since the Winter Meetings that the main objective for the Rangers this off-season is to lock up some of their current players who are set to become free agents soon instead of going after free agents such as C.J. Wilson or Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder (though I'm still not convinced the Rangers are finished on the Fielder front).
One of those current players who is due for free agency soon is catcher Mike Napoli, who is set to become a free agent following the 2012 season.
Napoli, of course, was acquired via trade from the Toronto Blue Jays, who had him for less than a week after acquiring him from the Rangers fiercest rival, the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers sent Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for Napoli, who was expected to be a part-timer at first base, a third catcher and a part-time designated hitter that set Michael Young off into a tizzy concerned over his playing time.
Crazy how things worked out.
Napoli played his way into a basically full-time gig, whether it was as the catcher, DH or first baseman from the all-star break on and hit .378 over the second half of the season, hitting 20 home runs over that span including some huge ones such as the two he hit against the Angels on the final day of the regular season to ensure homefield advantage for the Rangers.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, Napoli rendered Yorvit Torrealba useless as he snatched the starting catcher job right out of Torrealba's hands and flashed the defense that the Angels thought he lacked when they let him go, making several key defensive plays in the postseason.
In the World Series alone, Napoli hit .350 with two home runs and 10 RBIs while throwing out baserunners and calling some great games behind the plate. He would've for sure been the World Series MVP had the Rangers been able to get that final strike, twice. He was a viable candidate in a losing effort.
At age 30, Napoli is worth locking up for another 3-4 years, if for no other reason than to continue to haunt the Angels like he did throughout 2011.