Mike Napoli was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2011 baseball season.
He wasn't seen as a game breaking acquisition when the Rangers traded Frank Francisco to Toronto to get him in the off-season, but that's just what he turned out to be. His offensive numbers were as good as any in the game and he helped carry the team all the way to the seventh game of the World Series before the luck ran out.
The bat was great, but even better was the fact that Napoli was able to play behind the plate without hurting the team defensively. The Angels got rid of him because they didn't think he could handle that part of the job, a mistake that likely cost them their shot at a postseason berth. Not too bad a return for a used-up closer.
Napoli's future with the team is secure, but the role he's going to play is less than clear. Although he proved capable of doing the work behind the plate, Napoli still only played 57 games at catcher this season. He's never started more than 84 at the position in his career and there's reason to think that increasing his workload considerably might hurt him offensively.
That would be true in any stadium, but it is particularly true when you play half your games in the cauldron that is Arlington in midsummer. Realistically, you can't bump Napoli too far north of 80 games without running the risk of diminishing returns.
So you definitely want to have someone around to split time with Napoli. The question, then, is whether Yorvit Torrealba is the best guy for that job. Torrealba had a decent season during the first year of his two-year deal, but the Rangers could probably find a taker for his $3.25 million contract in a trade.
That money would come in handy with Napoli set for a salary increase and the need to spend some coin on the rotation on C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish or somebody else. Getting another backup who makes less money and could handle the defense without killing the team offensively would make that possible, although there's that old saying about sticking with the devil you know.
A difficult choice, but one that the Rangers need to make to maximize their chances of finally being the ones celebrating the final out of a World Series.