There’s been a push for free agent first baseman Mike Napoli to put on the Rangers uniform once again after two previous stints with the organization, which makes sense since the Rangers don’t have a clear cut favorite at the first base position. But Napoli is still on the market as spring training gets closer, and that has many asking why?
The difference may lie in the length of the contract. Napoli is reportedly seeking a two or three-year deal, where many teams, including the Rangers, prefer a one-year deal. At this point, neither side is backing down. However, that doesn’t mean something won’t be worked out before teams start reporting to spring training next month.
The belief is that many general managers around the league are reluctant to give Napoli something other than a one-year deal due to worries about production. Last season with the American League champion Cleveland Indians, Napoli hit 34 home runs and knocked in 101 runs, but had a .239 batting average during the regular season. Plus, his struggles in the postseason, despite the Indians making it to the World Series, has many hesitate to commit long term.
Napoli has always been considered as a good clubhouse guy, along with playing on three different World Series teams, including the Rangers in 2011. He was a key part of the Red Sox team that won it all in 2013 and is still loved in the Boston area. His experience and clubhouse character is considered valuable, which helps keep teams interested.
Right now, the Rangers have five candidates for the first base spot. James Loney, Josh Hamilton, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar and Ryan Rua are all in the mix. Inside baseball theories are that both Loney and Hamilton, signed to minor league deals, won’t make the team in spring training. The jury is still out on Gallo and whether he can live up to the hype, but it could be his spot to lose. Profar is simply a bat without a position. All this possibly changes if Napoli rejoins the team.
The thought is that Napoli will likely return to the Rangers, who basically put their one-year deal on the table and left it there. Napoli not only fills a void at first base and DH, but adds much-needed power to the Rangers lineup. However, the Tampa Bay Rays have appeared to jump in the sweepstakes as they are also looking for a power bat after trading second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Twins are also in the picture, especially since current general manager Thad Levine was the Rangers assistant G-M during Napoli’s time in Arlington.
So it remains to be seen where the location for Party at Napoli’s will be. A reunion with the Rangers is considered to be the favorite, but things can drastically change between now and spring training.