OK, I know that none of us want to start talking about the 2011 World Series yet, but during Episode 1 of Baseball Do, Jasen and I talked about the catcher position in our off-season position round-up, and obviously Mike Napoli was a very large part of that discussion. I hate the to include the picture, but it still makes me cringe on the inside every time I see it and thought it’d be nice to share that feeling.
In Episode 2 of Baseball Do, I asked Jasen to put himself in Jon Daniels’ shoes and restricted him to extending the contract of only one of the two – Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli. Jasen took Hamilton, and it’s almost impossible to argue with that, even though I went the other way. But it’s crazy to think that it’s even that close. Had I, at the beginning of 2011, told any of you that the question would even be valid, you would have broken my ankle off and beaten me with it (look at it).
It’s time to get an extension in place for Nap. His short time here has been filled with big contributions and his 2011 performance exceeded all expectations. His final line from the 2011 season is very impressive, especially when you consider the limited AB:
- Total 2011 – .320/.416/.631 with 30 HR, 75 RBI in only 369 AB
But, what will Nap’s role be in 2012? Similar to what we saw in 2011? I can’t think that will be the case simply because he is too good to limit to 369 AB. Extend that line above out over 550 AB, and you’re looking at 45 HR and 112 RBI. There would be numerous arguments against my simple math approach here, but I think 40 HR and 100 RBI would have been attainable. So, is he the full time catcher? Looking at offensive splits in 2011 based on what position he played (or didn’t play in case of DH) makes it look like he should be:
- As C – .364/.449/.694 with 19 HR and 43 RBI over 209 AB
- As 1B – .265/.345/.551 with 7 HR and 20 RBI over 98 AB
- AS DH – .263/.411/.561 with 4 HR and 12 RBI over 57 AB
The splits are too lopsided to ignore. Clearly, he performs better at the plate when he is playing behind it defensively.
So, we’ve established that Nap needs to be full-time catcher with a target of 500-550 AB (600+ plate appearances) which is a reasonable level for a starting catcher.
Now, how much to pay and how long of a contract? He’s 30 years old now (won’t be 31 until October ’12). He debuted when he was 24 years old and played a limited role over his first 3-4 years with the Angels. It’s reasonable to think Nap could serve as the full-time catcher for the next 4-5 years, after which he could transition to 1B or DH. If the Rangers have a more than serviceable back-up (like Torrealba), which would allow for more breaks from the catching duties, I think it’s posssible that you extend his time behind the plate to 6 years. All that said, I think it’s a 4 or 5 year deal with the Rangers that makes the most sense.
Based on his full body of work, last year could be viewed as a bit of an anomaly, but I tend to think 2011 Napoli is more likely than ’06-’10 Napoli. I say this, because it’s very natural for catchers to take a few years to develop to full potential offensively, because of the demands defensively. The power was always been there – it’s the BA and OBP that are the new toys under the tree. Given this, a club option in the final year or even two years of his contract would make sense, in the off chance that he is really just a .250-.270 hitter with a sub .375 OBP.
Here is my proposal - 6 years/ $81M, with club options in the 5th and 6th years of the contract, structured as follows:
- Year 1 – $12.0M
- Year 2 – $12.5M
- Year 3 – $13.0M
- Year 4 – $14.0M
- Year 5 – Club option at $14.5M
- Year 6 – Club option at $15M
Hopefully, we’ll see something get done prior to the start of the 2012 season.