Oct 092012
 
Will Napoli be back in Texas in 2013?

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?The Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton is the biggest name in this winter’s MLB Free Agent sweepstakes. So big a name is Hamilton, that another key offensive weapon in Texas is often overlooked. Mike Napoli, despite a precipitous decline from the previous season’s offensive production, provided 24 home runs and has been the team’s most productive catcher since Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

And like Hamilton, Napoli could seek a new suitor this winter. Should Napoli follow Hamilton, the Rangers could find themselves scrambling to replace a combined 67 HRs and 184 RBI from last season.

It’s funny to think that the Rangers wouldn’t re-sign Mike Napoli. After all, 2011—Napoli’s first season in Texas—might be best remembered as “The Year of the Napoli.”

For the better part of 2011, Napoli crushed every offering headed his way. His second-half frenzy and subsequent postseason romp—coupled with Nelson Cruz’s October power surge—helped drive the Rangers towards their second-straight American League Pennant. Tampa Bay’s manager, Joe Maddon—whose team was the first victim of Napoli and company—coined 2011 as “The Year of the Napoli,” a catchphrase that reverberated throughout the postseason as Rangers fans fervently chanted his name: “Nap-O-Li!! Nap-O-Li!!!” Few were the times that Napoli didn’t capitalize on his fan’s chants or the opposition’s pitches. However, as 2012 would attest, it was a good thing the Rangers were patient in signing him to a long-term deal.

The Rangers’ Patience Paid Off

By signing Napoli to a one-year $9.4M deal last February, the Rangers avoided arbitration and skirted a long-term commitment. Granted, there were those—present company included—that clamored to extend Napoli on a multi-year deal. 2011’s magical run proved a strong spell. As it turned out, not committing to Napoli long-term was a shrewd move. Since the Rangers decided to wait it out, they now have tangible proof that 2011 was more hot streak than a sustainable run of promised potential. Granted, since Napoli is one of  the premier power-hitting catchers in baseball, his average annual salary should exceed last year’s one-year deal. A three-year, $36M contract would probably land “Nap-O-Li!!!” back in Arlington for the remaining years of his prime.

Despite last season’s statistical letdown, Mike Napoli—who has averaged 27 HRs per season while in Texas—has been the Rangers’ best offensive catcher since the iconic Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

Down on the Farm: Help at Catcher?

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?

If there is a glaring weakness in the Texas Rangers’ farm system—a system  ranked as one of MLB’s finest—then it is a lack of depth at the catching position. Former 2010 first round pick, Kellin Deglan is an intriguing prospect. Deglan flashed some power with Hickory of the South Atlantic League (SAL) in 2012, as he hit 12 home runs. Deglan, a career .225 hitter in the bush leagues, is athletic, but raw. Fangraph’s Mike Newman ranks fellow SAL luminary Jorge Alfaro slightly ahead of Deglan, with a high-ceiling and nearly non-existent floor. Like Deglan, the 19-year-old Alfaro is at least three years away from the big leagues.

Geovany Soto and Other FA Catchers (Been there, done that)

Geovany Soto is one option to replace Mike Napoli. Soto was acquired in the trade that netted the Rangers his former Chicago Cubs battery mate, Ryan Dempster, to boot. While with Texas, Soto, the 2008 NL ROY, flashed moments of greatness but was largely a letdown. Ironically enough, most of the free agent catchers available are former Rangers. Gerald Laird, Rod Barajas, Matt Treanor, and Yorvit Torrealba have all played in Arlington with varying degrees of success and failure. Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz, and Atlanta’s Brian McCann, are technically free agents, but both have 2013 club options that their teams are likely to exercise.

So, What do you think? Should the Texas Rangers re-sign Mike Napoli? I’d love to hear your feedback, just respond with your thoughts in our comments section below.

Mike Napoli: Should The Texas Rangers Re Sign The Slugging Catcher?

Follow Timothy On Twitter

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
Oct 082012
 
Josh Hamilton is an awesome baseball player, when he wants to be.

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?Today is the first Monday of the Texas Rangers off-season. Once the 2012 postseason has come to an end, Josh Hamilton will likely saunter off from Arlington and make a beeline towards financially greener pastures. With him, Hamilton will take his immeasurable baseball talents, as well as his various psychological, ocular, and assorted addiction issues.

But not to worry, Josh Hamilton has said that he’ll give the Rangers first crack at re-signing him…Well aw-shucks, and gosh golly all-to-pieces, that sure is mighty kind of you, Josh.

All personal cynicism aside, what this really means is that the Texas Rangers have first shot to politely decline the offer he and his agent deem necessary. If you are a Texas Rangers fan—not solely a Josh Hamilton fan—then you understand that not giving him the contract he wants is best for the team. Hami wants a lengthy deal. When discussing a long-term contract—in this case, longer than four years—you have to consider: age, injury-issues, and, with Hamilton, a history of alcohol abuse, caffeine dependency, severe dry eye, and, oh yeah, an apparent lack of focus during the most important game of 2012.

Unless Hambone decides to sign a four-year (better yet, three-year) deal, then the Rangers are no longer a viable option. Besides, Hamilton and his wife, Katie, have far too many impoverished people to help for the measly makings of such a short-term deal.

In-House Options: Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin?

Replacing 43 home runs and 128 RBI is even more difficult than it sounds. Neither Craig Gentry nor Leonys Martin is ever going to be a three-hole hitter. However, Gentry supplies plus-defensive and explosive speed, whereas Martin has an upside high enough that the Rangers were willing to dish out the dough to harangue the Cuban into coming to Texas in May of 2011.

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?

More Craig Gentry. It’s what the people want.

The Problem: Defensively, Gentry and Martin are HUGE improvements over Hamilton. Offensively, not so much. Despite Gentry’s breakout 2012 campaign, he is best suited as a fourth outfielder; speed off the bench if you will. Martin, who will be just 25-years-old at the start of 2013, needs to prove that he can hit at the big league level, and thusly might be a click behind Gentry on the depth chart.

How To Fill the Offensive Void—Rookies to the Rescue?

Prized prospects Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar now have a few major league at-bats under their belts, and could plug the Hami-hole in 2013, should they ascend to their sky-high ceilings offensively.

The problem: The Rangers’ best player, Adrian Beltre, blocks Olt, a natural third baseman. Jurickson Profar has Elvis Andrus well ahead of him at shortstop, and the recently re-upped Ian Kinsler at second. Although Olt has seen some big league time in right, Profar’s skill set is more suitable for the outfield, should the Rangers decide to re-position the two.

The Free Agent Market

Naturally, the Texas Rangers will be looking at other available free agent talent. B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher come to mind. Although Swisher is better suited for right field, both he and Upton would provide an immediate offensive upgrade over Gentry and Martin. An Upton or Swisher signing would also provide the Rangers time to let Profar and Olt get consistent playing time in Triple-A for the 2013 season.

@TMurrayHowell

Replacing Josh Hamilton: Do The Texas Rangers Have In House Options?

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
Login