Everyone knows Josh Hamilton will be a free agent at the end of this year, but the Texas Rangers also have another important player with an expiring contract: Mike Napoli.
Napoli hasn’t been able to replicate the numbers he posted in 2011, when an incredible second half helped him set career highs in almost every offensive category.
The 30-year-old got off to another slow start this season, and a quad injury kept him from taking off after the All-Star break again this year. This may bring his asking price down a bit in the offseason.
There is still plenty of value Napoli brings to the table.
As a catcher, he has developed good chemistry with the pitching staff the last two seasons. Matt Harrison in particular has made significant progress with Mike behind the dish.
Napoli is also a powerful bat in the lineup. His 20 home runs are still No. 4 on the team despite him having missed over a month, and he has one of the better on-base percentages. The Rangers can use some pop, with an aging Nelson Cruz and the uncertainty surrounding Josh Hamilton’s return next year.
Napoli is versatile player, a skill that shouldn’t be understated. He has the ability to play first base on occasion, and Ron Washington can pencil him in at DH to give his legs a little rest.
There are flaws in his game, like any other player. Strikeouts have been an issue this year, and he has made a trip to the disabled list each of the last two seasons.
However, Napoli has still shown the ability to be a difference-maker. He was one of the best hitters in baseball the second half of 2011 and carried the Rangers offensively in the World Series, not to mention playing lights-out defensively.
Geovany Soto has played well in his short stint in Texas thus far, but he is probably not a long-term solution. Napoli will be one of the top catchers on the market this offseason and should have plenty of suitors.
Rangers games are more exciting when the stadium is packed and the crowd is chanting Napoli’s name during an important at-bat. He is a fan favorite, proven by the amount of votes he received to play in the All-Star Game, so there will be a lot of disappointed people if he moves elsewhere.
Re-signing Hamilton will be the priority, which it should be, but Napoli shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes time to ink a new deal.
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