Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the club is now focused on a one-year deal with catcher Mike Napoli, who is arbitration-eligible in 2012 and then becomes a free agent.
The club and Napoli's agent had discussed a multi-year deal, but Daniels felt the sides were too far apart to get one done now. So they'll go through the arbitration process with Napoli for this upcoming season.
"The conversation was amicable and good natured and both sides can re-open it if anyone wants to do so," Daniels said. "There’s no plans to do so at this point."
The Rangers traded Frank Francisco to Toronto for Napoli last January and after coming in as the third catcher and part-time first baseman, Napoli quickly showed in spring training he could play solid defense. When Matt Treanor was traded to Kansas City at the end of spring training, Napoli moved into the backup catcher's role. He started to get more playing time just before an oblique strain sidelined him for a few weeks. After he returned on July 4, he hit .378 with 20 homers and 50 RBIs, including two big homers the final day of the season in Anaheim to give the Rangers homefield advantage in the first round (and against Detroit in the ALCS).
Had the Rangers won the World Series, Napoli would have been the MVP. He hit .350 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the seven-game series and delivered plenty of clutch hits, including a big one late in Game 5. He also fit in well in the Rangers' clubhouse, which is why the club was interesting in locking him up past this season.
We'll see if the two sides can talk again either before the season or after to keep Napoli in Texas.
"Nothing has changed from Mike's standpoint," his agent, Brian Grieper, said. "He still wants to be a Ranger beyond 2012. We just need to find some common ground if there is common ground."
Daniels said the club has talked with some other players about long-term deals and that dialogue is ongoing. That includes Ian Kinsler and Derek Holland. Josh Hamilton has also talked about his desire to stay here. And there may be others, though Daniels declined to get into specific names. The club normally doesn't like to get deals done during the season, opting to either do it before spring training ends or after the season.
"Our general feeling is to try not to negotiate during the year, but we've made exceptions," said Daniels, noting the last one was a handful of years ago with Francisco Cordero.