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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Source: Rangers, Napoli talk long-term deal

By Richard Durrett

Add Mike Napoli to the list of players the Rangers have talked to about a long-term contract. The club has had several conversations with Napoli's representatives about a multi-year deal, according to a source, though it’s early in the process. Napoli is slated to become a free agent after the 2012 season.

Despite the financial commitment to sign Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Monday that his organization still wants to try to keep key members of its “core” group.

“We’ve had some conversations with several guys on the club at this point and some are further along than others,” Daniels said in a conference call following his team’s winning bid for exclusive negotiating rights with Darvish for the next 30 days. “We’re not at a point where we get into specifics, but our mentality stays the same. We would like to keep this group together.”

Texas has talked to the agents of Derek Holland, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton about long-term deals this offseason as well, though no discussions have reached the point of signing a contract yet.

It’s unclear if the club will just concentrate on Darvish the next month before moving on to more substantive talks with the core members in an effort to get them signed for the future.

Napoli has joined that “core” thanks to a solid 2011. In one of the best trades of the offseason, the Rangers sent Frank Francisco to Toronto just days after the Angels traded Napoli to the Blue Jays as part of the Vernon Wells deal.

Napoli went from a part-time first baseman and third catcher to the backup catcher role before spring training was out. And when Napoli returned to the lineup on July 4 from a strained left oblique strain, he was a mainstay. He hit .378 from when he came back to the end of the season, mashing 20 homers and driving in 50 runs. That included two home runs in the final game of the regular season in Anaheim, securing homefield advantage against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS (and consequently the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS).

Napoli was so good he became the starting catcher in the postseason and would have been the World Series MVP had the Rangers won the title. He batted .350 with two homers and 10 RBIs, including a two-run double in the eighth inning of Game 5 to give the Rangers the lead in the series.

Napoli is arbitration-eligible this season. He made $5.8 million in 2011.