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Saturday, January 29, 2011
Rangers, Mike Napoli avoid arbitration

By Richard Durrett
ESPNDallas.com

The Texas Rangers and catcher-first baseman Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a one-year deal for $5.8 million, avoiding an arbitration hearing.

Napoli was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in return for reliever Frank Francisco and cash. Napoli had exchanged arbitration figures with the Los Angeles Angels and those numbers were transferred to the Rangers. He had asked for $6.1 million and the club had offered $5.3 million. Both sides were able to work out a deal somewhere in the middle ground.

That leaves Josh Hamilton as the only remaining arbitration-eligible player not yet signed by the Rangers. Napoli, Nelson Cruz, Mark Lowe, David Murphy, Darren O'Day and C.J. Wilson have all signed, avoiding hearings.

Napoli, 29, is slated to be a power right-handed bat off the bench. He'll probably play first base against most left-handed starters (he hit .305 against lefties in 2010) and could see time at designated hitter when Michael Young plays the field. He's also the third catcher behind Yorvit Torrealba and Matt Treanor.

Napoli was originally traded from the Angels to the Blue Jays along with Juan Rivera for outfielder Vernon Wells on Jan. 21. He was then shipped to Texas a few days later.

The Rangers also announced Saturday that they have signed 25-year-old Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

Ruiz signed his first professional contract with Tampa Bay on July 26. He batted .447 (21-for-47) with a homer and nine RBIs in 13 games with Tampa's Dominican Summer League squad and then finished the season with Double-A Montgomery, hitting .272 (25-for-92) with a homer and 11 RBIs in 23 games.

He was removed from the Rays' 40-man roster in November and later given his unconditional release.

Texas also signed right-hander Ty Taubenheim and catcher Robinzon Diaz to minor league deals. Both have previously appeared in the majors.

Taubenheim, who spent last season in Philadelphia's organization, is 1-5 with a 5.09 ERA in 14 major league games for Toronto (2006-07) and Pittsburgh (2008).

Diaz spent all last season at Triple-A Toledo in Detroit's organization. He hit .281 in 44 major league games for Toronto (2008) and Pittsburgh (2008-09).

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.