Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: February 13, 12:41 PM ET
Mike Napoli deal puts Rangers at limit
By Richard Durrett
The official announcement of catcher Mike Napoli's one-year deal with the Texas Rangers to avoid arbitration may also signal the end of the club's shopping for big-ticket items on the free-agent market.
General manager Jon Daniels said Sunday that "more than likely" the Rangers are finished with their offseason work, except maybe a nonroster player or two, as they prepare to start spring training later this month. He said the organization was "a tick over" its payroll budget after adding Napoli's deal, which sources said was for $9.4 million.
"As far as any flexibility we have, we don't right now," Daniels said. "I never want to shut the door and there's always ways to be creative and things of that nature. We can sign nonroster guys. But handicapping anything else as we sit here, there's nothing imminent."
Daniels was asked about a couple of free agents the club has had interest in this offseason, starter Roy Oswalt and left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez.
"Nothing has changed on either front," Daniels said. "There's a level of interest in the players, but as far as a fit on the team and payroll-wise, it's not as easy as otherwise."
Daniels said he was pleased the two-time American League champions could get a contract done with Napoli, who settled for $500,000 below the middle ground after the sides exchanged salary arbitration figures in January. Napoli asked for $11.5 million and the club offered $8.3 million
Daniels was convinced the club was headed for Florida for Napoli's arbitration hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday.
"At the end of day, our goal is not to walk into a hearing if we can avoid it," Daniels said. "Both sides agreed, we got a deal done, and we're happy about it."
Napoli's deal means Texas will continue its streak of not going to any arbitration hearings since 2000 (Lee Stevens). The Rangers also completed deals in the last week with slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Elvis Andrus to avoid hearings. Cruz and Andrus got multiyear deals that took them through their last arbitration-eligible seasons, Cruz through 2013 and Andrus through 2014.
The Rangers remain interested in getting a longer-term deal done with Napoli, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
Napoli's contract represents a $3.6 million raise from his 2011 salary ($5.8 million). He earned it after putting up a career-high .320 average with 30 homers and 75 RBIs in 113 games for the Rangers last season.
Napoli earned more playing time as the season progressed, batting .383 with 18 homers and 42 RBIs after the All-Star break. He likely would have been the World Series MVP had the Rangers won after batting .350 with two homers and 10 RBIs.
The 30-year-old Napoli is a .264 career hitter with 122 homers and 324 RBIs in 619 games. The Rangers acquired him in January 2011 from the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Frank Francisco.
Napoli has said his left ankle, which was injured as he tried to round second base on an errant throw in Game 6 of the World Series, is feeling better. He's been able to participate in his offseason workouts and has been receiving treatment on the ankle.
Daniels said Napoli has seen the Rangers' doctors a few times this offseason and they are pleased by how the ankle is progressing, though he's not likely to be 100 percent at the start of spring training. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Feb. 22.
Napoli comes into the season as the club's top catcher, but with the heat and conditions in Texas, it's important that both catchers get plenty of playing time to keep each other rested. Napoli started 57 games behind the plate in 2011 with Torrealba starting 95. Napoli was the catcher for most of the postseason.
"We feel we have two guys that are capable of being the main guy," Daniels said. "Yorvit has done it over the season. Mike hasn't been the wire-to-wire starter. But with the flexibility we've got with first base and DH, (manager Ron Washington) can move him around and get him in there. I don't think we have a traditional starter and backup."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.