3 Reasons Mike Napoli Is Texas Rangers' Best Catching Option for Now
Napoli has already made his plans to test the free-agent market clear. He made those plans known when he spoke to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
“I’d love to be here, but I’ll test the market,” Napoli said. “Every player plays to get to free agency. But it’s not something I’m going to worry about. That’s why I have my agent.”
This isn't a declaration of his intentions to leave the Texas Rangers. Napoli is merely clarifying his stance that he will let other MLB teams bid for his services while the Rangers contemplate how much Napoli is worth to them.
The Rangers shouldn't wait too long to decide, and if they do, several other teams will be knocking on Napoli's door.
Here are three reasons why Mike Napoli is the Rangers' best catching option for now.
No Offensive Upgrade Needed
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Mike Napoli has given the Texas Rangers back-to-back seasons of outstanding power production from a position that isn't expected to produce much offense.
Napoli is one of the few reliable offensive catchers in the big leagues. He's posted five straight seasons of 20-plus home runs.
At this point, the team should be satisfied with the production it's getting from Napoli. There isn't a grave need for the Rangers to upgrade offensively at catcher, despite Napoli's swing-and-miss track record.
Fans might not be happy with Napoli's .231 batting average, but it's much less of a concern because of the supporting cast around him in the lineup.
Napoli should be expected to produce somewhere between his stellar 2011 campaign and his somewhat disappointing 2012 campaign going forward.
The Texas Rangers currently have the best offense in MLB, as they're top five in the league in hits, runs, home runs and runs batted in. Re-signing Napoli is vital to the Rangers maintaining this level of offensive dominance.
Lack of Free-Agent Options
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The free-agent market for catchers this offseason is one of the worst in recent years.
Outside of Mike Napoli, the pool's top backstops are A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird, Russell Martin and David Ross.
That isn't a market the Texas Rangers (or any MLB team) want to find themselves having to sift through if they lose Napoli. If the team decides they can't afford Napoli, they'll likely be forced to find a replacement through a trade or in-house.
Josh Hamilton will be the No. 1 priority for the Rangers, but there will be more options to replace him in center field if it comes to that.
Replacing Mike Napoli would be far more difficult, which is something the organization must consider as offseason plans are made.
Jorge Alfaro Not Ready
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The Rangers' best catching prospect, 19-year-old Jorge Alfaro, is still years away from making an impact in the big leagues.
Jorge Alfaro has all the tools to be a future MLB catching star, but he needs more time to learn the position, as well as more plate discipline.
Alfaro is the organization's catcher of the future, but it's too soon to be making plans for him that affect the team at the MLB level.
The Rangers could bridge the gap to Alfaro with a contract in the three- to four-year range for Mike Napoli.
If they allow Napoli to walk, the Rangers will be forced to bridge the gap to Alfaro with players like Geovany Soto or Luis Martinez. Both players present major downgrades from Napoli.
The Rangers have a crucial decision to make at catcher going forward. The team will need to decide how serious it plans to get in the Mike Napoli sweepstakes this offseason.
The organization would be wise to keep its nucleus intact and allow its pitching staff to continue working with the same catcher for more years to come.