Mike Napoli is officially a ex-Ranger. The 31-year-old signed a three-year contract with the Red Sox and leaves his former team with a dilemma at catcher.
Texas re-signed Geovany Soto, but is he enough to fill the void left by Napoli? It's a fair bet the front office will try to address this issue before the season starts.
Here are a few ways the Rangers can potentially replace Napoli in the lineup.
To say the free-agent market is thin for catchers would be an understatement. With Napoli now in Boston, that leaves A.J. Pierzynski as the top catcher available, with not many options behind him.
Pierzynski is coming off one of his best seasons ever at the plate. He won the Silver Slugger and set career highs with 27 homers and a .827 OPS.
The problem is that he turns 36 very soon and probably won’t play regularly behind the plate much longer. He is the best free agent available at the position, but Texas would be gambling that he can keep producing the way he did last year as he moves closer to 40.
Since we’ve established there’s not an abundance of good catchers on the market, let’s explore another option, such as filling the 1B/DH role that Napoli often played.
The first guy who comes to mind is Adam LaRoche. The 33-year-old put up terrific numbers last year (.271/33/100) to go along with his first Gold Glove. He is a free agent and wouldn’t be cheap, but the lefty’s powerful swing would look good in Arlington.
In this scenario, Texas keeps Geovany Soto behind the plate where he's emerged as Yu Darvish's favorite battery mate. Adding LaRoche gives the lineup the type of power numbers that Soto isn't known for.
When Mike Olt’s name comes up, it’s usually around some trade speculation. There is good reason for this. He is the top hitting prospect in the Rangers’ system and projects as a solid power hitter at the big league level.
The problem, as many know, is that Texas is having a difficult time finding ways to get him at-bats. Now that Mike Napoli and Michael Young are no longer with the team, this opens up some possibilities.
Olt is not guaranteed to produce the same numbers Napoli did the last two years, but he is a power hitting righty and the Rangers need to see what he is capable of if he stays with the team.
It would’ve made sense earlier to keep Napoli as insurance in case Josh Hamilton left. Now it looks like the Rangers may need to reverse that line of thinking.
The contract situation with Hamilton isn’t simple—the amount of years in particular. But bringing back the popular outfielder makes a lot of sense right now.
Potentially losing Hamilton, Napoli, and Michael Young is a swift blow for one offseason. Those three have been key contributors to the team’s success the last few years.
Perhaps this increases the urgency to re-sign Josh.
Justin Upton has been rumored to the Rangers since before Napoli’s departure (recently reported here by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports). He doesn’t play catcher, but he is a potent bat.
The 25-year-old has several years left on his contract and projects to average 30 homers and 100 RBI a year along with above-average defense and speed.
He is an upgrade if he fulfills this potential, but he won’t come cheap. The Rangers and Diamondbacks have yet to agree on the terms of a potential deal.
One thing is for sure, we definitely haven’t heard the last of this trade rumor.
The trade market has at least one interesting possibility.
The Toronto Blue Jays currently have three catchers who can play at the major league level: J.P. Arencibia, John Buck and Travis D'Arnaud.
D'Arnaud is the least likely to be dealt because he is a highly touted prospect and it would require a big ransom to lure him away from Toronto.
It was reported (via Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com) that the Rangers have interest in Buck and Arencibia. While these players probably won't win many MVPs, they also won't cost much and at the very least they can respectively fulfill a need the Rangers have. This also gives the team flexibility to pursue other options (like signing Hamilton or trading for Upton).