Rangers, Napoli likely to settle on one-year deal
GM Daniels discusses potential extensions, makeup of bullpen
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, while focused on signing pitcher Yu Darvish, have not shut down all other business. They are still discussing long-term contracts for certain players they have identified as being ones they want to keep for an extended period of time.Catcher Mike Napoli, who can be a free agent after this season, is one of those players, but a long-term extension is not likely at this point. General manager Jon Daniels admitted Wednesday afternoon that the two sides were too far apart and most likely it will be a one-year deal for Napoli, who is eligible for arbitration. "We love Mike and we're not closing the door on anything, but right now we are focused on a one-year deal," Daniels said. The Rangers are having ongoing discussions with other players, including outfielder Josh Hamilton, second baseman Ian Kinsler and pitcher Derek Holland. But Napoli's is the only one that appears to have come to a point where a long-term deal has little chance of happening anytime soon. "We're having different levels of conversation with different players," Daniels said. Darvish, who was in Arlington this week to meet with club officials, tour the Ballpark and explore the surrounding area, remains the top priority. The Rangers, who won the rights to negotiate with him with a bid of $51.7 million, have until 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 18 to sign him. Darvish could command a deal somewhere between the six-year, $52 million contract that Daisuke Matsuzaka signed with the Red Sox and the five-year, $77.5 million deal that C.J. Wilson received from the Angels in December. But until the Rangers get a better idea of what it will take to sign Darvish, they are likely limited to other moves they can make. They are not getting involved with free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. There is always the possibility that could change if the Rangers can't sign Darvish. The Rangers will not be able to sign both, and Daniels made it clear the club is still committed to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who had surgery on his right wrist earlier this winter. "There is not a team in baseball that wouldn't love to have a guy like [Fielder]," Daniels said. "But Mitch's wrist is coming along well and we believe in him. That's where we are. Barring something drastic, I expect Mitch to be our first baseman." If the Rangers do sign Darvish, it would give them six starting pitchers along with Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz. If that were the case, all indications are the Rangers will take all six into Spring Training and let the things sort themselves in Arizona rather than make a rash decision in the winter. The only area of any concern at this point is the bullpen, mainly because the Rangers are without a proven left-handed reliever. The Rangers still have interest in re-signing pitcher Michael Gonzalez, but they lost Darren Oliver, who has agreed to a one-year deal with the Blue Jays. That leaves the Rangers heavy on the right side with closer Joe Nathan, setup relievers Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara, and middle relievers Yoshinori Tateyama and Scott Feldman. All are more than proven at the Major League level, but the only left-handed reliever on the Major League roster with any experience is Michael Kirkman. They also have rookie left-hander Miguel De Los Santos, who was one of the best pitchers in the Arizona Fall League, on the 40-man roster. "I like our 'pen," Daniels said. "We're obviously right-handed heavy. We don't have a lot of left-handed experience, but we have some left-handed options internally led by Kirkman who have better ability than you can find on the market. It is definitely one area we are interested in fortifying, but if our best guys are right-handed, we'll go with that." The Rangers, despite some interest in Grady Sizemore in the offseason, are not looking at center field. They still plan on going into Spring Training with Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin as their center-field candidates. They also can move Hamilton to center when David Murphy starts in left field. "Josh can flat-out play the position," Daniels said. "It's just a matter of how much we want him to play out there, but right now I'm looking at it as Gentry, Borbon and Martin." The Rangers are also still looking at utility infielder candidates, but that may be a Spring Training addition. Andres Blanco filled the role the past two seasons and he was acquired during the 2010 Spring Training.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.