Inbox: Will Rangers sign Napoli long term?
Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers fans' questions
Are the Rangers going to sign Mike Napoli for all that he is worth?
-- Elizabeth R., Aurora, Colo.
Actually there is a real chance Napoli will be the first Rangers player to go to an arbitration hearing for the first time since 2000. There is a significant gap between the Rangers' offering of $8.3 million and Napoli's asking price of $11.5 million. The two sides had discussions on a long-term contract but did not get anywhere. Look for Napoli to be a free agent after the upcoming season.Please tell me that the Rangers and Josh Hamilton are going to get a contract worked out. Really stressing over this!
-- Claudene C., Big Spring, Texas
There are some serious roadblocks to this one. If Hamilton becomes a free agent after next season, it will be his one big chance for the best contract of his career. Providing he has his normal season, he will also be far and away the best free agent position player on the market. Not including players like Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano with club options, Hamilton, outfielder Andre Ethier and catcher Yadier Molina top that list, along with pitchers Zack Greinke, Matt Cain and Cole Hamels.From the Rangers' standpoint, they love Hamilton but have to be concerned about an expensive long-term deal weighed against his history of injury. The Rangers probably prefer some type of contract language that protects them in case of serious injury. That is the biggest issue that has to be overcome, and there is a real possibility that a long-term deal for Hamilton does not get done by the start of Spring Training. Explain to me how Hamilton has fewer walls to run into in right or left than in center. In center, the only walls are behind him. In left and right field, they are behind him and to the left or right of him.
-- Brett H., DeKalb, Ill.
The issue is not running into walls but the amount of wear and tear with each position. Last year, Major League center fielders averaged 2.61 chances per nine innings as opposed to 2.03 for left fielders and 2.10 for right fielders. Not only does the center fielder have to "catch everything he can get to," he also has to back up on plays to both left and right field. So the theory is left field is easier on the body than center.
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Is there any possibility of moving Hamilton to first base? Still have his speed and bat in the lineup, but perhaps less chance of his getting injured, and it could possibly prolong his career.
-- David T., Prosper, Texas
That might be something way down the road, but Hamilton is probably not interested in a position change going into his contract year. His peak value is as an outfielder. It reminds way back when Ivan Rodriguez said on the record that he would be interested in moving to second base. His agent told him to shut up, knowing that his peak value as a free agent was as a catcher.The real question about Neftali Feliz is: Can he speed up his approach as a starter? He took a tremendous amount of time between pitches as a reliever. What will be his pace as a starter?
-- Craig S., Fort Worth
Hopefully better than a reliever, but certainly pitching the crucial ninth inning had something to do with his slow pace the past two seasons. The Rangers emphasize the need for their starters to work quickly, and that will definitely be reinforced to Feliz this Spring Training.I've heard that Yu Darvish's parents met at college in Florida. So, I'll assume that they both speak some English. With that said, does Yu speak English? I've only seen him speak through an interpreter at his interviews and press conferences.
-- Steve B., Wylie, Texas
Darvish's parents speak perfect English. Darvish, while living in Japan, spoke only English to age 4 before his parents started worrying about him falling behind in school. From that point on, he spoke mainly Japanese. He can speak some English, but like many international players new to this country, he is more comfortable speaking in Japanese, especially in front of a large audience.I have never been to Spring Training in Arizona. Do the fans have a lot of access to the players?
-- Bill M., Amarillo, Texas
In the past, fans had terrific access to players in Spring Training. The Rangers and their players were quite accommodating in that regard. But the crowds keep getting bigger with each trip to the World Series, and now that Darvish is coming to camp, there may have to be some changes to keep things under control. But in the past it has been great.Can you explain why the Rangers are moving Feliz out of the bullpen to the rotation, and moving Alexi Ogando from a starter back to the bullpen? Why invest one year in Ogando and then move him back?
-- Craig M., Texarkana, Texas
The Rangers have always been determined to get Feliz into the rotation, and that was one of their goals this offseason. They demonstrated that by signing Joe Nathan early in the process to be their closer. Ogando would still be in the rotation if they had not signed Darvish. But once they signed Nathan, they were committed to Feliz as a starter. It's pretty obvious the Rangers hold Feliz in higher regard than any pitcher on their staff.With the signing of Darvish and a mass of right-handed pitching already in the bullpen, would the addition of a young power arm like Neil Ramirez be out of the question?
-- Jack R., Virginia Beach, Va.
Ramirez, 22, was 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock last year. He might be a candidate for the bullpen, but the Rangers will need a couple of starters "stretched out" at Triple-A in case somebody is needed during the regular season. Ramirez probably needs to at least begin at Round Rock, but there is no doubt he is a good prospect who could ultimately have an impact at the Major League level.With the Rangers bringing in Nathan and having explored both the Prince Fielder/Roy Oswalt options as well as spending the money on Darvish, do you get the sense they are going "All In" for this upcoming season?
-- Ben F., Georgetown, Texas
The Rangers have been "all in" since July 7, 2010, when they acquired Cliff Lee from the Mariners for four young players. Since then, almost every move the Rangers made has been with the idea of winning now.Why don't the Rangers trade for David Price? I heard the Rays were planning on shopping him soon, and would be well worth giving up a Matt Harrison or Martin Perez.
-- Kade W., Sulphur Springs, Texas
Price is one of the top two pitchers on a team that went to the playoffs three times in the last four years. If the Rays were willing to trade him, they would have done so by now. Or at least you would have heard about it. Don't be fooled by their relatively small budget. Their goal is to win this year.Since Baltimore is interested in Koji Uehara, would the O's be willing to send Tommy Hunter back to us?
-- Jeremy B., Fort Worth
No chance. The word out of Baltimore is Hunter has dropped 25 pounds and will be one of their five starters. The Orioles had interest in Uehara, but the two sides were never close to a deal.If no player currently on the roster seizes the everyday center field position by June, do you feel there is any chance the Rangers could put a package together to get Adam Jones?
-- Michael W., Los Angeles
Jones is a terrific player. But the Rangers should have plenty of offense. What they need in center is defense, and Craig Gentry provides that at a high level. Gentry also has some untapped offensive potential. The Rangers still have Julio Borbon, and they also consider Leonys Martin as their center fielder for the future. Jones would be a good target if the Rangers really needed more offense from the position, but that shouldn't be the case.Are the Rangers upgrading the digital infrastructure at the Ballpark as well as the physical infrastructure? We were half-season ticket holders last season and had the hardest time reliably accessing the Internet and/or cell service inside the park.
-- Camille B., Statesboro, Ga.
Your coverage is only as good as your carrier. The Rangers are trying to work with all of them but with mixed success. A couple companies have invested heavily in equipment at the Ballpark, one has made only a nominal effort to improve, and another has made no effort at all.Jurickson Profar looks to be a great prospect at shortstop. Will the Rangers look at moving him to another position since he is blocked by Elvis Andrus? If not, what is his future with the team?
-- Cindy S., Fort Worth
This could be an interesting year for both Andrus and Profar. You don't go to two straight World Series without an excellent shortstop, and Andrus has been just that for the Rangers. But he is getting more expensive by the year, and there is still more improvement needed both offensively and defensively to match his rise in salary. Profar was at low Class A in 2011. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers have him skip high Class A and instead play at Double-A Frisco this season. But the Rangers have no need to make a decision on Profar at this point.How many modern Major League teams made it to the World Series three years in a row? Have any lost in their first two appearances and won it all the third time?
-- Paul J., Garland, Texas
The Yankees, after acquiring Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, first went to the World Series in 1921 and 1922. They lost both times to the New York Giants. They went back in 1923 and beat the Giants for their first World Series title. They have won 26 more since then.
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.