Rangers avoid arbitration with Napoli
Catcher agrees to one-year contract for $9.4 million
ARLINGTON -- General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers are now expected to be slightly over budget after the club agreed to a one-year $9.4 million contract with catcher Mike Napoli on Sunday.With Napoli agreeing to terms and avoiding arbitration, the Rangers have 19 players signed for a total of over $115 million. They still have to sign their pre-arbitration-eligible players -- a list that includes Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando -- and their payroll should go past the $120 million mark once everybody is under contract. Daniels admitted that does not give the Rangers much flexibility going into the season. "I'm not sure exactly where we'll come out because of some [contract] bonuses," Daniels said. "Obviously, as far as in-season moves, things have a way of being moved around, but as of right now, we're over budget." That could mean the Rangers are done spending money this offseason. The Rangers have had conversations with free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt and reliever Michael Gonzalez, but Daniels said "nothing has changed" as far as the club's ability to sign either player. Daniels said it's "more than likely" that the Rangers are done this offseason with major acquisitions. "You never shut the door because there are always ways of being creative," Daniels said. "You can always sign players to Minor League non-roster contracts. But as we sit here right now, nothing is imminent." Napoli, who hit .320 with 30 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .631 slugging percentage for the Rangers in 2011, goes into Spring Training as the No. 1 catcher. But Daniels said Napoli will most likely share the position with Yorvit Torrealba for a second consecutive season. Napoli was the last of seven players who were eligible for arbitration. He was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Wednesday in Tampa and the Rangers were prepared to go. But the two sides were able to reach an agreement on Saturday, and the deal was made official Sunday. The Rangers have now gone 12 straight offseasons without a player having his contract decided in an arbitration hearing. "This was really the first time since I've been here where I was pretty convinced we were going to go to a hearing," Daniels said. "For the most part, we have usually been able to get it done well in advance. This was a situation where we were prepared to go. We all had flights scheduled for Tampa. Our guys did a tremendous job. In the end the goal is not to walk into a hearing, and we were able to get something done." Napoli started 57 games at catcher during the 2011 regular season, while Torrealba started 95 games behind the plate. Napoli did most of the catching during the 2011 playoffs, but he will continue to see time at first base and designated hitter during the regular season. "It's one of those situations where [manager Ron Washington] will have a feel for the club," Daniels said. "We have two guys who we feel have the ability to be the main guy. Yorvit has done it for a full season, Mike hasn't gone wire-to-wire. With his flexibility to play first base and DH, there will be days when he's not catching where Wash will still be able run him out there." Napoli ended last season with a badly sprained left ankle. He injured the ankle in Game 6 of the World Series, hobbled through it in Game 7 and is still trying to recover. Daniels said Sunday that the injury is still not 100 percent. "He's still feeling it," Daniels said. "It was a pretty severe sprain. Once he gets into his conditioning and gets into Spring Training, our guys we'll get their arms around it. He has been seen multiple times here in Arlington by Dr. [Keith] Meister and we feel comfortable with his progress." Napoli remains eligible for free agency after the upcoming season and the Rangers remain interested in possibly discussing a long-term extension with him. Napoli is just one of several players who the Rangers have had those discussions with this offseason. Those discussions will be an ongoing story going into Spring Training. "We've had varying discussions with a few different guys," Daniels said. "Now that the better part of the offseason is behind us, we'll take a closer look at those in Spring Training." Josh Hamilton is one of those players. Like Napoli, he can be a free agent after the upcoming season. Discussions on a long-term extension were tabled after Hamilton had a relapse in his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction two weeks ago. Hamilton had set a deadline for the beginning of Spring Training for getting a deal done but that is just a few weeks away, and discussions aren't likely to resume by then. Daniels said the focus right now is on Hamilton, his family and his recovery, and the GM is not sure when any contract discussions we'll resume. "We don't anticipate that happening before Spring Training," Daniels said. "We're dealing with different circumstances. I can't tell you if that window has been extended or not. We've all agreed that Josh and his family come first."
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.