The Rangers agreed to a one-year deal with first baseman Mike Napoli on Tuesday, which will be the 35-year-old’s third stint with the club over his 11-year career. The deal is reportedly worth $8.5 million with an option for a second year.
Napoli is coming off a career-year in Cleveland, making enormous contributions both on and off the field for the 2016 American League champs. He topped his career highs in both home runs (34) and RBI’s (101), starting most games at first base while also spending some time as a DH.
Napoli is expected to be the everyday first baseman for the team, as he will help replace the power that Carlos Beltran brought to that loaded Rangers lineup last season.
Napoli is no stranger to fans in Arlington, splitting time between catcher and first base for the team in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Napoli’s .320 average paired with 30 home runs in 2011 proved to be crucial to the Rangers winning their second straight AL Championship. He would also make his only career All-Star appearance as a Ranger in 2012.
His second stint with the club was much shorter, appearing in only 35 games after being acquired from Boston midway through the 2015 season. He had been having a down-year but managed to turn things around in Texas, hitting .295 in his limited action at first base and in the outfield.
Napoli has spent the majority of his career playing for contending teams in the American League, a trend that will continue in 2017 as he will complete one of the premier lineups in baseball. He may have not gotten the multiyear deal that most players would expect coming off a career year, but at this point in his career Napoli should be satisfied to be in a position to earn his second ring.
This is the first major change the Rangers have made to their lineup in the 2017 offseason, after spending the majority of it bolstering their rotation with the free agent additions of Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.
Prior to the Napoli signing, Jurickson Profar was the favorite to win the first base job despite only appearing in 17 games at the position throughout his career. The Rangers would still like the get the former number one prospect in baseball as many at-bats as possible, which he will likely get at DH with Napoli at first.
This addition could be bad news for top prospect Joey Gallo, who will likely be forced into a utility role or maybe even Triple-A until he shows more plate discipline.*
*Statistics from MLB.com
-Featured Image from The News Herald