The Texas Rangers’ 2013 season ended in the same manner their 2012 campaign did: disappointing. Texas once again had a title-contending squad that floundered down the stretch and lost a play-in game against the Tampa Bay Rays that many considered a make-or-break contest for Ron Washington. Now that all that nonsense has been put aside, it’s time for the Rangers to get serious about 2014 and that should start with a Herculean effort to bring Mike Napoli back to Texas.
One year after he departed, the Rangers watched Napoli win the World Series with the Boston Red Sox and now that A.J. Pierzynski’s short tenure in Texas is over, there’s a hole at catcher for Washington’s club. Napoli may not have played much behind the plate for Boston, but he was an All-Star catcher for Texas in 2012, so he’s more than capable of playing the position well.
Now it’s a stretch to think that Napoli would want to leave Boston, which is the place he hand-picked to play after his deal with the Rangers expired. Now that his one-year deal with the Red Sox is up, the team has offered Napoli a qualifying offer for $14.1 million in 2014, which means the Rangers would have to give up a first-round draft pick to sign him. But considering this is a team that’s trying to win now, that shouldn’t matter at all to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.
Napoli was a huge reason why Texas returned to the World Series in 2011 as he hit .328 that postseason with three home runs after batting .320 during the season with 30 bombs. That made him a crowd favorite, which resulted in the “Na-po-li” chants at the Ballpark in Arlington every time he came up to bat during that playoff run and the entire 2012 season. So it’s not like Rangers fans wouldn’t love to see the new world champion back in Texas.
The hole at catcher isn’t the only reason Napoli would be a perfect fit for the 2014 Rangers; this team desperately needs a mentally-tough hitter who can keep all the bats alive by being a clubhouse leader when the long grind of the regular season starts to wear on the minds of Texas’ lineup. Napoli did that in 2011 and he could do it again in 2014, especially considering the Rangers no longer have to score seven runs to win thanks to their revamped pitching staff.
If Napoli would even consider coming back to play for the Rangers, Daniels should go all out to get him. Again, this a team that’s trying to win right now, so if that means paying Napoli $15 million in 2014 to do, then so be it. Give him another ring and send him on his way. As long as the Rangers get their first title, the folks in Arlington would ride Napoli off into the sunset as a franchise hero. What’s wrong with that?