The Rangers are "optimistic" about signing Mike Napoli to a long-term contract this winter, a source tells FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link). Napoli is under control through just 2012, and he projects to earn $9.2MM in his third trip through the arbitration process, according to Matt Swartz's arbitration-calculating model.
Napoli was one of baseball's breakout stars last year, posting a .320/.414/.631 line and 30 homers in 432 plate appearances for Texas, plus a big postseason performance that likely would've included a World Series MVP trophy had the Rangers won the Fall Classic. He played mostly catcher last season, though also saw significant time at first base and DH as the Rangers tried to find enough playing time for Napoli, Michael Young, Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland.
The book on Napoli going into 2011 was that he was a defensive liability behind the plate and that he couldn't hit right-handed pitching. Napoli ended up being a decent defensive catcher (much to Mike Scioscia's chagrin) and posted virtually equal numbers against both righties and lefties last year, so while his bat obviously plays best at catcher, he is also a solid fit at both first and DH in case he needs to be moved in the later years of a multiyear contract.
An extension would easily net Napoli an average annual value of more than $10MM per season, so something like a four-year, $48MM contract (with maybe a club option or two) would be a great fit for the Rangers while still providing some flexibility should Napoli not be able to repeat his breakout campaign.
From Napoli's perspective, a long-term deal would give him security and since Texas was where he was embraced and delivered his best season, it seems natural he would want to stay put. If Napoli didn't sign an extension and had another big year in 2012, however, he would be in line for a huge contract as (by far) the best-hitting catcher on the market and one of the best free agent hitters overall.