8:20pm: Napoli and the Rangers are discussing a two-year deal, reports Sullivan, and both sides are “highly motivated” to finalize a contract. However, an agreement is not yet imminent, according to Sullivan, who reports that Napoli is still receiving interest from other clubs. Sullivan lists the Athletics (as Grant speculated upon below) and, a bit more curiously, the Orioles as teams with potential interest.
Oakland could certainly use an offensive upgrade over Yonder Alonso at first base and did finish as a sort of runner up to the Indians in the Encarnacion sweepstakes. Baltimore, meanwhile, has an opening at designated hitter, and Napoli could also help to spell Chris Davis at first base from time to time there as well. The O’s have been more focused on outfielders as of late, however, making the link to Napoli a bit of a surprise.
DEC. 28, 5:45pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that with the holidays in the rear-view mirror, the Rangers have become more aggressive in their pursuit of Napoli. That meshes with a recent tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the market for Napoli has “intensified,” though Morosi also adds that the Rangers are one of multiple teams in the mix.
Earlier today, FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Napoli aiming for a two-year deal. Per Heyman’s report, there’s a yet-unreported suitor in the mix for Napoli’s services. Grant speculates that Oakland could consider Napoli after missing out on Encarnacion, knowing he could be flipped in a trade later this year if he performs well.
DEC. 23: There’s a “strong possibility” that in the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s three-year agreement with the Indians, free-agent slugger Mike Napoli will land with the Rangers, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (on Twitter). While there’s no deal done between the two sides, Sullivan adds that there are indications that talks between the two sides are “hot.” Earlier today, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweeted that the Rangers had become the front-runners for Napoli now that Cleveland is out of the mix.
Napoli, 35, would give the Rangers a needed option at first base and/or designated hitter. Texas lost Prince Fielder due to persistent neck issues that forced him to abruptly retire earlier in 2016, and longtime Ranger Mitch Moreland has already inked a one-year deal with the Red Sox this winter. Napoli, as previously noted, is a known commodity for Rangers GM Jon Daniels and manager Jeff Banister, as he enjoyed a highly productive 35-game run with the Rangers in 2015 after being acquired from the Red Sox in an August swap and spent the 2011-12 seasons in a Rangers uniform as well.
Napoli hit .295/.396/.513 with the 2015 Rangers and went on to bat a solid .239/.335/.465 with a career-high 34 homers for the Indians this past year. That gives the slugger a .246/.342/.471 batting line and 39 home runs in 736 regular-season plate appearances dating back to when he was acquired by the Rangers in 2015. However, it’s also worth noting that Napoli was dreadful down the stretch for Cleveland in 2016, hitting just .157/.292/.279 over his final 40 games of the season. He also failed to turn things around in the postseason, hitting .173/.232/.288 as Cleveland made a deep run to Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs.