Sports

November 25, 2012

Rangers to meet with free agent Mike Napoli this week

The free-agent catcher visited Boston over the weekend.

The Texas Rangers will meet with free agent Mike Napoli this week in the Metroplex as they attempt to re-sign one of their primary catchers from the past two seasons.

A source confirmed that Napoli and his agent, Brian Grieper, will meet with Rangers officials. Napoli visited Boston over the weekend, and is also drawing interest from Seattle.

The Rangers and Napoli have had a steady dialogue since free agency opened in late October, the source said.

Catching is a priority for the Rangers this off-season. They have Geovany Soto on the roster, but he is a candidate to not be tendered a contract later this week.

The Rangers' best catching prospects are at the lower levels of the minor leagues, so free agency is their best route to fortify the position for at least the next two seasons.

Napoli is seeking a four-year contract. The Rangers chose not to make him a one-year qualifying offer at $13.3 million earlier this month because, general manager Jon Daniels said, they didn't like that price tag.

An All-Star starter in July, Napoli turned down a three-year, $38 million extension from the Rangers last off-season. He was coming off a career year in which he hit .320 with 30 homers, but he struggled to a .227 average with six fewer homers in 2012.

One aspect that might make the Rangers more attractive to Napoli is that they would use him at catcher more than Boston or Seattle.

The Red Sox have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the former Rangers catching prospect, behind the plate and have a need at first base. Napoli, though, is a career .306 hitter at Fenway Park.

The Mariners have Jesus Montero at catcher, and used their first-round pick in June on an advanced college catcher, Mike Zunino. First baseman Justin Smoak, a former Rangers first-round pick, isn't a lock going forward after two subpar seasons.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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