Two familiar faces could rejoin the Texas Rangers for 2017, one a perennial winner and crowd favorite and another who was one of the game’s best players earlier this decade before leaving for a division foe.
The issue with another reunion with Mike Napoli, as it is with all free agents, is money. The issue with Josh Hamilton is what he has left after a major knee operation in June.
Sources said that the Rangers and Napoli have mutual interest on what would be a third stint for the slugger, who was pushed out of the Cleveland Indians’ picture after they signed Edwin Encarnacion on Thursday. Napoli would become an option at first base and designated hitter.
A deal is not imminent.
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.320 Career-best batting average for Mike Napoli, who also had a .414 on-base percentage and .631 slugging percentage in 2011
The Rangers, who claim their payroll is already stretched and at a club record, might not be willing do a multiyear contract, which Napoli is seeking after hitting 34 homers and driving in 101 runs in helping the Indians win the American League Central and reach the World Series.
Napoli first joined the Rangers in 2011 and helped them to a World Series and an AL wild-card game before leaving for the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Boston won the World Series in his first season.
Napoli returned for the stretch run in 2015, playing mostly against left-handed pitchers but also playing left field as the Rangers tried to get his bat in the lineup more often. The ploy helped them charge past the Houston Astros for the AL West crown.
42 Home runs for Josh Hamilton in 2012, a career-high that helped him land a five-year, $125 million contract from the Angels
The Rangers are likely to sign Hamilton to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training after team doctors evaluated Hamilton’s knee on Thursday and determined he would be healthy for spring training, sources said.
Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, would have to win a spot on the Opening Day roster. The Rangers, who acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels in 2015, made that clear to him after he underwent surgery and before they released him in late August, and he was on board with the challenge.