All signs are pointing to Mike Napoli making a return to the Texas Rangers, according to multiple baseball sources, but it could be a week until the deal is made official.
Napoli is expected to rejoin the Rangers on a one-year contract as soon as the Rangers are able to free up a 40-man roster spot. That will come Feb. 14, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training and the first day the Rangers can move Prince Fielder or Jake Diekman to the 60-day disabled list and create an opening on the 40-man roster.
Two sources said that the Rangers and Napoli have agreed to a deal that would mark his third go-round with the team. Two other sources said that talks are progressing, but that it’s too early to say that an agreement is in place.
The club has not made the signing official and likely won’t until a roster spot becomes available.
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The Rangers are required to carry Fielder on the 40-man roster during off-seasons, even though he can no longer play baseball, in order to collect insurance money on the remainder of his contract.
Diekman is expected to miss at least the first half of the season after undergoing surgery last month to remove his colon in the hopes of alleviating ulcerative colitis.
Napoli swatted a career-high 34 home runs last season as he helped lead the Cleveland Indians to the American League pennant and the World Series, where the Chicago Cubs prevailed in seven games.
Napoli would fill a hole at first base and add a big right-handed bat to the lineup. Noted for his prowess against left-handed pitching, Napoli would give the Rangers another weapon against AL West lefties Dallas Keuchel, James Paxton, Drew Smyly, Tyler Skaggs and Sean Manaea, among others.
The Rangers were planning to go with internal candidates to fill the void created at first base when Mitch Moreland left for the Boston Red Sox. Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo were among the candidates.
Moreland won a Gold Glove in 2016. While Napoli’s defense isn’t as good, he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2015. He spent the final two months that season with the Rangers, who acquired him for the stretch run.
Napoli was also with the Rangers in 2011 and 2012, when he was voted as an All-Star starter at catcher.