It was not a tough decision for the Rangers to make a qualifying offer to Josh Hamilton. After all, it's even less than he made last year. It's not a tough decision for Hamilton to reject it, either. But it means that the club will get a draft pick if Hamilton signs elsewhere.
The more difficult call was whether to offer Mike Napoli. Under the new CBA, the qualifying number for a free agent is $13.3 million. It doesn't matter who that free agent is, if you want to make a one-year offer to qualify for draft-pick compensation, you have to offer that amount. Mike Napoli made $9.4 million in 2012. It wasn't the kind of year he thought he'd have, either. He battled an injury, hit just .227, but did have 24 homers and 56 RBIs in 108 games. The searing hot stretch that ended his 2011 didn't carry over to 2012.
But in a market that isn't exactly rich on catchers, it wouldn't have been a total surprise to see the Rangers make the offer to Napoli. So why didn't they? General manager Jon Daniels just didn't want to pay that much money to Napoli this soon.
"He’s been a big part of this club for a couple of years and we’d like to have him back," Daniels said. "But for the first move of the offseason to be effectively having him back at that number was not something we wanted to do right now. He may have declined (it). I would imagine they'll be a good deal of interest in him out there. You've got to be OK with it either way and we didn't want to start the offseason making that investment at that dollar number."
Daniels made it clear the team wants Napoli back and he said he talked to Napoli's agent Friday to reiterate that point. But he wasn't willing to risk Napoli accepting that offer and eating away a chunk of the club's offseason budget this early in the game. If Napoli signs elsewhere, it means the club gets no compensation. They also would need to find a catcher. They could offer salary arbitration to Geovany Soto, who will cost considerably less than Napoli. But at least in Napoli's case, the team knows he's capable of power numbers and huge streaks. They don't know that with Soto.
"It’s not a good year to need catching," Daniels said. "We're aware of that and will look at all options -- free agents and trades."
The best option might be Napoli -- just not at $13.3 million for 2013.