Editor's note: We continue our look at some of the needs the Texas Rangers hope to address at the winter meetings next week in Nashville.
Today's position: Catcher
Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels knows it won't be easy filling holes at catcher this offseason.
"It's probably a better year to be a catcher than a team needing a catcher," Daniels said Monday.
Well, this week the club has catching on its mind. First, the team was scheduled to meet with Mike Napoli and his representative, Brian Grieper, on Wednesday to get a better idea of where the market is for Napoli and what it might take to bring him back for 2013 and beyond. Napoli didn't have the 2012 season he hoped, hitting just .227 and battling a left quadriceps strain that sidelined him for a month. He wasn't able to duplicate the .383 second-half average and his memorable postseason in 2011, but he did manage to hit 24 homers and collect 56 RBIs. And he had a .812 OPS.
It was not an easy call for the Rangers to decide not to make Napoli a $13.3 million qualifying offer. The catching market is thin in free agency this year, but the team wasn't ready to shell out that kind of money that early in the offseason. But it's clear they still want Napoli in a Rangers uniform, if the right deal is available. They know he can help them and provide power, not to mention a great personality in the clubhouse and someone who understands the pitching staff.
The Rangers could be in position soon to make a decision about their other catcher. Geovany Soto, acquired at the trade deadline, is arbitration eligible. The club has until Friday night to tender him an offer or allow him to be a free agent. But they could also work out a deal with Soto to bring him back. He hit .196 while in Texas (.199 in Chicago), but also did a nice job with the pitching staff using humor to try to keep the hurlers loose.
It's possible that both catchers return. If not, A.J. Pierzynski and Russell Martin are free agents who could garner interest, though if Martin wants a four-year deal, I'd doubt he'd get that from the Rangers. With the megatrade the Toronto Blue Jays pulled off with the Miami Marlins earlier this offseason, Toronto now has additional catching. Perhaps they'd part with John Buck or J.P. Arencibia. Would they consider dealing top prospect Travis d'Arnaud? Others are out there too, such as Kelly Shoppach, for instance. But overall, it's not exactly a deep group.
Let's see how much clarity the Rangers get on catching this week, which should help them narrow things down a bit heading into the winter meetings.