We've got two offseason questions left, and we go behind the plate for this next one.
Today's question: How do the Rangers split the catching position in 2012?
On the surface, this might seem like an easy question. Mike Napoli was the starting catcher in the playoffs and will head to spring training as the starter, as well.
But this is Texas. The Rangers played nearly two months in temperatures at home of more than 100 degrees. Napoli benefitted from splitting time with Yorvit Torrealba and getting breaks by either playing at first or DH or getting a day off.
It's not a stretch to say that the ability to avoid being overworked in the heat helped Napoli stay fresh for the postseason. Doling out playing time is certainly an area that manager Ron Washington will have to monitor more than the front office, but Washington was careful to be sure that he kept Torrealba engaged, not only so the club would have his bat in the lineup as much as they could, but to keep Napoli from wearing down.
That will be important again in 2012. It will require both players understanding their roles and the manager doing a nice balancing act (something he's very good at). Torrealba began last season as the starter after signing a two-year deal. But once Napoli's bat got going and he showed how well he could call a game, he and Torrealba split time equally behind the plate until the postseason, where Napoli was the primary catcher.
Still, Napoli hasn't started more than 100 games in a season behind the plate in his career. The most games he's started at catcher in a season was 84 in 2009 for the Angels. He started 57 in 2011 for the Rangers.
His workload will likely go up in 2012, but the Rangers know that in the conditions they face in Arlington, one catcher can't realitically handle a heavy portion of the catching duties.
One other option: See if there's a market for Torrealba and get a new, more affordable, backup. Torrealba will make $3.25 million in 2012. That's very reasonable for a catcher who could start for some teams. And while the Rangers would certainly like to have him back, if they can make a move that could help free up some more money for other possibilities, that might make sense.
How many games should Napoli start in 2012? Should the Rangers keep Torrealba as the backup or look elsewhere?