Even though it won’t go live until Monday morning, I feel the need to write about catchers on Sunday night.
Most people would agree that catcher is an important position on the baseball field. Without a catcher, almost every pitch would be a wild pitch and there would be a lot more dropped 3rd strikes.
So, why aren’t more people concerned about the Rangers’ catching situation beyond the 2012 season?
It was just over 12 months ago that Yorvit Torrealba inked a 2-year deal and was presumed to be the team’s primary backstop going forward. Then Frank Francisco was unexpectedly sent to Toronto for some guy that had been wearing Angel red just a few days earlier.
Thus began The Year of the Napoli.
After Mike Napoli’s monster 2011 season, the Rangers apparently approached his representatives to discuss a long-term extension. But, a few days ago, those talks stopped and no deal had been done.
According to Jon Daniels, both sides walked away from the negotiating table amicably and, if either side wants to start talking again, all they have to do is ask.
So, the team is at a crossroads.
As far as I know, the Rangers have no top prospect catchers close to MLB ready*. Both Torrealba and Napoli are free agents going into 2013 and Napoli is already 30 years old.
*According to Jamey Newberg, Jose Felix could be a year or two away, but will likely be a backup to Napoli or whomever the Rangers find to replace Napoli.
The other looming issue is whether Napoli can even replicate his 2011 performance going forward.
If he can, his price will only go up and the Rangers will have to pay significantly more or let him walk after 2012. If he can’t, the team risks losing a lot on a declining player who may not be an option at catcher for very much longer anyway.
So, do the Rangers lock up Napoli now and hope that he can keep doing what he did last season?
Or do they try to sign him after 2012 and hope that he wants to be a Ranger more than he wants an enormous pile of money?
Or do they let Napoli walk away and try to find* a suitable replacement?
*Through trade or free agency.
As much as I love Napoli, I would probably have to let him walk away. Then I would hope that he signs a huge contract somewhere in the National League.
The Angels already know what Napoli can do to a team that has wronged him. I don’t want to see him crushing the ball for someone else anymore than I have to.