Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE
The writing may very well be on the wall for Mike Napoli, after the Texas Rangers declined to extend Napoli a qualifying offer in free agency.
Mike Napoli has enjoyed two successful seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2011 and 2012, and had the Rangers won the 2011 World Series, Napoli would have certainly been named the first World Series MVP in Rangers history.
Now in November 2012, it looks like Napoli's time as a Ranger is over, as the Rangers declined to make Napoli a qualifying offer before Napoli hit the free agent market.
Had the Rangers made Napoli a qualifying offer, it would have been a one year, $13.3 million dollar offer that Napoli would either accept or decline. Had Napoli rejected the offer, then the Rangers would have been eligible to receive draft pick compensation if Napoli left Texas. If Napoli accepted the offer, then, as you'd imagine, the Rangers would have Napoli back on a one year, $13.3 million dollar deal.
It's true that Napoli was somewhat disappointing in 2012, batting just .227/.343/.469. Still, Napoli belted 24 home runs, and had a fairly low BABiP of .273. Low BABiP aside, Napoli's increased K-rate, 30% in 2012 compared to just 19.7% in 2011, was the main culprit to Napoli's diminished 2012 success.
Among catchers with a minimum of 300 plate appearances in the American League, Napoli finished with the ninth highest fWAR, at 2.0. With a league that has all of 14 starting catchers, it's not too difficult to see why the Rangers wouldn't want to risk paying $13.3 million for the ninth best catcher in the league.
2012, though, is only part of the story.
In 2011, Napoli finished first among qualified American League catchers in fWAR, at 5.6. Napoli hit an astounding .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs in just 113 games for the Rangers in 2011, and certainly established himself as one of the game's top offensive catchers.
Napoli's true value probably is somewhere in between 2011 and 2012. It's somewhat unlikely that Napoli will continue to strike out at such a high rate while having a low BABiP going forward, but it's also unlikely that Napoli will surpass his 2011 value.
With that said, the Rangers are valuing Napoli at his 2012 value much more than 2011 -- or even a hybrid of the two. One year and $13.3 million isn't that much of a financial commitment for a catcher that can slug 24 home runs in a down year, and post an fWAR in excess of 5 in a great year.
Even coming off a "disappointing" season, the chances were likely that Napoli would reject a one year, $13.3 million dollar qualifying offer from the Rangers, as Napoli will almost certainly seek a multi-year deal in free agency. It seems likely that Napoli will seek a deal in the two-year, $25-26 million dollar range, or perhaps even a three-year deal with an average annual value around $12-14 million.
Since the Rangers declined to make Napoli a qualifying offer, his list of suitors likely grew, as a team that signs him will not have to lose a draft pick to the Rangers. While the market has yet to be fully defined for Napoli, it would seem possible that Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees could be potential landing spots for the slugging catcher.
Texas' decision not to make a qualifying offer, in conjunction with earlier reports that the Rangers were interested in trading for one of Toronto's catchers, make it appear that Mike Napoli's days as a Texas Ranger are over, and that significant change is coming to Texas in 2013.
Of course, it's entirely possible that Jon Daniels and Texas' front office will decide to make Napoli a multi-year offer -- but given the actions the front office has taken, it seems like the club is ready to move on.