By Mark Lane (@therealmarklane)
SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Texas Rangers officially announced the signing of first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli Thursday to a one-year deal worth $8.5 million with an option for 2018. The signing also rounds out the Rangers’ roster to 40 players.
“Just being familiar here,” Napoli said of his decision to rejoin the Rangers for a third tour of duty. “Knowing the organization. The guys in this club house. The opportunity to win. It’s a really good opportunity for me to come back here and just be familiar.”
The 35-year-old is coming off a career year in terms of hits with 133, 34 home runs, and 101 RBI driven in as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He also batted .239 as the Indians won the American League. Napoli started 98 games at first base and 51 at designated hitter for a total of 149 games played for Cleveland. 140 of those games were also played as the primary cleanup batter in the lineup.
“I think we add another bully in the box for us, one that we know very well,” said manager Jeff Banister. “It adds the dimension that was necessary to really solidify what is already a good offense. That is the tactical side of it.”
The 17th-rounder in the 2000 draft out of Hollywood, Florida has played in 256 games over two-plus seasons with the Rangers from 2011-12 and 2015. Napoli earned an All-Star selection in his 2012 season with the Rangers.
Said Banister: “The human side of it is you bring a guy back into our clubhouse on our team that is not just a uniform. It’s a person that lives and breathes winning. Teammate, teammates, team leader, a guy that I think in my short time being around him relentless in his pursuit to win a World Series. I think the playoff track record speaks for itself.”
Only Russell Martin of Toronto and Napoli are the two big leaguers to have appeared in eight of the last 10 postseasons (2007-09, 2011-13, 2015-16). Napoli also leads all active players with 15 RBI in 19 career World Series games.
“He’s a winning man,” said General Manager Jon Daniels. “You get around him, what he’s been a part of. With having some guys on our club, whether Mitch [Moreland], Colby [Lewis], or Derek [Holland], veteran presences that have been with us over the years.”
The addition of Napoli also gives the Rangers a veteran presence in the clubhouse and also a throwback to the postseason-qualifying days of the early 2010’s and also a bridge to the Banister era.
Said Daniels: “I think adding somebody like Nap is a big counterbalance to that in having some guys that we have some track record with and equity in that clubhouse not back.”
Napoli starts 2017 with a career rate of 4.37 pitches seen per plate appearance, a figure that STATS LLC says is second all-time since 1988. Only Jayson Werth (4.40) has a better figure with at least 3,000 plate appearances. The 12-year veteran also owns a career .903 OPS figure against left-handed pitching.
The 2013 World Series Champion (Boston) has a career slash line of .277/.381/.548/.929 for the Rangers, and Texas has qualified for the postseason in each of the three seasons Napoli has played for the AL-West club.
“I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to be on a lot of winning ball clubs,” said Napoli. “Coming back here is definitely something that I saw a chance to do that.”
Napoli now joins Bill Haselman, Kenny Rogers, Ruben Sierra, and Darren Oliver as the only players in Rangers history to spend three different big league tours with the organization.