Free Agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli will meet with the Texas Rangers next week, reports Jim Duquette of ML Network Radio. Napoli has been connected to the Boston Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners so far this off-season, but it appears he will give his former team a chance to match those suitors. The 31 year old backstop was solid last season for him hitting .227/.343/.469 for Texas in 417 plate appearances. In 2011 he was extremely productive, however, with a .320/.414/.631 line in 432 PA.
Duquette sees the Rangers offering him just two years, while the Red Sox and the Mariners will likely exceed that, with Seattle offering four years to secure his services. However, positioning could also play a role in
Napoli’s decision. His defense behind the plate has often been regarded as a problem and both Seattle and Boston may want to play him primarily at first base. Napoli strongly prefers to remain behind the plate though, which could be an advantage for Texas. The New York Yankees have also expressed interest in Napoli and they are another team that could also offer him more playing time at catcher than Boston or Seattle, especially if they pass on re-signing Russell Martin.
Given the timing of his meeting with the Rangers, Napoli figures to be one of the hot topics at the Winter Meetings in Nashville this year and it seems likely that he will sign somewhere before those meetings end, in not before then. His decision will certainly have a major impact on the market for both free agent catchers and first base men this off-season.