When it comes to Napoli, Rangers have options


When Texas signed Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre last month, the general rule of thought was simple: move Michael Young to designated hitter. Beltre is often regarded as one of the best fielding third basemen in the league while Young is fairly new to the position. Upgrade on defense, upgrade on offense, and Young stays in the lineup every day. Simple as that.

But when the Ranger front office traded for former Angel, and momentarily Blue Jay, Mike Napoli, the scenarios changed and the lineup possibilities grew. Napoli can three positions (DH, first base, and catcher) and produce equally at each. So let’s take a look at a few of the Rangers’ options regarding Napoli, Young, etc. as spring training nears:

Option A: Make Napoli your everyday catcher, Mitch Moreland your everyday first baseman, and Young your everyday DH.

Ideally, this would be the best solution to address Texas’ needs while at the same time keeping the same chemistry-friendly lineup from last year intact. Moreland had decent numbers (.255, 9 HR, 25 RBI in 47 games) for a rookie last year at a position the Rangers had been particularly weak at. He came up big in the World Series and if can avoid a sophomore slump (i.e. Chris Davis, Julio Borbon) he could easily be a 20 home run, 90 RBI guy hitting in the bottom of the order.

Napoli would provide a big boost (power speaking, not with average) offensively at catcher and even though he struggles at times defensively, as ESPNDallas.com’ Richard Durrett writes here, his bat at a position that has been bone dry for Texas on the offensive side would more than make up for it.

And lastly, Michael Young, who believe it or not actually isn’t at the end of his career and did hit .285 with 21 home runs last year, would still be in the lineup every day without the added stress of playing in the field.

Option B: Let Napoli compete with Moreland for the everyday first base job, make Young the everyday DH, and give the starting catching job to Yorvit Torrealba.

This scenario is a little bit more of what Texas is looking at doing right now. As it stands, Torrealba is penciled in as the starting catcher, Young is the starting DH and Napoli is the backup to Moreland at first base. If Moreland starts off slow in the spring or struggles a bit, Ron Washington probably won’t hesitate to give the starting job to Napoli, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Napoli is a proven power hitter at the big league level while Moreland hasn’t even played a full MLB season. Meanwhile, Texas would still be solid at catcher in Torrealba, who won’t have the power numbers of Napoli but will probably be a better defensive option and be a key factor in managing the pitching staff as he did with a young San Diego rotation last year. And of course, Young would still be in the lineup every day and get his usual number of at-bats.

Option C: Trade Young, make Napoli the starting DH, keep Moreland at first base and give the catcher job to Torrealba

Rumors continue to swirl about a possible Young trade so first let’s look at this from a pure statistical, on-the-field point of view.

It’s a bad move. Texas would be losing a 20 HR-90 RBI-.300 type of hitter in Young in exchange for someone along the lines of Jose Lopez. They would be forced to keep Moreland at first base no matter if he performs well or not and they would have to have Napoli at DH every day. If Moreland plays well and Torrealba stays healthy then the loss of Young wouldn’t be as bad. But there’s no guarantee either of those two things will happen and if they don’t the Ranger offense will just get weaker.

And all of that doesn’t even take into account the off-the-field loss that would incur if Young was traded. Its been said countless times, but Young is the face of the franchise and Young is the leader of the Texas clubhouse. Jon Daniels and co. were on the verge of firing manager Ron Washington last spring after he publicly admitted to his cocaine use until Young stepped up, took on the leadership role he always does, and made it clear that Washington was the Rangers’ manager and it was going to stay that way. Washington remained the manager, Texas went on to win the American League West and then made it to the World Series.

I can sit here all day and name off reason after reason as to why Texas shouldn’t trade Young, but the one just mentioned should be reason enough.

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