Rangers finalize deal with Napoli

Catcher Mike Napoli and the Texas Rangers finalized a $9.4 million, one-year contract Sunday to avoid a salary arbitration hearing.

Napoli set career highs last season by hitting .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBI in 113 games in his first season with Texas, making starts at catcher, first base and designated hitter. He spent his first five major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels before being traded twice in a five-day period last winter.

“Mike was a really good fit for us,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “You look at the season he had and it’s kind of remarkable, he really didn’t play a ton the first half between injuries and he got off to a slow start. Basically from the All-Star break on, he was on about as long as a hot streak as I can remember.”

After missing three weeks with a strained left oblique and returning to the lineup July 4, Napoli hit .378 with 20 homers and 50 RBI over the last 67 regular-season games as the Rangers won their second consecutive AL pennant. He hit .328 with three homers and 15 RBI in 17 postseason games, including 10 RBI in the World Series.

The 30-year-old Napoli, who made $5.8 million last season, had asked for $11.8 million in arbitration and was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday. The Rangers had offered $8.3 million.

Napoli severely sprained his left ankle running the bases in the fourth inning of Game 6 of the World Series. Napoli finished that game and even played Game 7, though the Rangers aren’t certain that he is fully recovered yet.

“He was, as of a few weeks ago, still feeling it some,” Daniels said. “That speaks to what he went through to play the rest of Game 6 and come back out Game 7.”

But Daniels said Napoli has been checked several times this offseason by team doctors, who are confident that the ankle is structurally sound.

Napoli’s deal was completed days after the Rangers avoided arbitration hearings with new contracts for slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz ($16 million, two years) and shortstop Elvis Andrus ($14.4 million, three years).

The Rangers haven’t had a salary arbitration hearing since winning their case against Lee Stevens in 2000.

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