ARLINGTON -- After more than three months of discussions, Mike Napoli is headed back to the Rangers.
Napoli has reached a tentative agreement with the Rangers on a one-year contract, Major League sources confirmed Tuesday. An official announcement is pending until the required physical and the Rangers can make room on their 40-man roster. The club has not confirmed the deal.
The two sides may wait until next week when the Rangers can make room on Feb. 14 by moving Prince Fielder or Jake Diekman to the 60-day disabled list. Both have to stay on the 40-man roster until that date.
Napoli will join the Rangers to be their primary first baseman while continuing to get time at designated hitter. He jumps ahead of a field that includes Minor League invites Josh Hamilton and James Loney. If Hamilton shows he is healthy, he could still earn significant time at designated hitter.
The move likely means Joey Gallo will likely start the season at Triple-A Round Rock, although he could change that with a big Spring Training. Jurickson Profar and Ryan Rua will likely fill utility roles as they did for most of last season.
Napoli was with the Indians last season and hit .239 with 34 home runs, 101 RBIs and a .465 slugging percentage. The Indians won the American League Central and advanced to the World Series as Napoli played in the postseason for the eighth time in 10 years.
Napoli was with the Rangers in 2011, when they went to the World Series and again in 2012, when they advanced as an AL Wild Card team. He left as a free agent after that season but was reacquired on Aug. 7, 2015, for the Rangers' stretch run.
Acquired from the Blue Jays on Jan. 25, 2011, Napoli hit .320 for the Rangers that season with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs. In 17 postseason games, Napoli hit .320 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Napoli was an All-Star catcher for the Rangers in 2012, when he hit .227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBIs. When he returned in 2015, he split time between first base and left field.
He will not play left field this time around.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
After struggling in 2015 (a career-low .734 OPS), Napoli bounced back to produce an .800 OPS with a personal-high 34 homers, 101 RBIs and 92 runs scored. But all was not rosy, as the slugger faded late -- posting a .184/.309/.297 slash line in his final 45 games -- and finished with the Majors' third-highest strikeout rate (30.1 percent). Likely to produce at least 25 homers and 80 RBIs from the heart of a productive Rangers lineup, Napoli is worth a mid-round pick in mixed leagues. However, the veteran is at risk for decline as he enters his age-35 campaign. Meanwhile, the addition of Napoli decreases the likelihood that youngsters Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo will earn regular playing time with Texas in '17.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.