The Rangers still have interest in re-signing Napoli, but weren't interested in paying him $13.3 million if he accepted the offer. The Rangers will not receive compensation if Napoli signs with another team. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said he remains in contact with Napoli's agent, Brian Grieper.
Napoli made $9.4 million in 2012. A salary of $13.3 million would have made him the third-highest-paid catcher in baseball behind Joe Mauer ($23 million annually) and Yadier Molina ($15 million annually).
"We'd like to have Mike back, but not at that predetermined figure," Daniels said. "I don't want to say anything disparaging about the guy. He has been a big part of our club for the past couple of years and we would like to have him back. But we just didn't want to start the offseason making that investment at that amount of money. We have a budget and there are a number of things that we want to do."
Hamilton is expected to fully test the free agent market in search of a multiyear contract at a salary of $20 million-plus annually. The Rangers have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing Hamilton, but are unlikely to do so at that cost.
"We have a whole bunch of scenarios lined up," Daniels said. "We're looking at a number of different things. There are a couple of areas we need to address, namely bullpen and catcher, and there are some areas that we would like to address. Josh is a big variable in all of that."
The Rangers are expected to pursue free agent pitcher Zack Greinke. Daniels confirmed that the Rangers are moving Alexi Ogando back into the rotation to join Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. But they still have one more opening and Greinke is their first option if they decide the price is right.
"I don't think you're ever out of the market for starting pitching," Daniels said. "But we still have a pretty good core if we don't find the right piece out there."
As far as Hamilton, it is still unknown which teams will be willing to invest heavily in a 32-year-old premium power hitter who has a history of physical issues, even if he remains one of the best all-around players in the game.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Mariners, Cubs, Astros and Brewers are among the teams that have an immediate need for a player of Hamilton's stature. The Angels could also get involved, though their highest priority likely is re-signing Greinke.
The Brewers are considered a serious contender because hitting coach Johnny Narron has a longtime relationship with Hamilton. But Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "We've got the connection to Johnny Narron, but we don't have a connection with U.S. Bank."
One Major League official suggested the Mariners could be the darkhorse in the competition because they need offense, have money to spend and are trying to make Safeco Field more hitter-friendly by bringing in the fences.
If Hamilton leaves, the Rangers could be looking for a center fielder and a big bat for the middle of the lineup. They have expressed an interest in free agent designated hitter David Ortiz, who is still likely to re-sign with the Red Sox, and they have interest in free agent outfielder B.J. Upton. The leading in-house candidates for center field are left-handed-hitting Leonys Martin and right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry.
"You could probably count on one hand the number of guys who could replace Josh's production and I don't think they're going to be available," Daniels said. "I don't think we're going to approach it that way. We're not going to try and replace him, we're going to put the best team out on the field, 1-25. If Josh is back, I like our chances, if he's not back, I still like our chances."
The Rangers also declined to extend qualifying offers to free agent relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe. The Rangers, who are planning to move Ogando from the bullpen to the rotation, will be in the market for relievers this winter.
"It's something we have to address, no doubt about it," Daniels said.