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Rangers' Napoli shooting between V-Mart and Yadi on contract

Rangers catching star Mike Napoli sees himself somewhere between Victor Martinez and Yadier Molina on the rising salary chart for catchers. To be precise, that's between $52 million over four years and $75 million over five.

Top catchers have been cashing in lately, and Napoli, fresh of the best-hitting season by any catcher not named Joe Mauer in quite sometime, seeks to be placed somewhere among the elite. Napoli, who had 30 home runs, a.320 batting average and 1.046 OPS last year, is a free agent at year's end.

"Mike Napoli is somewhere between Victor Martinez and Yadier Molina,'' agent Brian Grieper said by phone. "Depending on how he performs this year, he could be closer to Molina or Martinez.''

There's no evidence of recent talks involving Napoli and the Rangers, but their first offer awhile back is believed to be for less than V-Mart money (the $52 million over four years). Molina signed for $75 million over five years.

The Rangers very much like Napoli, who they acquired in a smart trade for reliever Frank Francisco, and would prefer him to remain a Ranger for a long time. They also have three other top players who are free agents at year's end -- superstar Josh Hamilton plus starting pitcher Colby Lewis and reliever Mike Adams. Rangers GM Jon Daniels declined to comment.

Napoli's position would be enhanced by a year anywhere close to his landmark 2011 season. "Last year was a great season, and obviously we hope he can replicate what he did last year,'' Grieper said. "Even if his batting average falls 20 or 30 points, that's still pretty good. There's a premium on power hitters and middle-of-the-order bats.''

While Napoli, who is making $9.4 million this season, often bats in the lower third of the Rangers' order, that's only a reflection on the strength of the lineup. Napoli has three home runs. seven RBIs, a .207 batting average and .851 OPS in Texas' hot start.

Napoli and the Rangers were apart on dollars and years last time they spoke. But Napoli, who played through a terrible ankle injury in the World Series and is becoming a fan favorite in Texas, is willing to resume talks during the season.

"If they want to talk, we're open to it,'' Grieper said. "We have no artificial deadline, and he can separate the two (playing and talking), so that's not an issue.''

Napoli is only helping his case with continued power.

As Grieper put it, "If you look at the numbers, he has a trend in the right direction.''
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