Mike Napoli and the Boston Red Sox first reached an agreement on a free agent contract in early December. The deal – which could have been for three years and $39 Million – never was finalized, however, thanks to some concerns that materialized during the 31 year old’s physical. Boston sought to add some protective language in the deal to protect them in the event that Napoli’s hip concerns kept him out of the lineup for a significant stretch of time. Conversations have stalled since, or at least there were perceived to have, but the two sides have finally finalized an agreement, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
The new deal is for just one year and will pay Napoli just $5 Million plus incentives (which could bring the total value as high as $13 Million) – a far cry from the agreement the two sides originally had in place.
Napoli, who’s spent most of his career behind the plate, is expected to step in and help fill the void at first base for the Red Sox. The team was linked to a number of alternative options this winter (Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse, Casey Kotchman, Lyle Overbay, and others), but according to GM Ben Cherington the team’s preference has always been to lock up Napoli.
2012 was a down year for Napoli, as he batted just .227/.343/.469 over 417 plate appearances. He still added 24 HR and was a part of the AL All Star team, but it wasn’t the offensively dominant year that he or the Rangers had been expecting. He still has the power potential and patience at the plate that would appeal to a team like the Red Sox.
While the sides continued to re-negotiated the terms of their original agreement there were rumblings that other teams had reached out to Napoli’s representatives, since technically he was still a free agent, but nothing ever materialized from those discussions. In the end, Boston got their man and for a lot less money than they originally agreed to pay. Sure, there are some legitimate concerns about Napoli’s hip but if he is able to remain healthy he should be a quality addition to the middle of the Sox lineup. Health will be one major concern, but so too will his ability to adapt to playing first base everyday. He’s appeared at just 133 games at first base in his career (versus 539 behind the plate), with his highest single season total coming in at 70 games during the 2010 season. Napoli has long expressed a desire to remain a catcher primarily, but with the team already having Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross, and Ryan Lavarnway in the fold it seems as though Napoli will see minimal time behind the plate.