Napoli deal in danger?
It should be old news by now. On Dec. 3, catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli verbally agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox. But 17 days later, there has still been no press conference, no formal announcement, no signed contract. So what’s going on? Is Napoli a Red Sox?
Right now, the answer is maybe. The agreement made on Dec. 3 was pending a physical, and according to The Boston Globe, a medical issue is delaying the signing. Another report by Will Carroll of SportsIllustrated.com claims the Red Sox are trying to reduce the amount of years on the deal.
Napoli is 31 years old, so a three-year contract is not a huge issue as far as age goes, but given that Napoli has only hit above .300 once in his career and has never made more the $10 million per season, the Sox may be rethinking a deal that would pay him $13 million for the next three years. As Napoli ages into his mid-30s, a nagging type of injury would only compound his natural regression in play.
So where does this leave the Red Sox? According to General Manager Ben Cherington, the Sox are still negotiating with Napoli’s agent. A deal very well could get done, but as the days pass, the likelihood of that happening decreases.
The fact that the Red Sox don’t have a first baseman on their current roster only complicates everything. Napoli can be more demanding in negotiations since he knows the Sox are desperate. And while there are quite a few free-agent first basemen left on the market, very few of the names are compelling.
Former Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche is, however, an interesting option for the Sox. The 33-year-old is a career .268 hitter, but produced 33 home runs and 100 RBIs last season for the Nationals. He’s a decent fielder and won a Gold Glove. However, like Napoli, LaRoche is reportedly asking for a three-year contract. He also has played his entire career in the National League and has a reputation for under-performing against top teams. Plus, if anything funny turns up in a physical, the Sox could end up in the same position with him as they are currently mired in with Napoli.
With no deal in place on Thursday afternoon and Christmas just around the corner, it seems Sox fans will have to wait a bit longer to see whether Napoli will indeed play in Boston next season or whether a different face will play first base.