It's a fun little article in which Rosenthal lobs himself some questions, and then knocks them out of the park (pun most certainly intended):
Just how bad is Napoli’s condition?
Napoli, sources say, has a problem with one of his hips – a problem that led the Seattle Mariners to back off their pursuit of him, as reported by Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio and confirmed by a source, and also may have concerned his previous team, the Texas Rangers.
Bad hips and baseball players make a terrible combination. I'm all for the Napoli signing, but have no problem with the Sox taking some time to protect themselves like they did with Drew and Lackey.
Why don’t the Red Sox just sign another free agent?
Swisher and LaRoche, however, both received qualifying offers from their previous clubs, and so signing either would cost the Sox a second-round pick. Napoli did not receive a qualifying offer. Nor did any other free agent the Red Sox have signed.
Clearly, the team wants to keep its picks.
I'm slightly shocked that Swisher is still available, but the reasons are pretty clear. Nobody wants to pay a lot of money for Nick Swisher as well as surrender a draft pick. Don't be surprised to see him have to take a short-term deal someplace like Cleveland. I have no interest in LaRoche.
The Sox also need to build for the future. This includes holding onto what will be valuable draft picks.
What is Napoli’s recourse?
Technically, Napoli is still a free agent, able to cut another deal with another team. Realistically, no team will touch him as he remains in limbo, at least not at the terms he negotiated with the Red Sox.
Thus, Napoli is effectively at the team’s mercy, though the Sox likely will be judicious with how they wield their leverage, ultimately wanting a happy player. Drew’s career in Boston proceeded without rancor after his negotiations, as did right-hander John Lackey’s.
It's possible, but very unlikely that another team is going to swoop in and try to sign Napoli out from under the Red Sox. And for Napoli to agree to do so, the new team would, in all likelihood, have to forgo whatever protections the Red Sox are trying to build into the contract. Or just heap tons more cash on him. Either of which aren't realistic.
What have we learned here today? (See, I can play your little game too, Rosenthal!)
That this situation is going to take some time to play out, but ultimately Napoli should be donning a Sox uniform this Spring.