According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and the MLB Radio Network, free agent Mike Napoli is holding out for a fourth guaranteed year from the Red Sox, and has also drawn interest from the Mariners. There have also been reports regarding the Yankees interest in Napoli.
The 31-year-old would be viewed by the Red Sox as a first baseman, who would also provide depth at catcher and behind David Ortiz as a designated hitter.
The right-handed-hitting Napoli struggled for much of the 2012 season, finishing with a .227 batting average and .812 OPS while battling leg injuries. Napoli did, however, finish '12 strong, hitting seven home runs to go with a 1.051 OPS in the season's final month.
Napoli was not offered the one-year, $13 million qualifying offer by the Rangers, meaning the no draft pick would be forfeited by any team signing the slugger.
In my "offseason plan" I had Napoli penciled in as the Sox 2013 first baseman, so it probably won't shock you to hear me say that Boston should go ahead and give him that fourth year. I'd rather see the Sox sign on for four years of Mike Napoli than six or seven years of Josh Hamilton -- although both of those things could still happen.
But Boston needs some power in the middle of that lineup. Outside of Napoli, there aren't many attractive free agents who can swing a big bat. Don't want Hamilton. Swisher, who the Sox are supposedly after, I greatly despise and is after a four year contract himself. But, of course, it all comes down to dollars. If Napoli is looking for $15 million a year, for four years, I'd ask him to come into my office just so I could slam the door in his face.
But if the price is right, I wouldn't hesitate to agree to his terms. As unbelievable as it is, Seattle may be the more attractive destination for Napoli. Boston can't trump up the "compete for a World Series" angle, at least not for a few more seasons. Whichever he picks, he'll be on a mediocre club. And Seattle is offering Napoli the catcher position, which is supposedly where he'd prefer to play.
Of course, baseball free agency rarely shakes out how we expect. However this Napoli situation shakes out, I'm sure it'll be surprising.
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