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Mike Napoli agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox on Thursday morning that guaranteed only $5 million, according to sources via ESPN. The deal includes multiple incentives that could push his salary up to the $13 million annual salary he was originally supposed to get in the three-year deal worth $39 million.
The Texas Rangers were involved in discussions with the slugger too, but he turned down more money to go with the Red Sox, according to ESPNDallas. Also, according to ESPN, he has a more defined role with the Red Sox since the Rangers have A.J. Pierzynski at catcher, Lance Berkman at designated hitter and Mitch Moreland at first base. The Red Sox want to use Napoli as the everyday first baseman.
The ability of the Red Sox to talk Napoli into staying is something that will help the team in the long run and is really something GM Ben Cherington will use going forward that can save this team from falling off the table from postseason play for years to come.
The old way for Theo Epstein and the Red Sox was to sign players coming off of decent years and overpay for too many years for an oft-injured player.
For instance, take a look at the deals that were made with outfielder J.D. Drew and starting pitcher John Lackey. Both of these players agreed upon contracts early on during their offseasons. Both players also had to wait a while to be formally introduced because of something that popped up during their physicals.
The contract values for Drew and Lackey didn’t really take a hit because Epstein didn’t really see any need to reduce the money or years based on one injury alone. The wording of these contracts was the only thing that saved Epstein while he was here. Drew missed at least 22 games each season he was with the Red Sox. Lackey missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason. He was paid only a certain amount due to his trip on the DL.
However, Cherington has brought in a new era in Red Sox baseball by accomplishing a shortened deal for Napoli in 2013. The deal is filled with incentives if he doesn’t go on the DL and using those to his advantage is what will put the Red Sox back into the mix as a contender in the years to come.
The three-year deal that the Red Sox and Napoli originally agreed upon did not give the C/1B something to play for. A one-year deal worth less than what he was paid in 2012 gives him that motivation again.
The former Texas Ranger struggled in 2012 with a .227 average but had 24 home runs in 108 games played. His OBP dropped from .414 in 2011 to .343 in 2012. He also only slugged at a .469 clip, which is low compared to his .631 mark in 2011.
The 31-year-old had a career year in 2011 with 30 homers 75 RBI and an OPS of 1.045. His second-highest came back in 2008 with the Los Angeles Angels at .960 in only 78 games. In 2011, he played 113 and had only 369 at-bats.
Coming to a new ballpark is really intimidating, but especially coming into a media frenzy such as Boston. The good thing for Napoli is the fact that he has had success at Fenway Park. He has only 19 games as a visitor, but has hit seven home runs, slugged .710 with a 1.017 OPS and a total of 17 RBI. This might be a small sample, but shows the Hollywood, Florida native that he could resurrect his career if he makes the most of his opportunity.
This is especially true if he plays solid defense at first base and can show his versatility.