The Boston Red Sox are among the teams that have shown serious interest in free agent first baseman Mike Napoli. Could a return be in the works?
They say you can’t go home again, but that may not be the case for Mike Napoli. The former Boston Red Sox first baseman is now a free agent after spending a year in Cleveland, which could lead him back to a familiar setting.
Jon Heyman of Fanragsports.com reports that the three teams showing the most interest in Napoli are teams that the 35-year old has previously played for. The Indians would like to retain him, while the Red Sox and Texas Rangers round out the list of serious suitors. The New York Yankees and Houston Astros are also considered long-shot possibilities.
Napoli is coming off of a strong season in which he set career highs with 34 home runs and 101 RBI. He hit a paltry .239 and struck out 194 times, but he draws enough walks to keep his on-base percentage at a respectable level.
The Red Sox moved the former catcher over to first base full time when he arrived in Boston back in 2013 and he responded with a strong bounce back season, hitting .259 with an .842 OPS, 23 home runs and 92 RBI.
His production plummeted over the following two seasons, to the point where he was barely hitting above the Mendoza Line by the time the 2015 trade deadline rolled around. With Boston heading for a second consecutive last place finish, the team traded him back to the Rangers to aid in their playoff push.
After finishing that season strong by hitting .295 and smashing five more home runs in 35 games for Texas, followed by another solid year in Cleveland, Napoli is once again an appealing target for team’s in need of a middle of the order power bat.
Napoli also comes with postseason experience, which Red Sox fans well know from his contributions to the 2013 championship team. The 11-year veteran has collected 8 home runs and 30 RBI in the postseason and played in three World Series.
If the Red Sox were to acquire Napoli they could easily slide Hanley Ramirez into the DH spot vacated by David Ortiz‘s retirement, or Ramirez and Napoli could alternate between that role and playing first base.
Dave Dombrowski is rumored to be seeking a short term solution to fill the DH spot, while uncertainty surrounding labor talks and their potential effect on the luxury tax has made the Red Sox brass hesitant to chase the top free agent sluggers on the market. Napoli could be viewed as a cheaper alternative that could be signed for a shorter deal than the top options will demand.