MLB: What Mike Napoli Brings to His Next Team

There are plenty of reasons for MLB teams to be interested in signing free agent Mike Napoli for the 2017 season. Here are just a few.

With the Cleveland Indians’ signing of Edwin Encarnacion, all signs point to their first baseman and designated hitter from last season, Mike Napoli, finding a new home this offseason. If he does not sign with one of his former teams, it will be his fifth team and his fourth in three seasons. Napoli is still a productive option with the bat with 34 home runs and 101 runs batted in last season (both career highs), although his batting average dipped to just .239.

At the age of 35, Napoli will be signing a short-term deal. His glove isn’t the best and he has a long injury history, but that won’t stop a team from picking him up. Napoli has made a major impact in the game since his debut as a catcher for the Angels back in 2006 and he brings a lot to the table when he is on the roster.

Napoli is a winner

In 11 big league seasons, Napoli has appeared in the postseason eight times. Those appearances have not been short samplings, either. In those eight postseason appearances, his teams have been to four American League Championship Series and have made the World Series three times. Each of those World Series appearances came with a different team (Rangers, Red Sox and Indians) and he was victorious in one with the Red Sox in 2013.

He doesn’t just go along for the ride in the postseason, he is productive. In 66 postseason games, he has hit eight home runs and driven in 30 runs. He has had his share of big moments, as well. In 2011, while with the Rangers, Napoli stroked the game-winning double in Game 5 of the World Series. He came up clutch once again in 2013 when he hit the game-winning home run in Game 3 of the ALCS. This postseason, while with the Indians, Napoli hit a home run which made him only the fifth player in MLB history to have a postseason home run with four different teams.

He is a fan favorite

Napoli has connected with fans on every stop in his career. He was loved in Boston for his long beard and big hits. After winning the 2013 World Series, he even celebrated at some bars in downtown Boston with fans. In 2016, he embraced the saying “Party at Napoli’s”, which was coined by an Indians fan on a shirt. The fan gave Napoli one of the shirts, which Napoli wore on television after a win, and it became a sensation in Cleveland.

Even after the 2016 season, Napoli has pleased fans. A fan on an airplane was sitting behind him for a flight and Napoli was nice enough to socialize with him, take a picture and sign a baseball for him. Fans love him, so whatever team decides to bring him on will be giving their fans a treat.

His clubhouse presence is important

A player doesn’t make it to eight postseasons in 11 seasons by being a cancer in the clubhouse. Napoli has been known to be a clubhouse leader during his big league stops. When the Cubs were preparing for the World Series against the Indians this past year, they listed Napoli as a big reason why the Tribe would be a tough opponent. Cubs players who played alongside him on the Red Sox during the 2013 run (John Lackey, Jon Lester and David Ross) pointed out his ability to unify a team and how he was a leader in a clubhouse that was a “zoo” before his arrival.

Napoli described his style by saying, “I’m just myself. I like to have a good time, I enjoy my teammates on and off the field.” Lackey, known for his mean streaks and selfish attitude at times, praised Napoli by saying, “He’s a great teammate, a gamer and just a good dude.” A team looking to make the postseason wants those attributes on their squad.

He is still productive

While Napoli does not hit for average, his power numbers are still high. He is a feared hitter who can be a middle of the order headache for opposing pitchers. He has the ability to get big hits when he needs to and his strength is hulking. His defense is nothing special, but his bat makes up for it. He is still a power bat that can be a productive designated hitter for any team that brings him on.

He will find a home, and it will be soon. It will probably be for a bargain, which will make any front office happy. Wherever he winds up, that team will be in the hunt and the fans will love him.

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