Report: Blue Jays linked to free agent Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli was very briefly a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in January of 2011

The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly one of several teams interested in free agent first-baseman Mike Napoli, according to Jon Heyman.

Cleveland, Seattle, and Baltimore are also named in the report as potential suitors.

Napoli, now 35, spent the 2016 season with Cleveland on a one-year, $7 million salary that proved to be a smart move for the club. Appearing in 150 games, including 98 at first base and the rest as DH, Napoli posted 34 home runs, 101 RBI, and an OPS of .800.

Given Napoli’s defensive limitations, however, this limited his value to 1.0 Win Above Replacement (FanGraphs).

Any appeal to the Blue Jays would presumably be as a semi-regular first-baseman since Kendrys Morales is expected to occupy the DH spot on a near-full-time role. Napoli did play a handful of games in the corner outfield as recently as 2015 and has not seen any time behind the plate catching since 2012.

Napoli does have a small blip of history with the Blue Jays. In January of 2011, Napoli was dealt to Toronto along with Juan Rivera in the Vernon Wells trade. Just days later, he was flipped to the Texas Rangers for Frank Francisco, a move that ultimately backfired for the Blue Jays as Napoli put up a 1.046 OPS that season.

Having a relatively even balance of lefty and righty splits does help Napoli to remain a more complete player than most 35-year-old 1B/DH types, but on Toronto’s roster, the need is not as pressing as it will be elsewhere in the league. Napoli would surely be an upgrade over Justin Smoak, who is currently in line for the bulk of reps at first, but the Blue Jays’ needs in the corner outfield and bullpen are likely to take priority.

It is not expected that Napoli will require a lengthy free agent deal, but two years with an annual salary around or above $10 million is conceivable.

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