Mike Napoli has decided to sign with the Boston Red Sox after testing the free-agent waters, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The slugging catcher was one of the top hitters available on the market.
Napoli has deal with red sox, 3 yrs, $39M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 3, 2012
Napoli filled several different roles for the Texas Rangers over the past couple of seasons. He has played both catcher and first base while also serving as designated hitter at times, and that mixed role is likely to continue moving forward.
One thing he always brings to the table is his bat. The 31-year-old All-Star has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past five seasons and sports a career OPS of .863, making it no surprise he attracted a lot of attention from teams in need of more pop.
He stated throughout the process that being a full-time catcher was his preference, but that he would fill any role for his new team as long as he's in the lineup. It's a storyline to keep an eye on as he prepares for next season.
It shouldn't be a major issue, though. Teams were chasing him because of his ability to create instant offense by hitting the ball over the fence, not for his defensive talent or lack thereof.
As long as he continues to crush the ball at the plate, everything else will take care of itself. And there's no reason to believe he won't do that. Even in what was viewed as a down year, Napoli managed to smack 24 homers in 2012.
If he can get back to his 2011 level of performance (30 home runs, .414 on-base percentage), he'll actually turn out to be a steal for Boston. But even if he just remains around his career averages, it's a pretty safe move since he still has a couple of prime seasons left.
That's especially true because it was a pretty weak free-agent market. There weren't many big-time power hitters available, so for the Red Sox, taking a chance on Napoli was better than taking a chance on a lesser option.
Napoli should have no problem proving he was worth the investment.