I have to admit, that fourth year is kind of a deal-breaker for me, even if Napoli fills a lot of needs.
The Boston Red Sox figure to look radically different in three years. Looking at the players on the current roster, only two starting position players, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks, are likely to be on the roster in 2015.
So the question is: Do you want to commit to Napoli through 2016?
This report by CBS Sports' John Heyman says that Napoli is in Boston this weekend to meet with Red Sox management.
At this point, as much as I think that the 31-year-old Napoli would be a really good fit on the current Red Sox roster, the Sox need to express their desire to Napoli and his agents about Napoli joining their team.
Both sides know that Napoli's career numbers in the ballpark speak volumes to his potential impact at Fenway. Both sides know that Napoli will play full time between three positions in a high-profile market.
If Napoli wants to chase a fourth year from the Mariners and risk falling into the abyss that most power hitters fall into at Safeco Field, maybe the Red Sox ought to let him.
Maybe Napoli will make a tough decision easy for the Red Sox. Love the idea of Napoli for two years. Like the idea of Napoli for three seasons. Napoli for four years? Not sure I want to go there.
So, let Napoli know that you want him, just not for four seasons. If he produces at Fenway like everyone expects, he could definitely hit himself into a another multi-year contract.
After that, the Sox might need to take a step back and talk to free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche while waiting for Mike Napoli.
According to this report from MLB's Bill Ladson, negotiations are moving slowly between free-agent 1B Adam LaRoche and the Washington Nationals. One of the key sticking points between the parties is LaRoche's desire to have a three-year contract for family stability.
LaRoche is a good fallback option for Boston, and the Red Sox really need to come away from free agency with either Napoli or LaRoche in order to avoid having to deal too many of their prospects to rebuild the team.
Napoli's ability to play multiple positions, as well as being two years younger than LaRoche, make him a slightly better fit for the team. Another reason is simply that Napoli won't require draft pick compensation and LaRoche will.
Napoli's career slash line of .259/.356/.507 matches up pretty well with LaRoche's line of .268/.338/.482, while LaRoche will be markedly better defensively at the first base. Both players figure to take full advantage of the Green Monster at Fenway. Both players will be in their mid-30s once their next contract expires.
Both players would fill a need and be a vast improvement over what the Red Sox ended the 2012 season with.
So it comes down to commitment. If the Sox can get Napoli for three seasons, that solves a lot of problems and gives the team a ton of flexibility. If Napoli is adamant about a fourth year, the Sox have to explore their options, starting with LaRoche.
Either way, the Sox need to start adding some major pieces to 2013 major league roster.
Statistics used from Baseball Reference