With the MLB offseason ramping up as the year comes to an end, teams are making their final moves leading into spring training, and the Boston Red Sox are no exception as they continue to position themselves for another run at the AL East.
Mike Napoli was an early signing of the Red Sox and represented a strong offensive option that could change the game in an instant, but the move has since come into question after an issue with his hip is holding up the finalization of the deal.
In the interim, the Sox continue to search for the best options to help the team in 2013, something that could very well mean moving past Napoli, with free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche possibly taking his place.
It's too early to tell what will ultimately happen with Napoli and the Boston Red Sox, as his hip problems could very well be a tipping point that puts a halt to his days in Fenway before they even start.
The possibility of having Napoli around for three years could be a risk if health issues come back into play, yet another reason signing LaRoche could be a more responsible option.
He's been seeking a three-year deal this offseason, but to this point LaRoche hasn't seen more than a two-year offer, something he might end up settling for when all is said and done.
If Boston could get him to agree to a deal lasting only through 2014, it'd open up the team's options down the road while still locking down a solid two-way player in the interim.
Contractual issues aside, there is definitely some benefit in having a player like Napoli on board when you consider the fact that he can be a solid defensive option at two positions.
Napoli has spent a good amount of time at first base as well as behind the backstop, and while LaRoche has been used solely as a first baseman, he's a better defensive option there.
In signing LaRoche, the Red Sox can run with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate and have a first baseman who's posted a .995 career fielding percentage at the position.
With the catcher position ranking as the most physically taxing, the hip issue has been the most recent stumbling block for Napoli and needs to be addressed, though it definitely isn't his first health run-in.
He's been on the disabled list five times during his career, and with Napoli playing in fewer than 120 games in six of his seven seasons in the league, it's hard to hedge your bets on a player that may only play in 75 percent of your games.
LaRoche, on the other hand, has had a relatively strong track record for health. He played in only 43 games in 2011, but aside from that had averaged nearly 150 games played in his past seven seasons.
The Red Sox's interest in LaRoche could very well be the tipping point the Washington Nationals need to complete their deal, something that could give Napoli some leverage.
Either option would be a solid addition for the Red Sox, but with a vastly improved division ahead of them, Boston would be wise to ensure that the signings it makes this offseason carry with them the best chances for paying off all season long.