It's time for the Red Sox to go in a different direction.
Why should the Boston Red Sox continue to try and finalize a contract with a doomed Mike Napoli when there are better options on the table? That’s right, they shouldn’t.
It’s now been over a month since Boston agreed to a three-year deal with Napoli. That agreement still hasn’t been finalized or officially announced. Whatever the Red Sox are trying to put into Napoli’s contract should he get injured clearly isn’t floating his boat.
The Red Sox were given a gift of finding out that Napoli had red flags in his medicals before officially putting him on the books and yet they continue to try and work things out. It’s time to stop these negotiations and move on to another player who can play first base each day.
Boston failed to land Adam LaRoche, who re-signed with the Washington Nationals on a two-year deal. The Red Sox were probably reluctant to give up a draft pick and draft money if they signed him, but he’s no longer an option so cross him off the list.
But LaRoche’s signing does impact the Red Sox in a different manner. With Washington bringing LaRoche back to play first base, that leaves Michael Morse without a spot in the everyday lineup.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post writes that Morse is pretty much a goner:
Adam LaRoche’s agreement with the Nationals today, coupled with an outfield chocked full of players whose contractual rights with the Nationals control for years to come, leads to the clear conclusion that Michael Morse is the odd man out and will almost certainly be traded before the Nationals report for spring training in a five weeks.
Morse hit .291/.321/.470 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 102 games with Washington last season. He mainly played the outfield for the National League East champions in 2012, but first base was his primary position the year prior.
Is that or is that not exactly what the Red Sox need?
There’s a major void at first base with Mauro Gomez the only option outside of finalizing the Napoli deal. Neither of those are good options at the moment. Morse has a power swing that would work out nicely at Fenway Park and he could play first base nearly every day.
Morse could also be used as the fourth outfielder, mainly playing instead of Jonny Gomes when facing right-handed starters. Gomes has a career .732 against right-handed arms whereas Morse has a career .830 OPS against them. In this situation, Gomez would fill in at first base when Morse shifts to the outfield.
The great part about trading for a guy like Morse is that it won’t be nearly as expensive as signing Napoli to a three-year deal.
Amanda Comak of The Washington Times reports that with LaRoche coming back to Washington, the asking price on Morse could drop:
For what it's worth, back around winter mtgs, heard #nats asking price on Morse was significant. Not surprising. We'll see if it drops now.
— Amanda Comak (@acomak) January 8, 2013
Obviously this would bode well for Boston as giving up as little as possible would be what the Red Sox would look to do. This comes especially since Morse is only under contract for one more season and is not guaranteed to sign a long-term extension.
Jim Bowden of ESPN reports what the Nationals are most likely looking for in exchange for Morse:
Nationals looking for LH relief help and/or prospects to help replenish farm system in a Michael Morse swap according to #Nats source
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 8, 2013
Last time I checked, the Red Sox had a surplus of left-handed relievers. Franklin Morales is probably the most valuable between himself, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow and could be a player Washington would want in return. Do the Red Sox absolutely need to keep Morales? No, they don’t.
What should Boston do with the hole at first base?
Boston also has plenty of decent prospects that they could part ways with. Dealing someone like Morales and a prospect in exchange for a player who absolutely fills the biggest void on the team doesn’t sound like that bad of a deal.
By acquiring Morse, Boston has the capability of either signing him to an extension or letting him walk in free agency and seeing how the market looks.
Boston was going to give Napoli $39 million over three seasons and for all intents and purposes, let’s assume that he would earn $13 million per season. That would mean that Boston would save $6.5 million in 2013 and as much as $32.5 million should they go with Morse over Napoli.
Morse has been banged up in his career too, but isn’t nearly as big of a concern as Napoli currently is.
The smartest move Boston could make this offseason would be to forget about Napoli and do its best to pry Morse from Washington.