It's beginning to look more and more like the Mike Napoli era in Boston will be over before it even started.
The Boston Red Sox’s first base situation for the 2013 season got a little stickier with the news that the team is trying to change free agent Mike Napoli’s three-year, $39 million contract to a one-year deal.
ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden tweeted that Boston is attempting to make such a drastic renegotiation because it believes that a longer contract would be dangerous due to health issues with Napoli’s hip:
Red Sox would like to shorten their deal with Napoli to one-year to make sure the hip will be ok for 2 or 3 seasons without a lot of DL time— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) January 11, 2013
Napoli and the Red Sox originally agreed to the three-year contract in early December. However, the deal was never consummated because of concerns over Napoli’s hip that arose when he took his physical in Boston.
Although he has remained mum on the situation, Napoli can’t be happy that Boston is attempting to take a serious amount of money out of his pocket.
Boston general manager Ben Cherington sounded lukewarm that something could be worked out when he appeared on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show last week. WEEI’s Kirk Minihane quoted Cherington as saying he wasn't really sure where things currently stand:
No, there’s nothing to update… One of our goals this offseason was to add offense at first base. We haven’t been able to really do that officially yet. We’re still talking and when you’re talking, there’s hope for a resolution. But nothing to report now… Whenever we’re talking and there’s dialogue, it means we’re hopeful of being able to do something but we just don’t know yet. We’ll see how it plays out.
The Red Sox currently have the untested Mauro Gomez as the only player on their roster who has recent experience playing first base.
Will the Red Sox and Napoli agree to a contract?
Boston also recently signed former St. Louis Cardinals second-round draft pick Mark Hamilton to a minor league deal. Although he's played in only 47 major league games and has an extensive history of injuries, Hamilton has been fairly productive in the minors during his career, posting a .277/.364/.832 batting average/OBP/OPS split.
Well, Mauro Gomez is on our roster now. Obviously Mark Hamilton is a young guy that we've signed. We're all well aware of the certain situation that's still being worked through. I know Ben is doing whatever he possibly can so that when we report to Spring Training, we've got that position answered.
First baseman Adam LaRoche had been seen as the most likely backup plan for the Red Sox if the deal with Napoli completely fell through. However, he recently re-signed with the Washington Nationals, leaving Boston with the likes of Lyle Overbay and Casey Kotchman as the best first-sackers remaining on the free-agent market.
It’s unclear at this point if Napoli is ever going to officially join the Red Sox. What is clear is that his deal is very much in doubt, and the team has few apparent desirable options it could turn to as an alternative.
Statistics via BaseballReference