It's finally official that Napoli will be playing for the Red Sox in 2013.
Nearly two months after verbally agreeing to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, free agent Mike Napoli officially signed with the team to a one-year, $5 million deal.
Napoli’s signing was first reported in a tweet by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman:
Napoli got $5M for the 1 year. #redsox— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 17, 2013
The signing was also confirmed in a story by WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
Napoli originally had agreed to his $39 million deal in early December to become Boston’s starting first baseman. However, the Red Sox became concerned with an issue they saw with his hip when he took a physical to finalize the contract.
After identifying the hip issue, the Red Sox demanded to renegotiate with Napoli, no longer comfortable guaranteeing so much money to a player whose long-term health they believed was in doubt.
As the dickering with Napoli progressed, potential alternative first base options like Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse found homes elsewhere. The Red Sox remained hopeful of retaining Napoli and were finally able to get their man.
Will Napoli prove the Red Sox wrong?
Bradford reported that Napoli is guaranteed just $5 million. But he has contract incentives that can drive the value of his deal to nearly $13 million if he doesn't spend any time on the disabled list in 2013 with a hip-related injury. Interestingly, there are no team or player options in the contract, so this upcoming season could be one-and-done in Boston for the right-handed slugger.
Napoli had a disappointing season in 2012 with the Texas Rangers, hitting just .227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI. He was made a top priority this offseason because of the belief he could replicate what he did in 2011, when he hit .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI.
The way Napoli has hit at Fenway Park during his career was another reason the Red Sox found him so desirable. In 19 career games at the Fens, he has hit .306 with seven home runs and 17 RBI.
Yahoo!Sports’ David Brown wrote that forfeiting $34 million is an ominous sign for the start of the Napoli era. It will be interesting to see if he enters 2013 driven to prove people wrong, or if he will be bitter about his big financial loss.
Primarily a catcher throughout his career, Napoli figures to exclusively play first base in Boston. That should lessen the wear-and-tear on his hip and hopefully help him re-establish his value when he heads back to free agency after the season.
The Red Sox finally have their first baseman in Napoli. Now they will just have to cross their fingers that even with a reduced deal, they have a player who can stay healthy and contribute to a successful 2013 season.
Statistics via BaseballReference