Mike Napoli has spent the bulk of his big league career behind the plate, but if need be, he’s willing to make a permanent change, 90 feet to his right.
The catcher/first baseman has turned into one of the most highly sought-after free agents in a scarce free agent class, and Napoli says he’s open to playing first base if need be, despite spending most of his career as a catcher.
“I just want to play,” Napoli told ESPN.com. “I feel the most comfortable behind the plate because that’s where most of my reps have been. Do I think I can be good at first base if I had reps and practiced it all the time? Yes. But it’s not like I’m saying I have to be a catcher. I just want to be in the lineup and play. If it helps at catcher, I’ll catch, or at first base, I’ll play there. But I like catching. I look at myself as catcher.”
Of course, it would be foolish for a player on the open market looking to get the most money possible to pigeonhole himself at one position if he has the ability to play more than one. Napoli’s willingness to play first base can only add to the number of teams who might be interested in him — like the Red Sox.
Unsurprisingly, Napoli admitted that there are “a bunch of teams” who have shown initial interest in his services, and the Red Sox are reportedly one of those teams.
Napoli has played 539 big league games at catcher, with only 133 at first base. He’s been a pretty adequate defensive player in those limited reps at first, making just 10 errors in those 133 games, good for a .990 fielding percentage.