Found March 06, 2013 on
Boston Sports Then & Now:
The Red Sox were in pretty desperate need for power following the trade of 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez and they thought they found their answer in former Angels and Rangers C/1B Mike Napoli. When problems arose in Napoli’s medical exam after agreeing to terms the Red Sox had to go back to the drawing board. What they came up with was a striking change to the original 3-year/$39 million deal that they originally agreed upon. The final product was a 1-year deal for only $5 million in guaranteed money. Napoli can recoup the $8 million he left on the table through a series of incentives built into the revised contract. Obviously the stark contrast between the original deal and the final one sent huge red flags up the flagpole however there is cause for optimism regarding Mike Napoli.
Napoli will bring his heavy stick to the heart of the Sox’ order
For starters Napoli’s hip condition hasn’t fully set in so that means, at least for this season, it could have minimal effect. It’s not to say that Napoli won’t find himself on the DL over the course of the season, he has in each of the past two seasons, but it doesn’t seem to be an immediate medical concern. The second thing is that he now has to re-establish his value going into next season. He is still only 31 years old and if he shows that his hip condition has been kept at bay for a full season he might be able to parlay a year’s success in Boston into that multi-year deal that his condition made him miss out on this season. The last thing is the sheer embarrassment of what happened to Napoli during the off-season may motivate him to get out there and prove that he can still produce as a major league player despite what an MRI says about his hip.
If Napoli does in fact produce he will do it where the Red Sox need it most – with a heavy stick in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox had only one guy above 24 home runs last year and Napoli has been at least there in each of the last 3 seasons. Last year’s leading home run hitter for the Sox, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, is still a liability with his lack of plate discipline and will cede playing time to David Ross and perhaps eventually Ryan Lavarnway. The guy with the second most homers, David Ortiz, is 37 and coming off of a major knee injury. The guy with the third most homers, Cody Ross, is now an Arizona Diamondback. The Red Sox desperately needed a guy like Napoli.
Napoli hopes to keep his hip condition at bay this season
Napoli has the offensive game to thrive at Fenway Park much the way Ross did. He’s got a big, powerful body that can push the ball over the green monster with relative ease and has enough strength to put it over the triangle in center or the bullpens in right. He’s already hit two home runs inside of a week at “Fenway South” in Fort Myers. He’ll be a plus hitter at Fenway all season long and will just have to hold his own on the road to be an above-average producer in the middle of the Sox lineup. He should benefit from hitting behind a guy like David Ortiz, one of the most carefully pitched to hitters in baseball, as well.
Napoli is not Adrian Gonzalez with the glove but he can hold his own, he won’t kill you out there. Obviously Mike Napoli has a hip condition that is, or at least someday will be, very serious and perhaps debilitating. There is no getting around that. It’s a concern and it will be for the rest of his playing career. The fact is, however, that we don’t know the timetable of when it will start to have a serious effect on his baseball playing ability. If he can make it through 130 or so games in 2013 I see no reason that he can’t be around 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Obviously after what has gone on with him and his medical tests this off-season that may be a very big if.
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