It’s hard to think of a reason why signing Mike Napoli wouldn’t be a smart move that would immensely help a powerless Red Sox lineup. However, is he worth a four year contract? Currently 31 years old, Napoli has skills that would play very well into Fenway Park for the next couple of years. When he is 34, his ample power and versatility may not be there anymore, though. Napoli won’t be the same player in four years, but is it worth giving him four years just to see him rake for the first two or three?
One may wonder why Napoli would even be a great target after a disappointing 2012 season that saw him bat .227/.343/.469 with 24 home runs and 56 RBIs. For starters, he’s been an absolute beast in Fenway Park through his career, batting .306/.397/.710 with 7 home runs in just 17 games. His right-handed power plays in in a big way, as he plays pepper with that Green Monster out in left field. Playing there on an everyday basis, Napoli would very likely reach the 30 home run plateau and maybe even pass it.
Beyond the obvious offensive benefits Napoli brings to the table, he’s also pretty versatile defensively. He’s an average defensive catcher who can also play an average (or slightly below) first base. The Red Sox have an obvious hole at first base right now, but Napoli has said he would rather play catcher regularly. If the Red Sox were to sign Napoli, this would almost certainly set up a trade of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
All told, Napoli would be a very valuable asset for the Red Sox for a year or two. Players of his ilk tend to falter a bit once they hit their mid-30′s. However, even as a middle-aged catcher/first baseman, he’ll still probably hit for plenty of power. The question is if that power truly demands a four year contract.
If I were GM of the Red Sox, I would try to pay Napoli slightly more annually for three years. If he still refuses, perhaps I’d toss in a mutual option after the third year on a front-loaded contract. Hopefully, he would sign for a 3 year/$36 million deal with a $9 million mutual option for his age 34 season. I’d love Napoli to come to Boston, and it would be a move which makes sense for both sides as Napoli could hit endless home runs over that monster. Hopefully, they don’t wind up paying too much for him, but if they do, they can still afford it.