The Red Sox have signed Mike Napoli to a 3-year $39M deal. Napoli all off-season has appeared to be Boston’s top target. On the day which the Rays signed James Loney to a $2M deal, the Red Sox first base options are thin.
As it stands the Red Sox have 4 catchers for next season, Napoli, David Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Ryan Lavarnway. However, the only first baseman on the team is Mauro Gomez. It been reported that Napoli will primarily play first while playing a little catcher. But doesn’t it seem like Napoli’s value is wasted at first? Napoli had a .227/.343/.469 line last season with 24 home runs and 56 RBI, the season before was .320/.414/.631 with 30 & 75. Although last season was a drop off, it was great numbers from a catcher, but with an OPS of .812, he’d be tied for 6th for AL first basemen (between Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixiera), for AL catchers he’d be third.
So what’s the best way to get value from him? I’d say to keep two catchers on the Roster, Napoli and Ross. Try to trade Salty, or Lavarnway to sure up other holes on the team. If there aren’t many options out there for first base the Sox could keep Salty, Ross, and Napoli on the roster with Salty and Napoli sharing time at first and behind the plate with Ross backing up at catcher. If that’s the case Larvarnway should be dealt, if they could find a package including Lavarnway to bring in a shortstop or a young arm, that would be ideal.
It now seems like the Red Sox are out on Adam LaRoche, since the reports say that they’d be satisfied with Napoli at first. They do still appear to be in on Shane Victorino, Cody Ross, and Nick Swisher. Hear it from me, Napoli is a great offensive option at catcher but he’s not the answer at first. Worst case scenario they’d need to bring in a Swisher or someone to split time at first and can play an outfield position as well that way Napoli’s bat can be behind the plate as much as possible but when he’s needed to be played at first the lineup won’t drop off too much.