I’m calling this one. The Sox deal with Mike Napoli is dead. Do I have verification? No. Is it official that the deal is off? Hardly. Are all the stars aligned and all reports pointing to a collapse of the deal? Undoubtedly. Mr. Swisher, Mr LaRoche, please stand by for a phone call.
It’s been nearly three weeks since Boston and Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal, pending a physical. Therein lies the catch; the physical. Multiple reports have increasingly and with laser focus cited Napoli’s physical and an issue with his hip as the hangup. Apparently in this case, Napoli is not hip.
Boston may still have interest in Napoli but appears to be justifiably reducing their risk. The smart money would be on both fewer years and less money if a deal with Napoli is to be struck at all. I applaud Cherington and company’s rigor regarding this deal. His physical didn’t pass the sniff test and they’ve stuck to their guns. Had King Theo still been at the helm the deal would have been done already and the team would have been onto another orgy of overspending. I like Cherington’s approach. He’s listening.
If Boston brass is really smart they’ve already opened up back channel negotiations with both Nick Swisher and Adam LaRoche, who are both still on the Free Agent board. With Josh Hamilton off the board and increasing value for a first baseman becoming a premium Boston’s pursuit of either option will most likely mean over payment and/or additional years. Let’s take a closer look.
Years in Majors: 9
Career Batting Average: .268
Career On Base Percentage: .338
Career Slugging Percentage: .482
Career On Base Plus Slugging Percentage: .820
2012 Salary: $8 million
Synopsis: LaRoche, bats and throws left, was a member of the Red Sox for six games in 2009 before being traded to Atlanta, where he tore it up in 57 games (.325). Even so, LaRoche has been with two other clubs since then – Arizona and Washington. He has decent power (21 home run average per year) and is a solid fielding first baseman (.993 career fielding percentage).
Years in Majors: 9
Career Batting Average: .256
Career On Base Percentage: .361
Career Slugging Percentage: .467
Career On Base Plus Slugging Percentage: .828
2012 Salary: $10.2 million
Synopsis: Swisher, a switch hitting lefty, has been with the Yankees since 2009. He can play outfield and first baseman. He has a little better pop than LaRoche (23 home run average per year) but is more suspect in the field (.985 career fielding percentage).
LaRoche and Swisher are a statistical dead heat so it really comes down to fit. In short, it’s Swisher, especially with the likes of Jonny Gomes patrolling left field. Swisher gets an advantage as a switch hitter and that fact that he’s played in a pressure cooker similar to Boston. I’d be all for a Swisher move if it wasn’t for that nasty 2012 playoff stat of .167/.235/.233/.469. What the hell. It was one very bad seven game stretch and it wasn’t like he didn’t have company nor was the worst of the lot. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson all had worse post-seasons.
In any event, if Boston’s playing it smart Laroche and Swisher’s agent’s should be on speed dial at this point.