Beyond Mike Napoli and Adam LaRoche, the first base market appears fairly weak. However, both Napoli and LaRoche have issues that may prohibit the Red Sox from signing one or the other. Napoli’s hip problems have prevented the Red Sox and him from locking up a deal they agreed upon close to four weeks ago. LaRoche, on the other hand, is tied to draft pick compensation which would cause the Red Sox to forfeit their second round pick. Both of those players are the best on the market, but the question is by how much.
Right now, it’s looking a bit like neither player will sign with Boston. With that in mind, the Red Sox should start to explore other alternatives on the free agent market. By my account, the remaining major league free agent first basemen are Lance Berkman, Casey Kotchman, Lyle Overbay, and Carlos Lee. The Red Sox would likely be looking for a guy whose bat packs a little punch, which takes Kotchman and Overbay out of the equation, and somebody who Fenway Park would help rather than hurt, taking Berkman out of the equation. This leaves Carlos Lee as the clear favorite beyond Napoli and LaRoche.
Lee had his worst major league season in 2012 by just about every category out there. His power slipped considerably as he posted career lows in home runs, isolated power, and his second lowest WAR total of 0.3. However, through all his struggles, one thing never faded– his ability to drive in runners with the best of them. Lee batted .313 with runners in scoring position in 2012 (even higher than his career average of .301), and posted 77 RBIs despite just 9 home runs.
Lee certainly has his flaws– he is 36 years old and has most certainly declined from his younger days. It’s hard to envision too much going wrong on a cheap, one year deal though. Fenway Park should immensely help out the former power hitter and he could return to something like 15 home runs. Lee should definitely be a tertiary option behind Napoli and LaRoche– however, he should be an option all the same. With a contract like 1 year/$3 million in mind, it’s very easy to imagine Lee exceeding expectations in Boston.