If a right-handed power hitter is coming off a bad year and may have to sign a one year deal, the Red Sox are essentially the perfect place to do it. Over the years, we’ve seen countless players join the Red Sox for a year, exceed expectations, and then sign big money elsewhere. The last player to fit this mold was Adrian Beltre, who batted .265/.304/.379 with the Mariners in 2009. Beltre signed with Boston for one year and $9 million and batted a marvelous .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs. After the season, Beltre signed a 6 year/$96 million contract with the Texas Rangers and is now among the best third baseman (and even position players) in baseball.
Adrian Beltre is the perfect example of this philosophy, but Mike Napoli could very well be the next piece in it. Napoli is coming off a career worst year which saw him hit only .227/.343/.469 in 108 games while struggling with knee and hip injuries. After signing Napoli to a 3 year/$39 million contract, Napoli’s hip issues came up in the mandatory physical and the two sides had to re-negotiate a deal. When they finally decided upon the new deal yesterday, it was an incredibly different contract– a 1 year/$5 million deal with incentives that could bring it up to $13 million.
It’s easy to say that the Red Sox won this deal by a long shot. It’s highly possible, even likely, that Napoli will have an excellent season hitting the ball off and over the wall in left field, as long as he can stay healthy. In limited time in Fenway Park over his career, Napoli has batted over .300 with excellent power. I’m not sure if I’d count on the batting average staying up there, but there’s no doubt that the power will be right there.
Through his career, Napoli has hit a home run on slightly over 20% of his fly balls. Playing half of his games at Fenway Park, I would even expect that already impressive number to grow. We can only hope that Napoli will follow in Beltre’s footsteps– however, if he can stay healthy it’s far from out of the question. It’s clear that the Red Sox won in these re-negotiations, now we’ll see how Napoli performs.