It seems that the most attractive players are the ones who are not on your favorite team. With a vacancy at first base this offseason, the Red Sox are going to have to fill the hole through either internal or external options and some names are already being tossed around by baseball pundits. Players like Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, and Mark Trumbo have been linked to the Red Sox, potential acquisitions that would effectively finish the Red Sox career of 2013 first baseman Mike Napoli (the acquisition of Beltran or Choo would likely move Daniel Nava to first base full time).
Despite all of that, however, Mike Napoli remains the best and most realistic candidate for the first base role on the Red Sox. Not only has he become a fan favorite and cult hero, Napoli also had a solid season for the 2013 Red Sox. In 139 games and 578 plate appearances, Napoli slashed .259/.360/.482– good for an .842 OPS and 129 OPS+– making him clearly the best free agent first baseman.
It’s true that none of Beltran, Choo, and Trumbo are free agent first basemen. However, they would still provide only minor upside than Napoli, and likely at a considerably higher cost. In 2013, Beltran slashed .296/.339/.491, good for an .830 OPS and 128 OPS+; Choo slashed .285/.423/.462– an .885 OPS and 143 OPS+; and Trumbo slashed .234/.294/.453, for an OPS of .747 and OPS+ of 109.
Of those candidates, Choo is the only one that provided better offensive production than Napoli in 2013, and Choo is allegedly looking to top the 7 year/$126 million contract that Jayson Werth signed two offseasons ago. Napoli would likely sign a much more team-friendly deal in the 2 year/$30 million range.
A moderate jump in production is simply not worth an extra $100 million, and that’s why Mike Napoli remains the Red Sox’ best option. That’s not even considering that Napoli has proven that he can handle the bright lights and magnifying glasses of the Boston media. Counting all of Napoli’s strengths, it’s clear that he is the best candidate to man first base for the 2014 Red Sox.