The Red Sox had been relatively quiet this offseason when it came to rebuilding their roster for next season and beyond, but they finally broke through yesterday on the first day of the winter meetings when they reportedly agreed to terms with first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli on a three-year, $39 million contract.
Napoli had been with the Rangers the past two seasons after spending his first five years in the league with the Angels. In 2012, the 31-year-old hit .227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBIs following a career year in 2011 when he hit .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs.
Some have said the Red Sox overpaid for Napoli, but who else was out there for the team to sign? The free agent market was very slim, particularly at first base and catcher. The team stayed disciplined and only gave a three-year deal, despite Napoli reportedly wanting more years, but that was most likely made up for by Boston in giving him a few more dollars than he maybe deserved.
Although his primary position with the Red Sox will be first base, the team now has four catchers in Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway and David Ross. This opens the door for them to deal away either Saltalamachhia or Lavarnway, with all signs pointing towards Saltalamacchia.
Saltalamacchia and Napoli’s numbers were almost identical last year as Saltalamacchia hit .222 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs, with both striking out in just over 30 percent of their at bats.
What gets overlooked is OBP (on-base percentage) as Napoli’s was .343 compared to Saltalamacchia’s .288. Napoli also has been in the league four years longer and also has put up outstanding numbers at Fenway Park. In 19 games on Yawkey Way, Napoli has hit .306 with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and a blistering OBS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.107.
The signing not only gives the Red Sox a solid bat in the middle of their lineup and a versatile position player, it also allows the team to deal away a catcher and get something decent in return, which they most likely will considering the limited number of catching options available to most MLB teams.
This also may not be the only signing at the winter meetings for Boston as they have reportedly shown interest in outfielders Nick Swisher and Shane Victorino.