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Monday, December 3, 2012

All I Know Is That The Red Sox Are Assembling The Best Beer League Softball Team In MLB

Twitter certainly takes away much of the intrigue and mystery of free agency in professional sports (RIP Hot Stove), perhaps none more so than in Major League Baseball. It seems like teams court guys for months or at least weeks before mercifully pulling the trigger on often minor deals. Today, the Red Sox and Mike Napoli have reportedly agreed to a three-year deal worth $39 million.

He will have a physical on Wednesday which is the delay before the club fully announces the move with the first baseman/catcher/designated hitter. Since he is so terrible on defense, no matter where he gets placed on the field, this move is all about what Napoli brings to the plate. He has never played more than 70 games at first base in a season (2010 with Angels) or 96 games at catcher (2009 with Angels). You know that David Ortiz won't make it through an entire season healthy so Napoli is certainly a capable replacement for Big Papi at DH.

Last season, he hit .227 with a .343 OBP and .469 SLG but the goobers in Texas voted him an American League All-Star for the first time in his career. He is known primarily as a power hitter and with Texas in 2012, he had 24 homers and 56 RBIs but he struck out 125 times with only 56 walks. It was a big drop-off from his career year with the Rangers in 2011: .320/.414 OBP/.631 SLG with 30 homers and 75 RBIs.

The most obvious question with this move is what will the Red Sox do with their three catchers: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway? I suppose that Lavarnway can get more seasoning in Pawtucket (which he needs) and live with a Salty/Ross platoon. Maybe even an occasional Napoli game behind the plate. Not that I think Boston is close to making the playoffs as currently constituted but in Napoli, they get a guy that has been a clutch performer in October: in 32 games, he's hit five homers and 19 RBIs with .272/.373 OBP/.457 SLG.

I hate to sound like Carmine the computer and spout off useless numbers but in a very small sample size, Napoli has experienced success at Fenway Park: he is 19-for-62 with seven homers and four doubles in 74 plate appearances. I don't like projecting things too much since that's how Boston got so enamored with Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lackey, etc but it looks like Napoli could succeed with the Red Sox. After five years in Anaheim and two years in Texas, he's hit 146 homers and 380 RBIS with .259/.356 OBP/.507 SLG.

He is 31 and will enter next spring in the eighth year of his MLB career, meaning that he's probably on the downslope of his career. Still, if he hits like he's capable of, he can provide some middle of the lineup pop. Like Johnny Gomes and Ross-Boston's only other moves so far this offseason, I will approve of this more if it leads to re-signing Cody Ross, getting Nick Swisher or Adam LaRoche. Oh and Boston still hasn't addressed its biggest hole at all: starting pitchers.

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