The Red Sox signed Mike Napoli today for three years and 39 million dollars. The Sox beat out teams such as the Mariners and the Rangers for Napoli’s services. Napoli is technically considered a catcher even though he hasn’t caught more than 100 games in any season and sees significant time at first base and designated hitter. Napoli had made it clear that his desire was to remain a catcher and secure a four year deal. The fact that the Sox got him to play first base for three years should be considered a major victory.
Napoli was by far the best first base option for the Sox. This year’s free agent market is terrible and Adam LaRoche would be a tricky sign. He’s incredibly inconsistent and the Washington Nationals desperately want him back. The Rangers seemed to have moved on from Napoli the day they lost the Wild Card game to the Orioles. Napoli’s swing is perfect for the Green Monster and his power should increase in Fenway. At 13 million a year, the Sox filled a major hole in their line-up without tying themselves down to a terrible deal.
The Red Sox still have a few issues to address before the offseason is over. The rotation needs another proven starter and Johnny Gomes should not be the only outfielder acquired this winter. The elite free agents should be avoided, but there are a few players the Sox should take a look at.
Nick Swisher is a fit for the Sox at the right price. His colorful personality would add to a clubhouse that has seen most of the old guard depart over the past two seasons. However, he’ll be pursued heavily by teams that missed out on Napoli. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle pick him up. The Sox should not overpay him and probably won’t get him on a discount.
The other outfield options have tons of question marks. Hamilton should be avoided and Cody Ross should not receive more than a 3 year 24 million deal (that’s a bit of an overpay but not unreasonable). Ryan Ludwick is intriguing, but this will be a difficult free agent class to approach. Very few of the players are worth the money they want.
That sentiment carries over to the pitchers. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez should not even appear on the Sox’s radar. Pitchers like Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum, and Brandon McCarthy could be had on short deals. The Sox won’t stand a chance at the division unless Lester, Lackey, and Bucholz shape up. If Cherington gets a decent starter instead of his dumpster diving strategy from last year, they should be fine.
The AL East in winnable for Boston. It won’t be easy, but it’s far from impossible. The Yankees and Rays are weaker and Toronto and Baltimore have as many question marks as the Sox do. The Napoli signing is a step in the right direction. The Sox have a good core in place to make a playoff run. With the right supplementary pieces and strong bounce backs from their current players, 2013 could be a good year for Boston. If the past two seasons have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always predict what’s going to happen.