The winter meetings are underway in Nashville, and the Sox wasted no time in making a splash. Widespread reports are that the Red Sox signed former Angels and Rangers C/1B Mike Napoli to a 3 year, $39 million dollar deal that will make him a Red Sox thru 2015. So now the question becomes, is this a good deal for the Sox?
In my opinion, yes. The Red Sox should be focused on three things right now, 1. Doing what they can to make sure that they are competitive in 2013, 2. Not mortgaging anyone that could help them in 2014 and beyond in the process, and 3. Not hamstringing themselves with mega-deals that will still be effecting them at the end of this decade. This signing hits on all three.
Napoli is 31 years old and a 3 year deal basically covers the back end of his prime. He's also underrated by many who can't look past his batting average. Yes he hit .227 last year, and yes his .259 career average is nothing special. But it's important to look beyond that. He hits for a ton of power, especially for someone who spent much of his career at catcher, and he gets on base at a good clip. Both of those skills are more important than his batting average.
Napoli also has some versatility. He'll start at first base most of the time but he also will see time at catcher, the position where he's spent the majority of his 7 year career. In fact, Napoli caught current Sox starter John Lackey a lot in their time together in Los Angeles, and Lackey saw a ton of success with Napoli behind the dish, posting a 3.63 ERA in 61 starts. Maybe Napoli serves as Lackey's personal catcher and the Sox are able to salvage something (anything really) from Lackey over the next few seasons.
Finally, Napoli absolutely crushes the ball at Fenway Park. In 22 career games at the Fens (including post-season games), Napoli has hit .300 with 9 homeruns and 20 RBI. His career OPS at Fenway is the second highest of all time, behind Babe Ruth. Will he continue at such an absurd clip? No. But he clearly sees the ball well there and a right handed hitter with a ton of power will always have the advantage of the Monster sitting just 310 feet from home plate.
The best part of this contract is that it doesn't block any of the Sox top prospects, as they are completely barren at first base in the minor leagues. which means the team can still be aggressive at infusing youth into the line-up, they will just have a better team out there in the mean time.
After the worst off-season in team history last season, hopefully this deal marks the beginning of a much better winter for Sox fans.