Red Sox News: Post Winter Meetings Update

Red Sox news

Boston signed the 31-year-old Napoli to a three-year deal, pending a physical

Though he was expected to be introduced at a press conference last Friday, Mike Napoli is still not an official member of the Boston Red Sox.

At the MLB Winter Meetings, it was announced that Boston signed the 31-year-old Napoli to a three-year, $39 million deal, pending a physical. According to media speculation, the contract could be on hold based on results from that physical.

Over the course of his seven-year Major League career, the catcher/first baseman has landed on the disabled list because of an assortment of injuries.

In 2007, he was sidelined for about two months with a high ankle sprain. A year later, the right-handed slugger was plagued with a shoulder ailment that forced him to miss a month and then undergo off-season surgery.

In 2011, he suffered an oblique strain and then last season he appeared in just 108 games and was limited to 417 plate appearances due to a quad injury.

The Red Sox, and Napoli and his agent, have not responded to media inquiries about the delay, but the team originally planned to introduce him on Friday until it was learned he was ill.

Napoli’s physical was slated to take place on Monday. It is believed that the Red Sox front office could be negotiating injury-related clauses regarding his contract.

Boston had an opt-out clause in J.D. Drew‘s deal, for example, based on games missed because of shoulder injuries.

Since John Lackey missed the 2012 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery, a clause incorporated into his contract gives the Red Sox an option to retain the right-hander at the Major League minimum salary in 2015.

Another Bat – Swisher?

Even if the Red Sox and Napoli finalize the deal, it is seemingly possible that general manager Ben Cherington could still pursue someone like Nick Swisher.

The Red Sox insist they will not trade Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason, though he will be eligible for free agency after next season.

The outfield appears to be set with Jonny Gomes, Ellsbury and Shane Victorino.

Since Napoli has topped 450 at-bats and 500 plate appearances just once in his career – and he is known for mashing left-handed pitching – Boston could add someone like the switch-hitting Swisher, who can proficiently play first base and the outfield.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino emphasized that the club would assemble a roster that featured “deep depth,” and adding Swisher would give Boston insurance in case Napoli missed a stretch of time with an injury.

Swisher could also play right field against right-handed pitchers while Victorino (who is also a switch-hitter) could be moved to left field since Gomes is a right-handed slugger who hits better against southpaws.

Starting Pitching

Cherington is also interested in signing a starting pitcher to accompany Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and Lackey.

The Red Sox plan to stretch out hard-throwing left-hander Franklin Morales in spring training, but he will likely serve as a long reliever who makes spot starts.

The club is reportedly in pursuit of free agent right-hander Ryan Dempster, who would provide a durable middle of the rotation caliber arm.

The 35-year-old Dempster logged a 5.09 ERA in 12 starts with the Texas Rangers after he was acquired last summer from the Chicago Cubs, but that ERA is deceptive since he allowed eight earned runs in two of his first three outings and settled down to pitch respectably.

Dempster reportedly turned down a two-year, $25 million offer from the Red Sox earlier this month.  He is said to want three or four years, but Boston is reluctant to offer that to a pitcher who will be 36 in early May.

If the Red Sox do not sign Dempster, they could turn their attention to New York Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey or Cleveland Indians’ right-hander Justin Masterson.

Or they could pursue a free agent option like Kyle Lohse or Edwin Jackson, the latter of whom would likely be open to a short-term commitment.

About the Author

Jeff Louderback
A former sports writer for a daily newspaper in Ohio, Jeff Louderback is a professional freelance writer, author and editor who lives in the midst of Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. He writes baseball features for several publications, including prospect profiles for Baseball America. He served as the founder, editor and columnist for Sox and Pinstripes, a blog that covered the Red Sox and Yankees; and BoSox Banter, a site that covered the Red Sox, the Red Sox farm system and baseball-themed travel. Jeff is also the co-author of the life story of former Major League pitcher Brian Tollberg, whose inspirational story saw him rise from the University of North Florida and the independent Frontier League’s Chillicothe Paints to a climb up the minors in the Brewers and Padres systems before tasting success in the majors with the Padres. The book will be released in 2016.