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Red Sox lineup a whole lot deeper with Mike Napoli in the middle

Dec 3, 2012, 11:43 AM EDT

Mike Napoli Reuters

Mike Napoli to Boston has long seemed like destiny. That he’s been such a roaring success at Fenway is part of it: Napoli has hit .306/.397/.710 with seven homers in 62 lifetime at-bats in Boston.

The Red Sox initially tried to acquire Napoli in 2010, when the Angels weighed parting with him before the deadline. The Halos kept him then, only to send him to Toronto in the Vernon Wells deal after the season.

Napoli was moved quickly to Texas from there, and he hit 54 homers in his two seasons with the Rangers. Now a free agent for the first time, he’s struck a three-year, $39 million deal to play for the Red Sox. It was an easier price for Boston to pay since the Rangers didn’t make Napoli a $13.3 million qualifying offer, meaning there was no draft pick compensation attached to the signing.

Adding the 31-year-old Napoli presents the Red Sox with possibilities. They now have four catchers in Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. Napoli, though, wasn’t being viewed as a full-time option behind the plate by Boston or anyone else. He’s always struggled to stay healthy as a catcher, and some feel he might perform even better offensively if his time behind the plate is limited.

As things stand now, Napoli will see the vast majority of his time at first base. If Salty is traded, then perhaps Napoli will catch two or three times per week. If not, then Napoli may do most of his catching in NL parks when the Red Sox put David Ortiz at first base.

With Napoli in the fold, the Red Sox are currently looking at the following lineup:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Mike Napoli
LF Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava
3B Will Middlebrooks
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross
RF Ryan Kalish
SS Jose Iglesias/Pedro Ciriaco

It’s a given that they’ll add a starting outfielder, which would likely leave Gomes, Nava and Kalish to battle for time in one spot. They could also sign Stephen Drew for shortstop, but if they don’t get him, they’ll probably give Iglesias a shot rather than turn to an Alex Gonzalez-type free agent.

Napoli may not be the ideal cleanup man, given that he’s likely to hit closer to last year’s .227 mark than his .320 average from 2011. Still, his power numbers should be very impressive if playing first base allows him to get 500 at-bats for the first time. His career average puts him at 32 homers per 500 at-bats.

  1. uyf1950 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Food for thought Napoli’s numbers in Fenway are against Red Sox pitching. Now that he’s on the Red Sox he’s going to be hitting against the Rays pitchers and guy’s like CC and Pettitte. I just don’t think you can look at his numbers in Fenway prior to now and think they will automatically carry over. Just my opinion.

    • dwrek5 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      You did get me thinking. His OPS is over 1.000 against Lester, Bucholz, and Lackey. (less than 7 PA’s against everyone else)
      He is not near that against Rays and Yanks, but still a respectable .750 or higher against Shields, Price, CC, and Pettite.
      So yes, worth noting…

  2. proudlycanadian - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    It looks like a team built out of a lot of spare parts. Certainly, the Red Sox have won a World Series using a team built out of spare parts; however, I wonder why they are ignoring the rotation and the bull pen.

    • hammyofdoom - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      I dont think they’re ignoring the bullpen and rotation, but they’re seeing how things shape up. Do they really wanna go 90 mil on Anibal Sanchez? Do they want to risk on Greinke? No real major pitching piece has signed a deal yet, so I assume they’re doing a lot behind the scenes and making sure they dont bid against themselves

      • proudlycanadian - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        So they will fill out the pitching staff with leftovers.

      • hammyofdoom - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:33 PM

        If it means Grienke at absurd money for 6 years on Anibal Sanchez? Probably. After the absurdly stupid contracts the Red Sox JUST got out of, I highly doubt they’ll spend crazy money on long term pitching contracts on either of those two

      • hammyofdoom - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        DAMMIT “Grienke at absurd money OR 6 years on Anibal Sanchez”******

  3. Carl Hancock - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    This teams going to suck and I love it.

  4. bostonboy82 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Clearly the proud Canuck has nothing positive to say about the sox. Every sox article includes some form of negativity from you. The Napoli signing may not be YOUR best move but they sure are better today than they were yesterday because of it and for a decent price that doesnt set them back or lock them up for 4 or more years. Sure pitching isnt where it should be and the rotation is the sh!ts but its December and the winter meetings have just started. The Sox have more money to play with and have ample trade bait and flexibility than they ever have. This is a start for a team in need of change, so assuming your a “jays fan” since that’s your only team up there, and you think Reyes and company are the saviors of the north, think again, they’ll all coming from one losing team to another. So sit tight, put another one in your pipe and watch as the Sox come back from the dead, then comment. Merry Xmas eh!

    • proudlycanadian - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      Merry Christmas to you and all Red Sox fans. 2013 should be better than 2012. I expect that the Red Sox will win more games next year than they won last season.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:45 PM

        sounds like someone is backing down now, very typcial of you and your little crew (all 5 known bluejay fans known to exist) on here

    • dirtyharry1971 - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      Well said bostonboy, i dont even like baston but i totally agree with you on your views of the proud dork and the moves the jays made so far this off season. Its not going to change a thing for them

  5. uyf1950 - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Guys I have to say until the Red Sox address their starting rotation deficiencies and their closer situation even with Swisher if they sign him and the recently signed Napoli they will struggle to win 80 games in my opinion.
    Keeping in mind Napoli is replacing Gonzalez in the line up. That advantage was/is clearly Gonzalez’s and Swisher if they sign him will be replacing Cody Ross that’s pretty much a wash, in my opinion. So the Red Sox really haven’t gained anything or certainly haven’t made a significant improvement offensively over where they started last season.

  6. Alex K - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    I don’t think there is any useful information that can be drawn from 62 at bats. That is a tiny little sample size.

  7. soxfan1966 - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    This is certainly not a bad signing. Maybe not as good as adding LaRoche (equivalent numbers, better defense), but hardly an abatross like Reyes will be for Toronto within a couple of seasons.

    This move should allow Boston some lineup flexibility; they can shift Napoli to sit behind the plate during interleague games and keep Ortiz in the lineup at first (Ortiz is not a total loss at first for a few games here and there). Also, Napoli will probably be slotted into the DH spot for the final year of that contract after Ortiz is gone.

    Boston’s lineup just got a whole lot better than it was late last season. If they can add Swisher then there’s no way they can be accurately considered a lock for last place.

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