I have no idea how this happened.
Just a few hours ago, the Boston Red Sox agreed to terms with first baseman Mike Napoli, bringing him back to Fenway on a two-year deal worth $32 million dollars.
I’ll be honest, I can’t even form a single, coherent argument right now. So here’s my gut reactions:
2.The Red Sox could put Jackie Bradley Jr. in center to replace Jacoby Ellsbury. They could put Xander Bogaerts in short to replace Stephen Drew. They somehow managed to snag AJ Pierzynski as a one-year bridge to Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, rather than giving in to Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s multi-year request. But Napoli? There was no replacement for Napoli.
There hasn’t been a blue-chip first base prospect in the Red Sox system since Lars Anderson (I think it’s fair to call him a bust) and Anthony Rizzo (whoops). The options besides Napoli were Nava/Carp, signing a reclamation project like Corey Hart, or trading for a middling player like Mark Trumbo. Just based on need alone, this signing gets an “A” from me. We know him, we love him, he’s back.
3. The Red Sox were looking like they were about to suffer a severe power outage next year, with Big Papi the only consistent home run threat. But Napoli comes back, bringing his 23 home runs and 92 RBI with him. Not only that, but the Bearded One was fantastic at first base, turning in a Gold Glove-worthy season. Or to put it this way, I remember a dozen home runs perfectly from last season. And while none of them may have been as huge as Nava’s “Boston This Is For You” or The Time Ron Washington Dared David Ortiz To Hit A Walkoff Homer And He Did, at least 8 of them belonged to Napoli. Put Napoli right behind Ortiz, and the Red Sox offense is still unstoppable.
4. Ben Cherington is some kind of wizard. I don’t understand it. Two years? Two years?? TWO YEARS????
I love Mike Napoli, I really do. But his injury concerns and his strikeout rate that screams regression made me worried about the Sox going for three years, let alone the four that was a definite possibility. But for two years, to prove that he can stay healthy and a dominant bat? That’s sensational.
It’s impossible that one of the other teams out there (Baltimore, Seattle, Texas) didn’t offer him three years. Which means that Ben Cherington is either a) the greatest negotiator ever b) a hypnotist or c) has some serious blackmail material on Napoli.
Or Mike Napoli loved Boston so much, that he was willing to sacrifice the extra year and the extra millions just to come back and defend his title. Which makes him all the more valuable to this team: as we learned, if you have a team full of high-character, competitive as hell players, dedicated to playing in one of the most stressful cities in sports, amazing things could happen.
5. The rest of the winter meetings are going to be very interesting for the Red Sox. With Napoli signed, the Red Sox don’t need to do anything to bolster their offense. At the most, they would deal one of their three left-fielders (my guess: Mike Carp. Dude’s young, lefty, and can hit for power), and focus on finding a landing spot for their extra starting pitcher.
But let me a paint you a picture. The Yankees let Robinson Cano walk, and picked up Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and (just announced) Carlos Beltran. Ben Cherington sees this. Ben Cherington is just as competitive as the players he picks out. Ben Cherington looks out west, and tells the Los Angeles Dodgers, “I know you guys are made of money, but it’s not smart economically to hold onto four outfielders you’re going to be giving major millions.” For the right group of prospects (none of the untouchables) and if the Dodgers chew some of his contract, Matt Kemp slides into the heart of the order…
But whatever. That’s just daydreaming. Let’s focus on what the Red Sox have right now. After seeing Jacoby Ellsbury sign with the enemy and watching as the Red Sox welcomed one of the most hated players in the major leagues, Boston fans needed a win. And this is absolutely a win.
For more Boston Red Sox news/analysis, you can just click up on my name (Alex Peters) or follow me at @isportsPeters on Twitter. Also, for a more in-depth look at the possibility of the Sox trading for Matt Kemp, take a look at my conversation with Dodgers writer Matt Moreno here.