Thursday, January 17, 2013

Final thoughts on the Napoli saga

The conclusion of The Mike Napoli Contract Saga leaves a plethora of compelling story lines for any narrative that suits your fancy. 

If you think it's prudent to get players on the cheap, then Ben Cherington might look like a genius to you right now.  If you think the Red Sox didn't go for the best player, then dicking around with Napoli negotiations for almost seven weeks while all other options on the market dwindled away might cause you to scream.  

If you like Napoli's power numbers at Fenway and against left handed pitchers, then you'll love to see him slotted for cleanup behind Ortiz.  If you're looking for a more durable option to play first base, then contract negotiations centered around Napoli's hip is unsettling (to say the least).  

Since Napoli wasn't given a qualifying offer by the Texas Rangers, you might think that team's front office are either a bunch of idiots for not placing themselves in line to get a compensation draft pick from the Red Sox, or pretty smart for not taking the risk of Napoli accepting the qualifying offer.  And if you want the Red Sox to keep all of their draft picks, then signing Napoli looks like a shrewd move. 

No matter.  Like it or not, we're all stuck with Napoli for a season now.  You'll cheer for him, I'll cheer for him, and we all hope that we won't need to cringe. 

I'll credit the Red Sox Medical Staff for finally halting a potentially horrible contract.  After shuffling Carl Crawford onto the team right before he became a walking injury, and seeing all of the injuries suffered by Sox players last season, it reminded me that this organization is a long time removed from the 2004.  One reason why the 2004 Red Sox were so strong is because not one starting pitcher missed a start because of a trip to the DL.  Between that and fixing Schilling's ankle on the fly so he could pitch in the ALCS and World Series, you had to wonder if the Sox doctors were blessed by the patron saint of fucking awesome.  I'm not sure what happened to the docs since 2004 and 2012, but hopefully their examination of Napoli -- and how it saved the Sox from potentially losing tens of millions of dollars by investing in him -- signals an about face for this troubled unit of the organization. 

Anyways, everyone who's followed my tweets and this blog knows the narrative I've used for Mike Napoli, and it hasn't been the most positive one.  I'm just going to toss out a few more thoughts on the topic before moving onto bigger, better, more interesting things. 
  • Despite not giving Napoli a qualifying offer, Texas still gave Napoli a free agent contract offer that he turned down to sign with the Red Sox.  That contract as for more guaranteed money, too, but the Sox had a position for Napoli to fill whereas Texas was committed to a first baseman and catcher.  However, before Napoli signed with the Sox, Texas still had an opening at DH -- but they signed Lance Berkman to fill that for $10 million a year.  This is an interesting move, because Berkman is in his late 30's and, in 2012, he had a season that makes old players seem like they're finished: Berkman was on the DL four times before the end of the regular season, and he was too banged up to play postseason games for St. Louis.  Now, a qualifying offer to Napoli would have cost the Rangers $13.3 million for a season.  So, instead of signing Napoli for $13.3 million, they signed a banged up 36 year old journeyman who was on the DL last year for $3.3 million less.  If Texas wasn't willing to pay just $3.3 million more to make Napoli a qualifying offer -- and even setting themselves up to get a draft pick if he signed elsewhere -- then just how much of an injury risk is Napoli? 
  • Seattle made a trade with the Nationals for Michael Morse.  Looking at the cheap price tag for Napoli, the Mariners decided that it was a safer bet to trade away a couple of pitching prospects for a first baseman they only control for a year instead of signing Napoli for, say, $7 million a year with incentives. 
  • For anyone keeping count, the number burned prospects/draft picks for not signing Napoli stands at three, between two franchises. 
  • Let's not forget that ridiculous contract money flew around baseball this offseason.  Youk, Brandon League, Shane Victorino and others all had crazy paydays.  Teams are using the new revenues they are receiving from upgraded television deals, everyone in baseball is richer, and it even looked like Mike Napoli was about to cash in -- but he only walked away with a guaranteed $5 million.  Everyone else thought Napoli was too risky.  That makes a statement, and not a good statement. 
  • If anyone is wondering what happens to a hitter's power when his hips are injured, see these pretty before and after GIFs of A-Rod.  

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