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Free Agent Pass or Play: Mike Napoli

We are officially in CRUNCH TIME – about 38 hours until the start of Free Agency at 12:01 AM November 5. We at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will be able to sign with any team at that time. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed first baseman Mike Napoli. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.


Napoli joined the Red Sox in 2013 as sort of a “buy-low” free agent on a one-year deal, coming off an All-Star season with Texas, an honor likely bestowed upon him for his breakout 2011 season instead of what he actually accomplished in 2012. Napoli inked a one-year, $13 million deal with Boston to become their first baseman, posting a .259/.360/.482 line with 23 HR, a line pretty comparable to his career line (.259/.357/.502). The Sox got the player they should have been expecting and the season concluded with a World Series win. And if last night was any indication, Napoli will be drinking for free in Boston for the rest of his life.


Napoli, now 32, started 72 games as a catcher for the Texas Rangers in 2012 but was Boston’s full-time first baseman in 2013, starting 131 games. With an AAV of $25 million headed to first base already in Ryan Howard, it would be unlikely that the Phils would consider bringing in Napoli to play first. At age 32, it is very unlikely that he will ever be put behind the plate again, especially when as recently as 2011, his net output was good in spite of horrible defense behind the plate. There is almost zero chance the Phillies could bring in Napoli as a catcher. Sorry, folks.


FanGraphs’ awesome crowd sourcing project projects Napoli to receive a deal of around $13 million a year for about three years. This seems a little high. Yet, the Sox were rewarded with about $19.8 million in value for Napoli’s play in 2013 on a $13 million contract. I think a team will be able to net him for around $13 million a year for two years.


The Phillies could sign Napoli, but I truly doubt they would. Despite the crystal clear fact that Napoli is a better offensive and defensive first baseman than Howard at this point in their careers, the Phillies couldn’t possibly tie up about $38 million a year for at least two years at first base. As awesome as Napoli’s slash against lefties is (.276/.380/.528), the Phillies would be better not overpaying again for first base even if they had some idea that Howard could miss time in 2014.

Verdict: Pass, but…

Follow Napoli closely. Napoli signed relatively late into the free agent game last year (January 22) and I would bet that will happen again. Napoli is a valuable Major League player that has many holes that are covered up strikingly well by his offensive production. He will get over $10 million a year and may even get a second year. If he is still hanging around by January, looking for a deal, and the Phils think Howard won’t be in full health for 2014, keep his agent’s number around.


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