Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox want Mike Napoli, but they are not alone in this
The Red Sox are reportedly in pursuit of free agent first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli, but they aren't alone in this chase. The Yankees, who might lose free agent backstop Russell Martin to one of the other catcher-starved teams out there, are inquiring about Napoli as well according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
I have good news and bad news for you. Let's start with the good news first.
The Red Sox have more money to work with than the Yankees, both this season and next. This is inherently good sans context, but with some background information thrown on top, it's even more positive for Boston. The Yankees are trying to limit spending for one of the next two years (most likely 2014, when the threshold climbs considerably) in order to get under the luxury tax and reset the penalties, an opportunity granted to them by the new collective bargaining agreement. If it comes down to who can afford to overpay Mike Napoli in order to get him to where he's needed, then the Red Sox have the upper hand. It's an odd place for them to be in, but on a short-term deal -- and Napoli will likely sign for three years or so -- it's not a bad strategy. It's the cost of doing free agency.
As for the bad news, the Yankees would sign Napoli with the intention of letting him be their primary backstop. If Napoli wants to catch as much as it's been reported he does, then this is a problem for the Red Sox, who likely would split his time between first and catcher at most, and are even more likely to just slot him in at first base all of the time, or at least against right-handers, which is close enough to the same thing. (Roughly 75 percent of all innings are thrown by right-handed pitchers.)
The good news (part two) is that Napoli reportedly just prefers catching, but really just wants to play baseball. So, maybe this supposed advantage New York would have isn't one at all. Even with that, maybe we should start hoping they re-sign Russell Martin, and fast, to put our minds at ease.