It was speculation before, but now there's confirmation that Napoli's hip is the issue
It's no secret that Mike Napoli's hip was a potential source of concern, and most-likely reason for the delay in making his three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox official. Jim Duquette reported when there was initially a delay that the Mariners backed off of Napoli because of concerns with his hip, and now Ken Rosenthal is confirming that it's indeed the hip that's the source of these issues.
What's maybe most-intriguing, though, is that the union sees Boston's concerns as justified, and therefore have no intention of intervening in this renegotiation process:
Some in the industry have speculated that the Red Sox experienced buyer's remorse after agreeing with Napoli and pounced on the issue with his physical as a way to negotiate more favorable terms. However, a source who has been in touch with the players' union said the union views the team as justified in its concern.
"The Red Sox cannot be faulted for their conduct here," the source said.
That's not the same thing as saying Napoli is a busted disappointment waiting to disappoint all over the place. The fact the negotiations haven't broken off entirely mean that whatever the problem is, it's not so bad that the Red Sox don't want Napoli. They just want, as they have done multiple times before, to protect themselves through reworked language in the contract, in case an issue with his hip does crop up over the life of the deal.
Sadly, for those hoping for more than the drip drip of winter news, there's no other new information in Rosenthal's report, though, just that confirmation. Everything else, we already know.
As owner John Henry no longer puts insurance policies in contracts, this is how things work for the Red Sox when it comes to injury risks. With J.D. Drew, they inserted an opt-out for the last two years of his deal in case his surgically repaired shoulder wasn't holding up by the mid-point of that contract. With John Lackey, his option became a $500,000 season should he have a re-occurrence of an elbow injury. For Jason Bay, who never signed in part because of medical language in his offer, it was his knee that was the source of concern.
It's unknown whether the Red Sox are attempting to shave a year off of the contract, or just allow themselves to get out from underneath the contract if his hip condition has deteriorated by a certain point. We'll have answers eventually, though, and since negotiations haven't broken off yet, there's little chance they will. Like Napoli, we'll just have to be patient with this one.