While Ken Rosenthal has added that the club would still prefer to sign Napoli, it's becoming more and more clear that the Sox and Napoli do not see eye-to-eye on what was once a seemingly done deal at three years and $39 million. It's been more than three weeks now since we heard the two sides were in agreement.
The issue purportedly lies in Mike Napoli's hips, which have been a source of problems for the free agent recently. A negative report during Napoli's physical caused the Sox to think twice about giving him three years, and since then they've been trying to talk him down to two, or at least include some insurance against any hip-related injury in his deal.
It would be a shame to see the Red Sox miss out on their top target over something uncontrollable like the health of his hips, But if Adam LaRoche requires the same investment to sign--and it doesn't look like he's willing to sign for fewer than three years himself--then is Napoli really not a risk worth taking. LaRoche was good last year, no question. On the whole he's a solid player who shouldn't kill you at the plate or in the field.
Napoli, however, is on a whole different level in terms of upside. His worst offensive years aren't far off of LaRoche's best, and LaRoche has never even approached Napoli's best. Accounting for the hip, LaRoche might be the safer option, but as constructed the Red Sox are a team that needs to take risks on players who could come through with really big years. Add in the fact that LaRoche will cost a draft pick besides, and missing out on Napoli starts to look like a pretty tough pill to swallow