According to WEEI's Rob Bradford, the Red Sox and (still) free agent Mike Napoli have agreed to a contract. Again. This time, though, it's expected that it will actually result in an official deal. The difference is that, rather than add in language about Napoli's hip, which after his physical, scuttled the original three-year, $39 million offer, he will instead play on a one-year contract for 2013.
Boston will give Napoli just $5 million in guaranteed money for 2013, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. There are also incentives: Alex Speier reports they can bring the deal to its original $13 million value, assuming he doesn't spend time on the disabled list for his hip. Basically, this is the Red Sox asking Napoli to prove he's healthy, at a low-risk cost to them. If they have to pay $13 million in the end, it also means they had a full, healthy season of Napoli. At least, in regards to his hip -- the rest is just your normal injury risk for any player.
Now, this doesn't mean the Red Sox only have him for one season. If he proves healthy, Boston could easily submit a qualifying offer to Napoli next year in order to limit his market and get a shot at renegotiating with him, or, at worst, they would get a compensatory draft pick out of it should he go elsewhere. The qualifying offer threshold will be over this off-season's $13.3 million, as it's based on the average of the top 125 contracts in the game, but a one-year overpay for Napoli is worth the risk, especially when the, in the end, it will likely align with what the Red Sox planned to pay over the course of 2013 and 2014, anyway.
If he isn't healthy, and doesn't produce, well, at least they were, in a way, protected from having him on the roster for three years, as was their intention that held up this deal in the first place.
Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston was reporting on Wednesday night that the two sides were working on a one-year deal for a lesser average annual value.
The trade of Michael Morse to the Mariners likely sped up the process for both sides, as Napoli had one fewer hypothetical landing spot, and the Red Sox were without a player they had inquired on. Given the price for Morse, though -- it would have cost Boston one of their trio of top pitching prospects, given what the Mariners paid to acquire him -- settling on a one-year deal for Napoli instead is preferable. In fact, the Sox never got that far in talks with the Nationals, according to Scott Lauber, likely for this reason. Luckily for them, too, Napoli reportedly chose Boston over a return to the Texas Rangers when given the chance.
Besides price, expectations for how Napoli will do in Fenway Park are reason enough to prefer him to Morse. Napoli has hit incredibly well in limited time in Boston, but more importantly, his swing and approach profile to be monstrous in that venue. While he's not going to slug .710 over a full season like he has in his 73 plate appearances in town, there's a very good chance Napoli has an excellent season. Now, too, the Red Sox get to enjoy that without having to worry about if Napoli's production will fall off as he leaves his early-30s and enters his mid-30s, as so many players of his type have before.