The Red Sox signed Mike Napoli at the start of the winter meetings, all the way back in early December. The transaction did not become official, though, thanks to a discovery in his physical, one that showed a problem in his hip. For well over a month, the precise reason why the contract was delayed -- and was in the process of being renegotiated -- was kept under wraps. Now, though, after Napoli's deal is officially official instead of just presumed to be done, his hip condition has been unveiled.
Napoli has avascular necrosis (also known as osteonecrosis) a condition that other notable athletes have also dealt with. In essence, blood is in short supply to a specific area of the body, and it causes bone tissue -- and eventually the bone -- to die. The end of two-sport star Bo Jackson's career was brought along more swiftly thanks to contracting the condition, while NFL quarterback Brett Favre managed to stick around so long that most of society wishes he had not. (In Favre's case, the condition was known about since before he joined the Packers all the way back in 1992.) The takeaway is that, while Napoli has been identified as suffering from avascular necrosis, it doesn't mean he's automatically going to feel the effects of it while in a Red Sox uniform. It could hit by spring training, it could pop up in the second year of a deal, or Napoli might feel its effects 10 years after retiring from a long and productive career.
Boston's desire to cut back on the length of the deal while they figure out how to keep Napoli in the best possible shape is understandable in that circumstance. It was unknown prior to the physical with the Red Sox that this condition existed -- the Rangers didn't unearth this information in their own physical of Napoli, so it's something completely new to deal with. Moving to first base full-time, one would think, should help the former catcher. In addition, Nick Cafardo reports that Napoli will also receive treatment from Dr. Joseph Lane, a bone disease specialist.
It's unknown where Napoli contracted avascular necrosis, as it can come about through multiple causes. All it takes is something as simple as a blood clot or inflammation to get the ball rolling, while more complicated problems like alcoholism or radiation therapy could also kick start the process. Even something like receiving cortisone shots could bring about the condition, a fact that likely means that if Napoli experiences hip pain, they will not be an option to combat it.
If Napoli is able to avoid a hip injury that lands him on the disabled list in his one-year, $5 million deal with the Red Sox, he will receive $13 million instead, and will also likely become a candidate for a qualifying offer for 2014.