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Red Sox reached out to free agent first baseman Mike Napoli

Could the Red Sox be preparing for a reunion with an old favorite?

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Red Sox have Hanley Ramirez penciled in at first base for 2016, but that could change. Ramirez is there in part because there is nowhere else to put him, and it would be hard to judge the Sox harshly for dealing him should an opportunity arise, given how poorly his 2015 went.

Some evidence they are still considering such a move might have just popped up at the winter meetings, too, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that Boston is one of a few teams who have recently contacted free agent Mike Napoli. The others are the Mariners, Indians, Rangers, "maybe" the Pirates, and the vague "others."

Napoli doesn't have a clear place on the 2016 roster as things stand, and he's not the Napoli he once was, either: his underperformance in the first half is part of what helped sink the Sox, resulting in his midseason trade to the Rangers in the first place. Napoli's second half was much more reminiscent of what he's capable of, though, as he hit .295/.396/.513 in 35 games with the Rangers, and maybe more accurately, .245/.347/.457 from May 22 onward.

About the only thing that makes him riskier than Ramirez is that he'll be 34 years old and showed signs of what his eventual collapse will look like early on in 2015. That being said, he's also a superior glove to Hanley, and we've already seen what the collapsed version of Ramirez looks like, too: it was just as bad as Napoli, and costs more, too.

Maybe the play here is to put Napoli into a timeshare at first base with Travis Shaw, who is left-handed and has performed well against right-handers for the most part in his career. Napoli, if nothing else, is always capable of mashing southpaws, and he's also a good fit late in games as a defensive sub at first place. If the Red Sox wanted to make Brock Holt their fifth outfielder, they would have the space on the 25-man to make it happen. If both Napoli and Shaw hit, and Pablo Sandoval does not, then Shaw could always move across the diamond as he did late in 2015.

Of course, Shaw remains unproven and barely tested, and has had some reverse-split action in his game for a while, too, including in his 2015 debut. Napoli could also completely collapse at some point in the near future, so the chances of first base being a hole in the lineup are maybe just as great with them as they would be with Hanley. Still, it's something to consider, if only because of the "maybe" thing. It all depends on how expensive removing Hanley Ramirez from the 2016 roster is, though.