With other teams showing interest in Mike Napoli, the Boston Red Sox may turn away from their hopes of re-signing the first baseman if someone else offers him a three-year contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The Red Sox have been playing hardball with their free agents this offseason, showing only moderate interest in re-signing both Napoli and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The team is seemingly making it known that they will only re-sign these players if they meet the price (read: years) the Red Sox set, despite the team having a need at both positions.
Napoli and the Red Sox had agreed to a three-year deal worth $39 million last offseason. However, a physical showing avascular necrosis in his hip cancelled that deal. The two sides eventually came to a new agreement on a one-year contract worth $5 million. However, with incentives built into the contract, Napoli actually made $13 million in 2013 after reaching all possible bonus payouts for time on the active roster. The Red Sox are hoping to now receive the additional two years that they would have had, if not for the interruption caused by Napoli's hip.
However, Napoli is a popular target for teams needing a first baseman. He played in 139 games last year without causing further damage to his hip, and over that span, he hit .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs. Rosenthal mentions the Mariners in particular as targeting Napoli. Seattle has money to spend and a need for offense in their lineup. They have been tied to a number of free agents, including outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Nelson Cruz.
If the Red Sox allow Napoli to walk, they will need to find a new first baseman. The free agent market at the position is not strong this year, with Justin Morneau, Kendrys Morales and James Loney being the top options. Morales is the best hitter of the three, but his defensive skills have been questioned. The other two still play the position well, but have not fared as well at the plate. The Red Sox have also been rumored to be interested in Corey Hart, and the presence of Daniel Nava on their roster means they could always sign an outfielder and shift Nava to first.
Both Napoli and the Red Sox have shown an interest in working out a new deal this offseason, which would help Boston avoid any of the above. The terms of a contract will have to be right for both sides, however, and as of now, Boston isn't budging until they know more about Napoli's market.