Mike Napoli free agency: Red Sox negotiations at 'critical stage'

Elsa

If the Red Sox want to bring first baseman Mike Napoli back, they may need to act now.

The Red Sox hope to retain free-agent first baseman Mike Napoli, but with another offer on the table, talks between the two sides have reached a "critical stage," according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Rosenthal reports that Napoli wants the Red Sox to either match or exceed the other offer at this point.

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The 32-year-old free agent was an important addition to the World Series champions last offseason. Napoli hit .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs as the Red Sox everyday first baseman. After serving as a catcher for the majority of his career, the former-Ranger fell just one game short of his career high in games played with 139 and adopted to his position quickly. Defensively, Napoli earned high marks from advanced metrics like Total Zone (TZ) and Ultimate Zone Rating.

The Red Sox extended him a qualifying offer this offseason in hopes of bringing him back for 2014, but he rejected that offer to seek a multi-year deal. Boston had originally agreed to sign Napoli to a three-year contract last winter, but a hip condition discovered during the physical caused the team to scale the deal back to a one-year offer worth $13 million if he met all of the playing time incentives in the contract. Napoli earned the full amount and if Rosenthal's report is correct, it appears he has calmed some of the fears related to that condition with this 2013 performance.

There is no word at this point on which other team has made the offer to Napoli, but the Mariners and Orioles have expressed interest in him at points this winter. With the Marlins close to signing Garrett Jones, they appear to be out of the bidding and another first basemen will be off the market. That could accelerate these discussions.

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