Big League Stew

Mike Napoli signs with Red Sox for $5 million — a $34 million discount

David Brown
Big League Stew

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On opening day of the winter meetings back in December, the Boston Red Sox and Mike Napoli tried making a splash by agreeing to a three-year, $39 million contract for him to play first base. But first word of the deal, tweeted by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, included what became a significant caveat:

pending a physical

The physical wasn't routine. Napoli apparently suffers from a chronic hip condition that has gone unreported over the course of his career. Napoli and the Red Sox still wanted each other, but there was no way Boston was going to be indebted for nearly $40 million.

After six weeks of negotiations, the parties agreed Thursday to a one-year, $5 million salary for Napoli that includes bonuses which could kick up the total to $13 million, about the average annual value of the original deal. Still, it's a loss of $34 million in guaranteed money. Not exactly hitting it big in free agency. And he must stay off the disabled list — as it relates to his hip condition — to get all of the money.

[Also: Ryan Braun alone isn't enough to overcome Brewers' rotation]

Rob Bradford of WEEI in Boston and Heyman were the first to have the details of the new deal, which still could turn out OK for the Red Sox. It's just ... a little ominous.

Napoli, who turned 31 in October, was coming of a .227/.343./.469 season with 24 homers in 417 plate appearances for the Texas Rangers. He also saw 4.41 pitches per plate appearance. He averages 33 homers for every 162 games played over his career, and has a career slugging percentage of .507. He should be a key part of the lineup.

Trying to rebound from a nightmarish 2012, the Red Sox have made some questionable moves this offseason: Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew and Joel Hanrahan aren't a collective bargain. And a lot Napoli's value came from teams being able to use him at catcher — which the Red Sox aren't planning on doing much, if at all. And now he's got this hip thing, which might be nothing. Or it might be something. After all, it's already cost him $34 million.

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