Mike Napoli, a central figure in the Boston Red Sox's unlikely World Series title, will return to the Red Sox, sources said Friday night.
The furry, upper-cutting first baseman agreed to a two-year, $32-million contract after hitting 23 homers and driving in 92 runs in 2013, his first year in Boston. Napoli is believed to have chosen the Red Sox over a larger contract with the Texas Rangers, for whom he played the prior two seasons.
A year ago Napoli initially agreed to a three-year, $39 million free-agent contract with the Red Sox, which the club quickly voided over medical concerns. After being diagnosed with a degenerative hip condition, he signed on for one season and $13 million. He'll more than make that money back with this contract, which will put his three-year earnings in Boston at $45 million.
The Red Sox believed re-signing Napoli was critical to maintaining the organizational momentum regained last season. Over 139 games, Napoli became an above-average defender at first base, was second on the team to David Ortiz in OPS, and was fourth with a .360 on-base percentage.
His swaggering play and signature beard also earned Napoli a cult following in Boston, during a season in which the city fell in love with the Red Sox again. The club also hopes to re-sign shortstop Stephen Drew, a move that would allow it to keep 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts at third base.
WEEI.com was the first to report the signing.