The Red Sox have agreed to a three-year deal with free agent Mike Napoli. (AP)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Typically, the winter meetings offer no more than the illusion of meaningful activity. On Monday, however, the Red Sox had their most significant move of the offseason to date, one that addressed their most challenging area of need.
When the Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers, they acknowledged that it would be difficult to identify a successor at first base. The free agent market promised to be extremely thin at that position (part of the motivation by the Dodgers to enact the blockbuster in the first place) and there were no obvious trade candidates for the position.
Still, the Red Sox had long had their eye on Mike Napoli given his robust history of offensive success at Fenway Park. His career .863 OPS — achieved largely while playing in an offense-suppressing environment in Anaheim — suggested that he had the combination of power and patience to provide a middle-of-the-order bat at first base. His appeal became even greater when the Rangers declined to make him a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer, thus meaning that unlike other potential free agent first basemen (Adam LaRoche, Nick Swisher), he wouldn’t cost a draft pick.
Thus was set in motion the Sox’ courtship of the 31-year-old, whom they landed on a three-year, $39 million deal on Monday.
Napoli continues an offseason in which the Sox have made considerable headway in restoring a meat-grinder of a lineup.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington discussed Napoli’s fit for the Red Sox, along with how things stand with regards to the idea of upgrading over Jose Iglesias at shortstop, finding lineup balance, sacrificing a draft pick to sign a free agent and more. For the breakdown of his take on the first day of the meetings, click here.
Seattle was believed to be one of the more aggressive competitors of the Sox for Napoli’s services. The Mariners GM said his team was unaware that Napoli was about to sign with Boston.
The Rays, meanwhile, signed former Sox first baseman James Loney.
RED SOX’ OUTFIELD PURSUIT
– Would the Red Sox make a run at Josh Hamilton? How many other teams are in the market for his services? Rob Bradford examines.
– The Sox seem comfortable taking a more deliberate approach to their need for a corner outfielder than they did at first base, given the relative wealth of options for the position. Nick Swisher and Shane Victorino appear to be the best fits among free agents, though there are other possibilities available via trade.
– Swisher might wait until after Josh Hamilton signs before defining his market.
– The Yankees are showing interest in Cody Ross.
– The Red Sox and Mets had “very preliminary” talks about knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, but sources suggested it’s very unlikely that the reigning NL Cy Young winner will join the Sox.
– Royals manager Ned Yost said that he can “absolutely” envision a scenario in which Kansas City traded a top prospect (or prospects) for a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Royals, of course, discussed the possibility of a trade that would send top prospect Wil Myers to the Red Sox for starter Jon Lester.
– The Sox are positioned very well to trade catchers, particularly once free agent A.J. Pierzynski signs.
– Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has a six-team no-trade provision that includes the Red Sox, but the shortstop would be comfortable with the idea of going to the Sox.
OTHER ODDS AND ENDS
– Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia dropped by the meetings and offered his take on new Red Sox — and former Blue Jays — manager John Farrell.
– Alex Rodriguez will miss a healthy chunk of the start of 2013, and the Yankees are now thrown into the market for a third baseman at a time when Derek Jeter (returning from a broken ankle) likewise carries some uncertainty.
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