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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
No word on delay in finalizing Napoli deal

By Gordon Edes

The morning after a Fox Sports report suggesting that Mike Napoli’s deal with the Red Sox may have hit a snag, perhaps over his physical, none of the parties involved have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Napoli last Monday came to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox, who have not officially announced the agreement since it was pending a physical. That was expected to be a formality.

Napoli originally told ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett that he planned to be in Boston last Wednesday to undergo his physical, but instead came in this week, and according to a team official was still being examined Tuesday. Other club officials had suggested the possibility of a press conference on Tuesday, but there was no announcement, and Tuesday night Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal raised the question of whether the deal was in jeopardy, hinting that the physical might be the reason.

The report could have easily been shot down by the Red Sox, Napoli’s agent Brian Grieper or Napoli himself. But neither general manager Ben Cherington nor media relations director Pam Kenn have responded to messages seeking clarification. The same is true of Grieper and Napoli.

All may have their reasons for not commenting, and a deal could be announced shortly. Or there may be an issue that raises doubts of whether the deal will be executed as presently constituted. One industry source said late Tuesday night that he was told there is a “problem” with the Napoli deal.

It’s possible that the agreement could be nullified or that the sides are negotiating language that would offer the Red Sox contractual protection in case a preexisting condition should impact Napoli’s ability to perform. The Sox included such language in deals with both outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher John Lackey.

The Red Sox did not announce Drew’s signing of a five-year, $70 million deal until 52 days after agent Scott Boras said an agreement had been reached on Dec. 7, 2006. During that time, the sides negotiated language that voided either one, or both, of the last two years of the contract if Drew’s problematic right shoulder caused him to miss a certain number of games.

Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal, but the Sox included language that triggered a sixth year for the major-league minimum if Lackey missed extended time because of elbow issues. Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2011 season and missed all of last year, triggering the clause. That changed the value of Lackey’s deal to six years for around $83 million, which favorably impacted the team’s payroll for luxury tax purposes.

Napoli, 31, has been on the disabled list five times in his career, which does not include the severely sprained left ankle he sustained in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Last season, he missed 36 games due to a strained left quadriceps muscle. In 2011, he missed 19 games with a strained left oblique muscle. In 2008, he went on the DL with shoulder inflammation and underwent surgery after the season. In 2007, he missed 51 games with a sprained left ankle and strained right hamstring, injuries that occurred within 10 days of each other.