Thursday, October 31, 2013
Spend Hal's Money: Mike Napoli
By Wallace Matthews
Itching to see Mike Napoli trim his Boston beard for an arrival in the Bronx?
We all know Hal Steinbrenner has set a goal of cutting the Yankees' payroll to $189 million for 2014. Your duty as a Yankees fan is to make sure he doesn't achieve that goal, and our job at ESPNNewYork.com is to provide you with reasons to make sure he doesn't. Hey, it's Hal's money, not yours. With that in mind, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a feature we call, appropriately, "Spend Hal's Money."
Today's Candidate: Mike Napoli Position: 1B/C
Age: Turns 32 on Thursday
2013 numbers: .259-23-92, .842 OPS in 139 games for the Boston Red Sox.
Expected going rate: Napoli played on a one-year deal in 2013 for a bargain-basement $5 million in guaranteed salary, but incentive bonuses based on playing time boosted his paycheck to $12 million. He had a pretty good ALCS to go along with a productive year, so he probably won't need any incentive clauses to make more than that next year.
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The pros: He's a right-handed power bat with the versatility to play first, catch or serve as a DH. He served as a potent addition to the Red Sox lineup, was fairly clutch all season -- he batted .458 with the bases loaded and hit three grand slams, one fewer than the entire Yankees team in 2013. He's an adequate fielder who hit well -- .333 with three HRs in 36 at-bats -- in limited DH duty. His 73 walks in 2013 would have led the Yankees and his .360 OBP would have been second only to Robinson Cano's .383, but he was hitting in a much deeper and more dangerous batting order.
The cons: Napoli's chronic hip condition keeps him from being a full-time catcher again, and the Yankees already have a better option at first in Mark Teixeira, who is signed through 2016. Napoli struck out an unacceptable 187 times last season. Also, his BABIP -- that's Batting Average on Balls in Play for you non SABR-geeks -- was an inordinately high .367 (the league average was .298), meaning either he was hitting the ball extraordinarily well, or in extraordinary good luck. And, oh yeah, he would have to shave.
The verdict: If Napoli could be persuaded to spend half the season behind the plate and the other half as a DH, he might well be worth a serious look. But the likelihood is low, as the avascular necrosis in his hips -- the same injury that ended Bo Jackson's career -- has ended his days as a catcher. In that case, there's no spot on the field for him. Certainly, he would make a better right-handed DH than Vernon Wells, but Wells is signed for another year. A reluctant pass.