Sources: Mike Napoli, Red Sox closer

Updated: January 16, 2013, 11:15 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

It's too early to say with absolute certainty that Mike Napoli will be playing for the Boston Red Sox this season.

There are still some hurdles to be cleared before Napoli and the Red Sox consummate an agreement, and one of those hurdles may be another physical.

But all signs Wednesday pointed to a resolution that will place Napoli in a Red Sox uniform in 2013, more than six weeks after the free-agent catcher-first baseman agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston.

That deal was taken off the table when Napoli, in the judgment of the team's medical staff, failed his physical because of a hip condition that never had surfaced publicly in his seven previous years in the big leagues, the first five with the Los Angeles Angels and the past two with the Texas Rangers.

The sides are now working on a one-year contract, sources with knowledge of the discussions told ESPN.com's Jim Bowden, and there were indications that the deal will be for less than the $13 million average annual value of the original agreement.

Napoli's agent, Brian Grieper, who spoke by phone Wednesday night, would not discuss the specifics of the deal other than to state that the sides were still in negotiations.

"I think it's reasonable that Mike will come to a decision at some point next week," Grieper said.

Napoli was the first player targeted this offseason by the Red Sox, who reached an agreement with the slugger on the first day of baseball's winter meetings in Nashville.

Since then, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has added right-handed hitting outfielder Jonny Gomes, switch-hitting outfielder Shane Victorino, shortstop Stephen Drew, backup catcher David Ross, starting pitcher Ryan Dempster and reliever Koji Uehara.

But the overhaul of the roster of a team that lost 93 games in 2012 was missing a key piece in Napoli, who was expected to fill the void left at first base by the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers last August.

Napoli, who has only played a handful of games at first base, can't match Gonzalez's Gold Glove defense and is not a high-average, high on-base percentage hitter. But he was expected to provide a middle-of-the-order power bat from the right side.

The Red Sox viewed Napoli's swing as an ideal fit in Fenway Park, where he has slugged .710 with a 1.107 OPS, seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 19 games as a visiting player.

Boston was betting that Napoli would come closer to his career-best season of 2011, when he batted .320 with 30 home runs and a 1.046 OPS in his first year in Texas, than to 2012, when he dropped off to .227 with 24 home runs.

But those plans all were placed on hold after Boston's medical staff raised red flags because of a hip condition, one which neither the Red Sox nor agent Grieper have been willing to discuss to date.

Cherington maintained that the Red Sox still hoped to reach an agreement with Napoli, but acknowledged they were exploring other options. Those other options have gradually shrunk in number, as free agent Nick Swisher signed with Cleveland, free agent Adam LaRoche re-signed with Washington and free agent Lance Berkman signed with Texas.

On Wednesday, the Nationals traded another first baseman-outfielder Mike Morse, in whom the Red Sox had shown at least cursory interest, to Seattle.

Napoli, a free agent for the first time this winter, has never played for more than a one-year contract, his salary reaching a peak of $9.4 million in 2012. The three-year deal with the Red Sox would have nearly doubled his career earnings to date ($21.6 million).

Napoli will be eligible again for free agency after the 2013 season, assuming he signs a one-year deal with Boston, meaning he could still land a multiyear deal at some point.

The only first basemen on Boston's 40-man roster are David Ortiz, the team's 37-year-old designated hitter, and right handed-hitting Mauro Gomez, a minor-league journeyman who made his big-league debut with the Red Sox in his ninth season of pro ball.

Gomez posted a .746 OPS with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 37 games in 2012. The Red Sox also have invited former Cardinals farmhand Mark Hamilton to big-league camp.

Information from ESPN.com's Jim Bowden was used in this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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