In early December, it was reported that the Boston Red Sox and free agent Mike Napoli had agreed to a three-year deal worth roughly $39 million. However, talks have now stalled between Napoli and the Red Sox, leaving a window of opportunity for another team to move in and make an offer, possibly the New York Yankees.
Negotiations stalled once the Red Sox discovered an issue with one of Napoli's hips that could lead to future injuries, causing the franchise to grow cautious of handing the 31 year-old catcher/first baseman a multi-year deal. Instead, the Red Sox would like to shorten the contract to a one-year deal.
If Napoli is now willing to take a one-year deal, the Yankees could enter the bidding war. In a similar situation earlier this offseason, the Yankees made a strong one-year offer to infielder Kevin Youkilis, who eventually took the deal and joined the Yankees.
The Yankees are focused on offering one-year deals this offseason in order to lower the team's payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014. As a result, the Yankees lost last season's starting catcher Russell Martin after failing to match his three-year offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, leaving the Yankees with a group of unproven catchers as their only options behind the plate.
Signing Napoli would not only strengthen New York's lineup, but it would also weaken the division rival Red Sox, as the team has planned on Napoli being in the upcoming season's lineup since December and most of the other free agents of Napoli's caliber have already found new teams.
However, there is one issue with bringing Napoli to the Bronx. The Yankees are concerned with his ability to catch behind the plate and already have Mark Teixeira as a full-time first baseman, leaving Napoli as a designated hitter and possible fill-in at catcher or first base. Once Alex Rodriguez returns to third base, the Yankees will have Youkilis available as a back up first baseman and designated hitter, which could limit Napoli's role even further.
Of course, if the Yankees have enough spending room to offer Napoli a lucrative one-year deal, having too much depth is hardly an issue. With an aging roster full of veterans such as New York's, having proven players who are versatile enough to play multiple positions can be very valuable down the stretch of the season when trying to make the playoffs. A-Rod could have a setback in his rehab and miss more than the first half of the season, Teixeira could spend time on the disabled list, Youkilis has a history of injuries, and Napoli's 54 home runs hit over the past two seasons over far more than any of New York's other options at the catcher position.
Napoli and the Red Sox could still finalize their deal, but the two sides could continue to grow apart as well. The Yankees are known for making surprise moves late in the offseason and an unidentified team has shown interest in Napoli since talks with Boston hit a snag, so don't count the Bronx Bombers out of the running for the power-hitting All-Star just yet.
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