Mike Napoli will go into 2013 as the first baseman for the Boston Red Sox, provided that he’s healthy enough to play.
That, however, will be easier said than done, given the revelation of Napoli’s degenerative hip problem. After all, this is a player who saw a three-year, $39 million dollar deal swept from under his feet, and replaced by a one-year $5 make-good contract as a result of his health.
Still, given his abilities, Napoli was a risk that the Red Sox wanted to take, and could wind up being a bargain player for the team even if he hits all of those incentives that will boost his pay to $12 million next season. The problem with this risky venture, though, was that the team had no one to cover Napoli should the hip come into play.
With the signing of Lyle Overbay to a minor league deal today, the Red Sox have rectified that situation.
Although the decline in Overbay’s patience at the plate (three-year decline in BB/K to a career-low 0.38 in 2012) means that the veteran first baseman is no longer suited for full-time duty, he still handles the glove well enough to hold the position as a backup. That’s the role that he took last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves, and it resulted in a relatively useful .727 OPS over 131 PA while primarily hitting against right handers.
Overbay won’t threaten to take Napoli’s job next season, but he will give the team a left-handed bat coming off the bench against RHP, and will be able to occasionally spell Napoli at first should his hips flare up. That will also allow the team to potentially mix things up at DH from time to time, giving David Ortiz and his Achilles some time off if necessary.
With a pair of injury risks with a potential for 60 home runs next season between Napoli and Ortiz, the team is going to be very cautious about how they’re used. If you really wanted to, I suppose what Lyle Overbay represents is a plan B, even if the Red Sox really don’t want things to end up there.
Overbay is by no means the answer should one of them go down, but the first baseman, who also has AL East experience with the Toronto Blue Jays, will be looked upon to facilitate the team’s plan to make sure both Napoli and Ortiz are healthy and not overworked in 2013