According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Pittsburgh Pirates view Mike Napoli as the “perfect fit at first base”. However, Cafardo also notes that it is unlikely that the Pirates will be willing to pay enough to sign Napoli. The Bucs have very few needs this offseason, but first base is by far their biggest.
The Pirates had very little success at first base in 2013.The trio of Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez and Justin Morneau just didn’t get it done. The three of them hit for a combined triple-slash line of .243/.324/.402. Jones has recently been designated for assignment, Morneau is a free agent (it appears likely that he will sign with the Colorado Rockies), and Sanchez is going to be back in 2014.
Napoli, on the other hand, is very good offensively. He is a career .259/.357/.502 hitter with a 129 wRC+. His best season came in 2011 with the Texas Rangers, in which he hit .320/.414/.631 with a 179 wRC+. Last season with the Boston Red Sox, Napoli hit for a line of .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs. Along with being a good power-hitter, Napoli is also a walk-machine. In 2013, he walked in 12.6 percent of his plate appearances.
Napoli isn’t a perfect player — not even close. He strikes out a ton, especially in his previous two seasons. He struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances in 2012 and in 32.4 percent of his plate appearances in 2013. The fact that he walks and strikes out so much is a clear indication that he isn’t afraid to work deep into counts. Napoli has also had some injury concerns in recent seasons that could cause a suitor some legitimate concern.
While I disagree with the Pirates’ apparent idea that Napoli is the “perfect fit” to play first base in Pittsburgh, I do think he would be a significant upgrade over what they had in 2013. The Pirates have said they are willing to significantly increase their payroll heading in 2014, so it’s time to see how serious they are.