Mike Napoli was recently re-signed by the Boston Red Sox to a two-year, $32 million contract. This may be the biggest move that the Red Sox make this offseason, and it certainly was the best and most necessary.
Napoli made no bones about the fact that he wanted to come back to Boston. While Jacoby Ellsbury hopped on a plane and headed out of Boston the moment the parade ended, Napoli was seen strolling around the city for weeks afterwards, even showing up at a Boston Celtics game.
This was a player who fell in love with playing in Boston. For a team that had so many issues getting free agents to come to the Red Sox, it was very important to bring back a player who really wanted to play there. Now, more free agents might see Boston as an attractive choice to continue their careers and would be willing to buy into Boston’s contract model of a little more money, but fewer years.
Another reason why Boston needed Napoli back is the fact that he may be the most irreplaceable player in the lineup. There wasn’t a solid replacement for him if they let him walk. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts are ready to fill in for Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew if Drew doesn’t return, but Boston didn’t have this luxury at first base.
Napoli gives them a very solid defensive first baseman, their best right-handed power threat and protection for David Ortiz. These are all very important for the Red Sox heading into 2014 and something Boston couldn’t do without. There also weren’t many other first basemen of Napoli’s quality on the free agent market.
The Beard is back, and Boston is a much better ball club because of it.