Tag: Mike Napoli

2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Top Available Players

The timing couldn’t be much worse for an aging slugger in MLB free agency.

Mike Napoli (35) and Mark Trumbo (30) are both coming off productive seasons, but they’ve yet to find new homes. Although Jose Bautista (36) had an underwhelming campaign, he still boasts an impressive track record. Despite that, he hasn’t signed with a team, either.

The wait may be worth it. Justin Upton didn’t agree to terms with the Detroit Tigers until January last offseason yet still commanded nearly $133 million over six years, per Spotrac.

Napoli’s, Trumbo’s and Bautista’s signings may not be imminent, but the rumors below illustrate that their failures to get new deals aren’t the result of a lack of interest.


Mike Napoli

Napoli registered career highs in home runs (34) and RBI (101) in 2016, but that hasn’t helped him in free agency, given that he remains without a team.

On Dec. 6, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported Napoli’s agent is holding out for a multiyear contract. Bastian added the Cleveland Indians were holding firm on a one-year offer.

In an interview on MLB Network Radio last Sunday, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said contract discussions were ongoing: “We continue the dialogue with him, as we do with other 1B/DH options. Confident we start next year with a better roster.”

Napoli added a lot of power to the middle of Cleveland’s lineup, and “Party at Napoli’s” became a rallying cry for the team as it won its first pennant since 1997.

With that said, the Indians are smart to be cautious about signing Napoli for too long. He turned 35 in October, so it’s risky to expect he can repeat last season’s success at the plate. 

A small-market team like Cleveland can’t afford to make a mistake on a lucrative contract for an older veteran. The Indians learned that lesson the hard way after signing Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in 2013.

Napoli has found a comfort zone in Cleveland. He would not only have an assured place in the lineup, but he would also have the opportunity to compete for another World Series so long as the key players stay healthy.

Napoli and the Indians should meet halfway and agree to a two-year deal with an option for the second year. Napoli would get his multiyear contract, and Cleveland would have a little more protection should his performance regress.

Prediction: Napoli signs with the Indians.


Jose Bautista

Bautista picked the wrong time to have his worst year offensively since his career renaissance began in 2010.

The 36-year-old had a .234/.366/.452 slash line to go along with 22 home runs and 69 RBI. According to FanGraphs, his strikeout rate climbed to 19.9 percent, up from 15.9 percent the year before.

Like Napoli, Bautista was largely anonymous in the playoffs. He went 6-for-33 in the postseason with two home runs, five RBI and 12 strikeouts.

In addition to his lackluster offensive production, MLB.com’s Daren Willman showed that defense is becoming a growing concern for Bautista:

On Dec. 6, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Bautista met with the Toronto Blue Jays, indicating the two parties may be open to a reunion.

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported that Joey Bats’ available options are dwindling. Morosi spoke to sources who said that the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants have pulled out of the running and that the Los Angeles Dodgers may prefer a trade rather than free agency to bolster their outfield.

Bautista is a fan favorite in Toronto, and relying on Ezequiel Carrera as their everyday right fielder isn’t an optimal plan for the Blue Jays. Re-signing Bautista wouldn’t just be a sentimental move; it would also address what looks to be an issue in the lineup.

Prediction: Bautista signs with the Blue Jays.


Mark Trumbo

Heyman reported on Dec. 7 that Trumbo is looking to get $80 million in free agency and that the price tag hasn’t scared off teams that are interested in signing the 30-year-old.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold reported that signing Dexter Fowler wouldn’t preclude the St. Louis Cardinals from going after Trumbo. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted the Colorado Rockies would be in the mix as well, even after making a splashy free-agent addition:

MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko didn’t provide specific figures but reported on Sunday that the Baltimore Orioles “are believed to have the best offer on the table.”

Age is somewhat of an advantage for Trumbo in this year’s free-agent market. At 30, he’s nearing the end of his prime playing years, but he’s still younger than Napoli, Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion (33).

It’s fair to question whether Trumbo can repeat his 47 home runs and 108 RBI, but outside of his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has been a solid power hitter. Over seven years, he has averaged 34 homers, 99 RBI and a .473 slugging percentage per 162 games, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The Rockies would be a good fit for Trumbo.

The Ian Desmond signing was a statement of intent by the franchise. Adding Trumbo to a lineup that already includes Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado would give Colorado an imposing offense.

As Rosenthal argued, getting Trumbo would provide the Rockies with enough flexibility to deal Carlos Gonzalez for present or future assets.

Trumbo would likely have a better chance to contend in Baltimore, but the Rockies should be a strong suitor for his services if that isn’t a decisive factor in his decision.

Prediction: Trumbo signs with the Rockies.

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Mike Napoli: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation on Free-Agent 1B

First baseman Mike Napoli is among the best power hitters available in free agency, and he already has a reported suitor.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Napoli’s Free-Agent Interest

Tuesday, Nov. 8 

According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Seattle Mariners are showing interest in the 35-year-old veteran.

Napoli enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his 11-year career in 2016, as he hit .239 with a personal-best 34 home runs, 101 RBI and 92 runs scored in the heart of the Cleveland Indians’ batting order.

He also had one homer and three RBI during the Tribe’s surprising run to the World Series.

The Indians declined to give Napoli a qualifying offer Monday, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, but Tom Withers of the Associated Press reported last Friday they have interest in potentially re-signing him.

Napoli is a versatile player who was used exclusively at first base and as a designated hitter last season, but he has previous experience in the outfield and at catcher.

He also has 66 career postseason games to his credit and won a championship with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

The Mariners ranked third in Major League Baseball in home runs last season and sixth in runs scored due largely to the play of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano’s uptick in power, and the arrival of Napoli would make Seattle an even bigger power threat.

The lefty-hitting Dan Vogelbach is the Mariners’ current first baseman, and he tore up minor league pitching, so adding a righty such as Napoli could make for a dangerous platoon.

This contract may be the last significant deal for Napoli since his age suggests he is reaching the twilight of his career, but he proved in 2016 he is still capable of anchoring a lineup.


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Mike Napoli to Indians: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

After revitalizing his career with the Texas Rangers at the end of 2015, Mike Napoli will be suiting up for the Cleveland Indians next season.  

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports broke the news of Napoli’s agreement with the Indians, adding that the veteran slugger is expected to be the team’s everyday first baseman. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Napoli’s deal with Cleveland is for $7 million guaranteed with up to $3 million more in incentives. 

At the start of last season, Napoli’s career looked like it was nearing the finish line. The 34-year-old hit just .207/.307/.386 in 98 games as a member of the Boston Red Sox but would quickly turn things around after an August trade to Texas. He hit .295/.396/.513 in 35 games to help the Rangers make the postseason.

One thing Texas was able to take advantage of was Napoli’s platoon splits, which general manager Jon Daniels noted after the team brought him back, via T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com:

Napoli is a guy who has always hit left-handers. He has been very productive against them this season. That’s something we have struggled with. He is a guy who we know will fit our culture with his makeup. There will be a minimum transition period. He gives us presence and power against left-handers. It made sense for us.

Though he raked lefties, Napoli hit a paltry .191/.283/.320 in 256 at-bats against right-handed pitching last year, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He’ll need to improve those numbers substantially to be quality everyday player. 

Even with the limitations to Napoli’s game at this stage of his career, he’s still doing a lot of the things that made him a feared hitter in his prime. The former All-Star walked in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances and hit 18 home runs in 469 at-bats, according to FanGraphs. 

Right-handed power is something the Indians desperately needed to add this offseason. Yan Gomes led the team’s right-handed hitters with 12 home runs last year, while switch-hitter Carlos Santana had just four of his 19 homers from the right side. 

Santana has been Cleveland’s primary first baseman the last two years, but he’s not a good defender at the position, with minus-eight defensive runs saved since 2014, according to FanGraphs. Meanwhile, Napoli is a career plus-20 in defensive runs saved at first base. 

There’s no surprise to Napoli’s game—he’s going to see a lot of pitches, strike out a lot and provide some power—but as long as he continues to produce at a rate closer to what he did with Texas than with Boston last season, this will be a successful deal for Cleveland. 

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Mike Napoli Trade Adds Another Familiar Face to Rangers’ Playoff Push

Evidently, the Texas Rangers feel the key to getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2012 is to reunite with as many members of that team as possible.

And given the names they’re reuniting with, that’s actually not a bad idea.

The first player from 2012 the Rangers renewed acquaintances with was left fielder Josh Hamilton, whom the club acquired in a late-April trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Now it’s first baseman Mike Napoli‘s turn, as MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reported Friday, the Rangers have acquired him from the Boston Red Sox:

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Texas isn’t taking on the remainder of Napoli’s $16 million salary. The Rangers are paying just $1.5 million—a bargain price.

Granted, one look at what Napoli—who spent 2011 and 2012 in Texashas done this season won’t convince you that this “bargain” has any actual value. After averaging an .868 OPS and 24 home runs a year between 2011 and 2014, Napoli has just a .693 OPS with 13 homers this season.

In other news, Napoli is also another first-baseman/designated-hitter type. In Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder, the Rangers already have two of those. Why oh why would they go after a third?

Short answer: Because this one is hot and because he can help push the Rangers toward October by fixing one of the only weaknesses their offense has.

Napoli has spent most of 2015 in a bad cold spell, sure, but the Rangers are picking him up at the right time.

The 33-year-old slugger has looked much more like himself since the All-Star break, hitting .281, with a .931 OPS over his 17 games. Not so coincidentally, FanGraphs can vouch that he’s been hitting the ball with a lot more authority. His hard-contact percentage has jumped from 26.7 before the break to 40.0 since.

But the real reason the Rangers wanted to acquire Napoli’s bat? The guy who made the trade didn’t keep any secrets when speaking about that.

“Napoli is a guy who has always hit left-handers,” said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, via Sullivan. “He has been very productive against them this season. That’s something we have struggled with. … There will be a minimum transition period. He gives us presence and power against left-handers. It made sense for us.”

Daniels isn’t kidding. The Rangers have indeed struggled to hit left-handed pitching. Heading into Friday’s action, the bottom 10 in MLB in OPS against lefties looked like this:

The Rangers aren’t all the way down there, but they’re down there. Such is life when you have the kind of lineup they have.

The team really doesn’t have an impact right-handed bat outside of Adrian Beltre and tends to skew left-handed with Moreland, Fielder, Hamilton and Shin-Soo Choo playing every game. This isn’t an issue most days, but it’s obviously an issue when a southpaw is toeing the rubber.

This brings us to another thing Daniels is right about: Napoli can definitely hit left-handers.

This has been true even in what’s been a down year. Napoli’s .845 OPS against lefties this year is below his career average of .904 against southpaws, but FanGraphs can show that what he’s doing this season makes it nine out of 10 years that he’s been an above-average hitter against lefties.

If nothing else, that gives the Rangers just the guy they’ve needed to platoon with Moreland at first base. And with that taken care of…well, there really aren’t many complaints left to make about the Rangers offense.

It’s been a strong unit all season, ranking sixth in the AL in OPS and fifth in the AL in runs scored. It’s also been the driving force in the Rangers’ 11-4 showing in 15 games heading into Friday, which has pushed them to 54-53 and three games back in the AL wild-card race. In this stretch, the Rangers have been averaging a touch over six runs per game.

Even before the team acquired Napoli, the projections were expecting the Rangers offense to keep up the good work. FanGraphs was projecting the unit to score 4.42 runs per game the rest of the way, good for MLB’s sixth-highest mark. Now that it has Napoli to help it handle left-handers, that number will rightfully be going up a little bit.

Mind you, this shouldn’t be taken as a guarantee that the Rangers have a return to October in their immediate future.

As strong as its offense looks, it’s still hard to know what to make of Texas’ arms. Cole Hamels was a fine addition at the deadline, but he’s part of a pitching staff that ranks dead last in the majors with a 5.74 ERA over the last 30 days of play. If the Rangers are going to keep their playoff push moving for the season’s final two months, their pitchers need to do better.

If they can, however, then there’s no reason Texas can’t nab a wild-card berth or even spring a sneak attack on the AL West title. Maybe its pitching won’t be great down the stretch, but it only needs to be good enough to ensure the club makes the most of what now looks like an elite offense.

The Rangers riding an elite offense to a postseason berth? Oddly enough, I believe the last time we heard that one was somewhere in the year 2012.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli Says Umpire Ejected Him for Not Picking Up His Bat

Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli hasn’t had much luck at the plate this season, so he certainly didn’t need an umpire to make matters worse.

Unfortunately for him, home plate ump Tripp Gibson decided to eject Napoli on Sunday for one of the most bizarre reasons ever.

In the top of the second inning against the host Tampa Bay Rays, Napoli took a 3-2 breaking ball from right-hander Chris Archer. It was a pitch that could have gone either way, but Gibson called it a strike and rang up Napoli.

Not pleased with the call, the first baseman dropped his bat and aired his displeasure to the ump. The conversation didn’t last long or appear to get overly heated, but as he walked away, Napoli found himself tossed from the game.

Why? The 33-year-old didn’t pick up his bat.

Here’s what Napoli said about the ejection after the contest, per ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes:

He told me I forgot my bat. I stopped a little bit, and (then) he told me to come back and pick up the bat. I pointed at the bat boy, who picks up our bats, and he tossed me. So then, when he tossed me, I told him how I felt.

I was walking away, I was going back to the dugout, and he was telling me to come back and pick up my bat when it was over. It’s kind of embarrassing (for Gibson). I don’t know how you can throw someone out for that. I’m not trying to get thrown out in the second inning. We have a short bench.

It’s not unusual for a player to leave his equipment in the batter’s box after a strikeout and let the bat boy come out and get everything. However, that usually only happens when the strikeout ends an inning.

Gibson may have been on edge after Napoli made it known that he didn’t agree with the call. When the player didn’t listen to him, the umpire decided enough was enough.

This appears to be just another case of an ump with a short fuse. The bat was going to be picked up by somebody, but because Napoli—who perhaps forgot about it after arguing the call—refused to do so, Gibson used his power to punish the player. 

Boston was able to overcome the ejection and win the series’ rubber game, 5-3.

[h/t Deadspin]

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How a Gruesome Surgery Saved Mike Napoli’s MLB Career

FORT MYERS, Florida — Nights were the worst. You think of a major league baseball player, you think of a dreamy life with plush hotels.

There were no dreams for Mike Napoli. Only fear. In the middle of the night. Alone. When he would jolt awake, several times each evening, because he could not breathe.

“I was always scared to go to sleep,” Napoli, the Boston Red Sox first baseman, says on a bright spring day here. “I used to leave the latch on the door in the hotel open. Just so they could get in my room.”

They, meaning paramedics and emergency personnel.

“I was like, am I going to wake up?” Napoli says.

That a man whose name includes the word “nap” has been dangerously sleep-deprived for years is more than a little ironic. But it is not funny. Not even close.

Napoli, 33, was one of millions of Americans suffering from sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition, and his disorder was so severe that he says he probably would have retired following the 2014 season had it not been for the bimaxillary advancement surgery he underwent Nov. 4.

The surgery sounds excruciating, like something from the Middle Ages: Doctors broke his lower jaw. Broke his upper jaw. Broke his chin. Realigned his jaws, moving, as Napoli says, “everything forward to the max.”

The procedure took eight hours. He was in the intensive-care unit for two-and-a-half days. He was on an all-liquid diet for six weeks. He still has plates and screws inside his skull.

Oh, and an incredibly new lease on life.

“It’s night and day,” Napoli says while sitting on a table on the patio outside the Red Sox clubhouse, another wide-open Florida afternoon ahead of him. “Just me waking up and getting my day started. I actually come here and get my workout in in the morning. I actually want to work out. Where before, I’d get here and I’d be so tired I’d get through a couple of sets and not feel like doing any more.

“I would just try and figure out how I was going to get through my day. The surgery was a brutal process.

“But if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it.”

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, between 50 and 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, with at least 25 million (one in five adults) suffering from sleep apnea.

More than 10 million Americans use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines at night, according to the ASAA, a number that is growing at an annual rate of 8 percent.

Napoli, the Angels‘ 17th-round pick in 2000, has struggled with sleep for his entire professional career, and it’s been especially bad during the past eight or nine years.

“When I was younger, I think I got away with it just because when you’re younger, you can regroup and get through a day better,” Napoli says. “The older I got, our schedules are so brutal, just the travel and playing every day.

“It got to the point where I don’t know if I could have done it anymore.”

He became acutely aware of his problem during the playoffs in 2007, when he was with the Angels, and his mother stayed with him in his hotel room for games in Boston.

Alarmed by his sleeping patterns—he would actually stop breathing many times each evening—she told him he needed to get checked. The results of a sleep study performed on him that offseason were predictable.

“I tried the CPAP when I was younger, but I was, like, ‘I can’t do this. This is out of control,'” he says. “Wearing a machine blowing air down my throat while I’m trying to sleep.

“I tried it every night but would get frustrated and take it off.”

By the time he signed with the Red Sox in 2013, he was reaching desperation. He tried the CPAP machine again but just couldn’t do it. A contraption over his face at night. Ugh. He tried a mouthpiece. A device that sucked his tongue to the roof of his mouth so that it wouldn’t fall back into his throat and block his breathing passage. Medication.

“I was fighting a double-edged sword,” he says. “I was tired from the meds, and I wasn’t getting sleep.

“It was just crazy.”

The sleep study discovered he woke up 40 to 100 times a night. Finally, the surgery in Boston in November was a last resort. Not only was he a few more sleepless nights away from giving up on his career, this was a man who in the middle of many of those nights felt as though he literally was fighting for his life.

He was on pain medication for a good 10 days after the surgery. Mostly, he was able to stay ahead of the pain but occasionally he just lay there in agony.

“It was one of the more brutal things I’ve been through,” he says. “You don’t realize what you go through. They cut my bone. They went all through the inside of my mouth.”

His mother and friends helped care for him in the immediate aftermath. For three months, basically, he couldn’t do much of anything. Couldn’t work out. Couldn’t even clench his teeth.

He has a chef in Boston who made him shakes and smoothies and pureed soups. He only lost about 15 pounds, kept his protein high and made sure he got the proper nutrients.

He graduated from liquid to eggs, because “I could kind of smush them with my tongue, chew softly. I’d eat eggs every morning, even for lunch sometimes because it was something solid.”

His first real meal nearly two months after the surgery? A Ruth’s Chris steak. Takeout.

“Because it’s kind of weird trying to chew in front of people in a restaurant,” Napoli says. “And I didn’t know how I was going to chew.”

He still has two screws he can feel inside of his skull, in his sinus area on either side of the bridge of his nose. Some who are bothered by the discomfort opt for another surgery later to have those removed. Napoli says they don’t bother him and he’ll probably just leave them there.

Dreams have returned, which he finds interesting because “I hadn’t dreamed for eight or nine years because I never went into REM sleep.”

“You don’t realize how bad it is,” says Tracy Nasca, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association. “Once that’s resolved, he’s going to have his life back the way he remembers it 10, 15 years ago. It’s a glorious, joyous moment.

“I would just say to Mike, and I’m sure his medical professionals are going to want to do this, repeat the sleep study later to make sure it’s resolved.”

He is a new man this spring, and the Red Sox can tell.

“He looks good,” general manager Ben Cherington says. “We’re just happy for him.

“I haven’t had to go through what he’s had to go through with sleep issues, but I know this game is hard enough, and if you’re fatigued every day, trying to hit and trying to play, it’s hard.

“And doing it in front of 30,000 people a night, you want to feel good, and hopefully, this is going to make him feel better.”

Says pitcher Clay Buchholz: “Just talking to him, there were days the last couple of years where he’d come in looking like a zombie. And I’m thinking, ‘How is this guy going to hit?’

“Now, he’s got a lot more energy. And hopefully, with the injuries out of the way and with added rest, he can really help us out.”

Napoli still does not have any feeling in his lower lip, front teeth or the roof of his mouth. Surgeons have told him that can last up to a year, and there is a chance the feeling might never return.

No matter.

“It’s crazy how I feel,” says Napoli, who hit .248/.370/.419 with 17 homers and 55 RBI in 119 games last summer for the Sox. “When I wake up now, it’s like, ‘Man, I was in a deep sleep.’ I can tell. Just being motivated and wanting to do stuff.

“I can tell when we sit through meetings. We had a long meeting the other day, and usually I’d be dozing off.

“In the meeting I realized, ‘Oh my God, I don’t have that feeling.'”

Talk about being given a new lease on life. On the road this season, now Napoli can confidently latch the safety chain on his hotel room door and sleep the sleep of a king.

“I’ve had people ask about the surgery, is it worth it?” he says. “I let them know it takes three months out of your life and it’s going to be a brutal process.

“But it’s worth it. I let them know that. It’s been night and day for me.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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Should the Boston Red Sox Extend Yoenis Cespedes This Offseason?

Yoenis Cespedes has wasted no time making his presence felt as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

The powerful outfielder has just 47 plate appearances under his belt for the Red Sox, and it’s true his .239/.255/.435 line might not look terribly impressive. But Cespedes has already shown a flare for the dramatic, hitting back-to-back, go-ahead eighth-inning homers earlier this week. It’s not a coincidence that the Red Sox are 7-5 since they traded for Cespedes at the deadline.

In Cespedes, the Sox have a legitimate right-handed power hitter who lengthens the middle of their lineup. The trio of David Ortiz, Cespedes and Mike Napoli batting third, fourth and fifth, respectively, is a daunting proposition for opposing pitchers. Similarly, the combination of Cespedes and Jackie Bradley Jr. patrolling the outfield puts opposing baserunners on notice.

In short, Cespedes is the most athletic, toolsiest player the Red Sox have in their organization right now, and while the cost to acquire him was steep, he adds some much-needed offensive upside to a team that’s scored the fifth-fewest runs in the game this year.

For all these reasons and more, the Red Sox should take a long, hard look at extending Cespedes beyond 2015, as they look to fill one of the few long-term gaps their farm system has been unable to plug.

Right-handed power is one of the rarer commodities in the game today. Last year, only seven right-handed hitters hit 30 or more home runs, and only 10 more righties hit between 25-29 homers. Cespedes was one such batter, of course, mashing 26 homers despite the pitcher-friendly confines of O.Co Coliseum in Oakland.

Before the trade for Cespedes, the Red Sox didn’t have a reliable source of right-handed power other than Napoli, who’s suffered through myriad injuries this season. Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks have power potential, but they’ve yet to demonstrate the ability to turn that potential into results at the MLB level.

Even if we extend our parameters of the search for power to left-handers, Boston was fairly unimpressive this season. Including David Ortiz’ 26 bombs, the Sox have just 89 homers on the year, good for the fifth-lowest total in the league.

And despite all the talent in the Red Sox farm system, this is an organization that (with Bogaerts now graduated) lacks a true power hitter in its ranks who figures to see the majors over the next few years.

Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart profile as above-average offensive players, but power isn’t a calling card for either. Deven Marrero’s value lies in his defense, Manny Margot is more of a well-rounded talent than a power threat, and Garin Cecchini’s inability to hit for power has been well documented.

The best power-hitting prospect in Boston’s system is probably Rafael Devers, who, as a 17-year-old in rookie ball, is at least three seasons away from making an impact at Fenway.

Extending Cespedes would give the Sox a power-hitting cornerstone in the middle of their lineup to rely upon beyond 2015, when Napoli is slated to become a free agent and when Ortiz will be over 40. Quite simply, he’s a source of dependable power that Boston hasn’t been able to replicate through its minor league system.

The free-agent market doesn’t figure to be much more fruitful in producing power hitters, either. Fewer marquee players are reaching free agency in today’s game, as the game’s economics dictate that locking up young, productive players is the safer bet. There are exceptions, of course, but free agents today generally consist of role players or players who are well past their 30th birthdays.

For example, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the premier right-handed outfielders in the 2015 free-agent class include Nelson Cruz, Mike Morse, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham and Torii Hunter. These players have their uses, but none can match Cespedes‘ upside or all-around ability to impact a game.

It’s similarly difficult to find talent like Cespedes available on the trading block. The Giancarlo Stanton pipe dream aside, there aren’t many right-handed slugging outfielders available for the Red Sox to try and pry away. The Blue Jays aren’t trading Jose Bautista. The Orioles aren’t trading Adam Jones. The Braves aren’t trading Justin Upton. And, oddly enough, the Angels aren’t trading Mike Trout.

If we engage in pure speculation, there are a few outfield talents, right-handed or otherwise, who could be available. The Rockies could look to move Carlos Gonzalez. The Reds could move Jay Bruce. The Nats could move Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman. And yes, it’s within the realm of possibility that the Marlins move Stanton, too.

But why give up a bevy of prospects for one of these players—if said players are available at all—when all it takes to lock down Cespedes now is some measure of financial flexibility?

Earlier this week, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier took a look at what a Cespedes contract extension might look like, using a variety of recent free-agent contracts and extensions to give us an idea as to what Cespedes might earn.

On the low end of the spectrum, Speier references the four-year, $48 million agreement Nick Swisher reached with the Indians and the four-year, $60 million agreement Curtis Granderson reached with the Mets.

On the high end, Speier mentions the five-year, $75 million contract signed by B.J. Upton, and the five-year, $90 million extension signed by Hunter Pence.

An extension for Cespedes may very well fall closer to the Pence side of the equation than the Granderson side. But it’s not so crazy to think that Cespedes could be worth a deal that pays him between $17 and $18 million a year.

Plus, even if Cespedes doesn’t fully live up to his contract, the Sox can afford to take somewhat of a financial hit. Dustin Pedroia represents their only significant financial investment beyond 2015, and the organization has done well to avoid the shackles that come with giving out seven- or eight-year deals to hitters and five- or six-year deals to pitchers. 

By locking up Cespedes to a four- or five-year deal sometime between now and next April, the Red Sox will assure themselves of having the services of one of the better right-handed power hitters in the game for the next half-decade. Given the dearth of right-handed power in the game right now and Boston’s financial flexibility, it’s a move they should make.

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Red Sox’s Mike Napoli Hits Home Run over Green Monster vs. Yankees

There is nothing more satisfying than nailing a home run over the Green Monster, especially against the New York Yankees. 

In the bottom of the second inning, Mike Napoli did just that against Shane Greene to give the Boston Red Sox a 2-0 lead. There is nothing that could’ve possibly gotten the crowd more excited at this point in the game.


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Offseason Moves Texas Rangers Should Have Made Going into 2013

The offseason that followed the 2012 season could have cured some of the problems the Texas Rangers have faced since the start of the 2013 campaign.

The club in Arlington seemed to be a front-runner to sign almost every high-profile free agent that winter, but nothing happened. More housekeeping was done—buying players they needed rather than wanted. For example, signing A.J. Pierzynski was arguably the best move the organization made that offseason, solidifying the weakest position on the team.

Looking back, the Rangers surely could have opened up the checkbook and now be in a different situation than they are. It is easy to speculate about what could have been at this point in time, but one can’t help but wonder if Texas would have closed on some of today’s premier players.

There are a few big names, in particular, that could have changed the course of the team’s recent struggles with pitching and injuries.

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Jonny Gomes Celebrates World Series Win with Massively Awesome Tattoo

Human beard Jonny Gomes decided a lifetime of memories wasn’t enough to savor his 2013 World Series triumph, so he went out and got a massive tattoo to commemorate the moment. 

HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra spotted a couple of tweets spawned from a recent bro hangout between Gomes and fellow Red Sox champion Mike Napoli. 

The two took time away from whatever champs do (groom their beards?) to show off a tattoo that is big, ornate and wonderful. 

Here are some images, thanks to Napoli

We need to gather our thoughts and enjoy this suddenly relevant clip of Captain Caveman: 

The first thing you will notice is that the tattooed version of Gomes also rocks a fantastic beard. In fact, you could really say this was a nod to his entire team that, as you might recall, was more ZZ Top cover band than baseball club toward the end of the season. 

On one arm, there is a massive tattoo within a tattoo as our bearded victor shows off its “’13,” a permanent ink version of Inception. On the other, we see the iconic World Series trophy. 

If that weren’t enough, an American flag seems to sway beautifully in the background. 

Even the duck boat purchased by Jake Peavy makes a cameo in the art, delivering us just a little worry that Peavy isn’t pictured. Perhaps this bearded tattoo character ran off with the bright-green memento. 

Of course, not everyone is impressed by the new ink, because the dog in the background seems to be over this entire display of shenanigans. 

As for Gomes’ beard, it’s living its last days. 

The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reports Gomes “has a deal with Philips Norelco that will involve shaving his beard.”

Not to worry, because there is plenty of facial hair in that tattoo for a team of baseball players. Well, maybe for a far less scruffy one. 


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