According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Red Sox have made a multiyear contract offer to first baseman Mike Napoli. The slugger is planning to shop around and explore free agency before making a decision. His return to Boston is far from a sure thing.
Napoli, 32, signed a one-year contract worth $5 million with the Red Sox last winter after a three-year, $39 million pact fell through over concerns about his hips. He wound up earning $13 million in 2013 thanks to incentives. The degenerative hip condition ended his days at catcher and relegated him to first base.
In 139 games this season, Napoli hit .259/.360/.482 (129 OPS+) with 23 home runs and set career-highs in doubles (38), runs driven in (92) and plate appearances (578). Despite swinging from the right side, Napoli hit better on the road (.269/.360/.506) than at home in Fenway Park (.249/.360/.457). Guess he didn't fully take advantage of the Green Monster.
The Red Sox made Napoli a qualifying offer earlier this week, which he will surely reject before Monday's deadline. Boston will receive a supplemental first-round pick if he signs elsewhere. Plenty of teams could use a big right-handed bat at first base (or DH), including the Yankees, Orioles, Mariners, Indians and Rangers, his former club.
Meanwhile, Evan Drellich of MassLive.com reports the Red Sox have discussed going into 2014 with Mike Carp as their primary first baseman should Napoli leave via free agency. The 27-year-old was a force off Boston's bench this past season, hitting .296/.362/.523 (140 OPS+) with 18 doubles and nine homers in 243 plate appearances.
Drellich indicates the Red Sox would seek a right-handed complement for the lefty-hitting Carp if they do indeed open the season with him at first base. Perpetual prospect Ryan Lavarnway could be that guy, but he has not exactly forced the team's hand these past two years. Free-agent options include Corey Hart, Mark Reynolds and former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.