ORLANDO -- Free-agent first baseman Mike Napoli is expected to reject Boston's $14.1 million, one-year qualifying offer and play the field.
Napoli made clear in the afterglow of the Red Sox championship that he would love to stay, but it appears both sides are likely to look around a bit for now.
No players accepted qualifying offers last year, the first year it was implemented (at $13.3 million), and it's possible none will take it this year. It was reported here Napoli's Red Sox teammate Stephen Drew also will turn down the qualifying offer. "I don't think anyone will take it," one GM opined.
Though Curtis Granderson suggested he would consider accepting, executives here say they would be surprised if he took the Yankees' qualifying offer, and see him getting a long-term deal elsewhere. (The Yankees, for one, seeem to hope he rejects the offer.) Only the elite free agents are given qualifying offers. Thirteen in all received one this time.
Napoli earned all his incentives and made $13 million in 2013 after having his original $39 million, three-year agreement was knocked down to $5 million guaranteed (plus incentives) following the discovery of a hip condition in Boston's medical examination. But Napoli, who hit .259 with 23 himers and 92 RBI while providing protection for Red Sox star David Ortiz, showed no effects whatsoever while ably manning first base in Boston's championship season, so he should have no trouble making the money back -- whether it be in Boston or elsewhere.