The Party at Napoli's is back on in Cleveland.
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Indians reportedly signed free agent slugger Mike Napoli to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. The team has not yet confirmed the deal because it is still pending a physical.
Mike Napoli will have a Minor League contract/spring invite with Indians after he passes a physical.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 27, 2018
Napoli, now 36, spent 2016 with the Indians and was the regular cleanup hitter during their run to Game 7 of the World Series. He hit .239/.335/.465 (106 OPS+) with a career high 34 homers that year.
Last season with the Texas Rangers, Napoli dipped down to a .193/.285/.428 (82 OPS+) batting line with 29 home runs in 124 games. One-dimensional sluggers are having a hard time finding work these days -- lots of free agents are having a hard time finding work, but especially guys like Napoli -- so it's not much of a surprise Napoli had to settle for a minor-league deal.
The Indians are already locked in to Edwin Encarnacion at DH and Yonder Alonso at first base, so barring an injury, Napoli will be at best a bench/platoon bat for the Indians. He'd have to beat out fellow right-handed hitter Yandy Diaz for a bench spot. Diaz has the advantage of being able to play third base as well as the outfield corners.
If nothing else, this gives the Indians some first base depth in case of injury, and it gives Napoli a chance to play in games and showcase himself this spring. He may not win a roster spot with the Tribe, but other teams will be watching, and he could find himself elsewhere come Opening Day.
Francona met with Encarnacion and Alonso to make sure they knew Napoli was not here "to take your job." Manager said the organization's respect for Napoli played a big role in the signing. Felt like he deserved to be in an MLB camp, even if it's to audition for another team.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 27, 2018