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Source: Mike Napoli, Red Sox reach agreement on one-year, $5M deal

01.17.13 at 9:04 am ET

According to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox and Mike Napoli have reached an agreement on a one-year deal. (UPDATED: According to another major league source, the deal is for one year with Napoli getting a $5 million guarantee. The deal includes incentives that could increase the value of the contract back to roughly $13 million if Napoli does not spend any time on the disabled list due to a hip injury. The contract is strictly a one-year deal — it does not include any team, vesting or mutual options.)

The two sides had been renegotiating an agreed upon three-year, $39 million contract since concerns arose regarding the free agent first baseman’s hip after a team-administered physical on Dec. 10. The original deal was agreed upon on Dec. 3.

Despite the injury concerns, however, Napoli remained the team’s top choice to address its vacancy at first base (the byproduct of the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers last August). While the 31-year-old had one of the worst years of his career in 2012, hitting .227/.343/.469/.812 with the Rangers, he remained a hitter who profiles as a middle-of-the-order contributor who demonstrates power (24 homers in 417 plate appearances and 108 games) and patience. His career line of .259/.356/.507/.863 with an average of 33 homers per 162 games made him one of the top power-hitting options on the free agent market this winter. His 4.41 pitches per plate appearance in 2012 and 4.27 pitches for every time he’s stepped to the plate in his career also suggest a hitter capable of helping the Sox restore a lineup with the capacity to exhaust opposing pitchers, one of the central thrusts of the Red Sox’ offseason moves.

So, in terms of on-field performance, Napoli has profiled throughout his career as an excellent fit for what the Sox were trying to establish this offseason. Still, the injury concerns related to his hip were sufficient to convince the Sox that a deal should only be done if it was on different terms than the ones that had originally been negotiated. With questions about Napoli’s ability to stay on the field, the Sox wanted to diminish the length of their commitment. It remains unknown whether the team also trimmed its $13 million average annual salary to Napoli, but that was certainly a talking point given that the team felt that the health questions he faces will require the Sox to up their standard for the kind of backup first baseman that it acquires to complement Napoli.

Still, Napoli remained the player whom the Sox identified as their best fit. The team was measured in its pursuit of the other top slugging first baseman on the market, Adam LaRoche, as it didn’t want to go to three years for him and the team didn’t want to sacrifice a draft pick in order to sign the Nationals first baseman. (Because the Nats offered LaRoche a $13.3 million qualifying offer, the Sox would have had to give up their second-round pick — and the corresponding bonus pool money of about $1.2 million to spend — to sign him. Because Napoli didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Rangers, the Sox won’t have to give up a pick to sign him.) While the Sox expressed some interest in trading for Michael Morse (once he became redundant for the Nationals given the re-signing of LaRoche), the price was deemed too steep by the team, according to a source. (The Nationals acquired a top pitching prospect, A.J. Cole, as well as another minor league pitcher and a player to be named for Morse.)

And, given Napoli’s tremendous numbers at Fenway Park — he’s a career .306/.397/.710/1.107 hitter there — his ability to help give the Red Sox a deep and powerful lineup is noteworthy — so long as he’s healthy. Now, the Sox and Napoli have apparently found middle ground that will give the Sox a slugger at an acceptable risk. Meanwhile, if Napoli performs well and stays healthy, he’ll be back on the free agent market in another relatively weak class of first basemen as a 32-year-old.

Because it’s been a while, a bit of related content for those trying to remember why the Sox made Napoli their top priority at the start of the offseason:

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

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