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Mike Napoli declines Red Sox qualifying offer

11.11.13 at 2:52 pm ET
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According to an industry source, free agent first baseman Mike Napoli has declined the Red Sox‘ one-year qualifying offer in order to pursue a multi-year deal in free agency. The first baseman underwent an MRI on his hips last Tuesday that revealed no signs of deterioration from last offseason, when he was diagnosed with a degenerative condition (avascular necrosis) that resulted from diminished blood flow to his hips. The discovery of AVN last December resulted in Napoli’s three-year, $39 million free agent agreement with the Red Sox being renegotiated to a one-year, $5 million guarantee that pushed the value of the deal to $13 million in 2013.

But with the findings by Dr. Joseph Lane of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York (who reviewed the MRIs on Saturday) that Napoli’s hip condition has remained unchanged — following a year in which he played 139 games (the second highest total in his career) while hitting .259 with a .360 OBP, .482 slugging mark and 23 homers — Napoli’s foray this winter into free agency would appear to be in strong position to receive a multi-year deal. Whereas the diagnosis of the condition last winter created considerable uncertainty about his health, he now has a year’s worth of evidence to suggest that it is not an immediate threat to his production or ability to stay on the field.

Napoli, who turned 32 on Halloween, received a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox last Monday. Had there been evidence of concern about his condition, then he might have been inclined to accept the financial guarantee. However, with the evidence that his health has remained intact through the season, Napoli has little incentive to accept the one-year qualifying offer at a time when he represents the most productive first base option on the market.

Even if he declines the qualifying offer, Napoli can continue to negotiate with the Red Sox — just as David Ortiz did last year after declining a qualifying offer en route to a two-year deal with the Sox. However, if he signs elsewhere, the Sox would receive a draft pick between the first and second rounds as compensation for his departure.

Among current free agents, Napoli was sixth in homers, second in RBI (92), third in OBP (min. 300 plate appearances) and sixth in slugging (min. 300 plate appearances).

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