Mike Napoli: Returning to Red Sox ‘an easy decision’
|12.13.13 at 3:59 pm ET|
Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli suggested that there were “a lot of teams” that expressed interest in him as a free agent this offseason, and he also said that there were three-year offers on the table. But ultimately, the 32-year-old had no doubt that he wanted to find an acceptable deal that would allow him to return to the Red Sox, something that he accomplished with a two-year, $32 million two-year, $32 million contract that became official on Thursday night and that both Napoli and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington discussed in a conference call on Friday.
“Ultimately it came down to I told my agent I wanted to come back to Boston and play there. We were able to get something worked out,” said Napoli. “Coming into spring training last year, getting to know the guys, the front office, coaches, everybody. There’s a strong bond there. I made a lot of great friends and I love the city of Boston, just being there, the people there, it’s just how I am, how I grew up, the type of people that are there. It was an easy decision for me I just had to get something worked out where I could come back there and it all worked out.”
Napoli suggested that this offseason proved far easier than the one that followed the 2012 season, when he hit the open market and landed a three-year deal with the Red Sox only to have the discovery of a degenerative hip condition result in the revision of the deal to a one-year, $5 million pact (with incentives that pushed its value to $13 million). The fact that his offseason was resolved in early December represented a point of satisfaction.
“After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief just to go through this and it was easier than last year,” said Napoli. “Ultimately I’m happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place to be comfortable and in a place where I could win.”
Cherington suggested that there are no special contract provisions related to the status of his hips, and that the team is confidence in his ability to stay healthy. That being the case, the team is likewise enthusiastic about what the first baseman can deliver to the Red Sox, both in the middle of their lineup, as part of their infield defense and off the field.
“We’re confident that Mike is healthy and we feel he’s going to be a big part of our team over the next couple years,” said Cherington. “It was important [to re-sign Napoli]. It was clearly one of our priorities as we got into the offseason. That was mostly about Mike and when we signed, when we pursued Mike last year and ultimately signed him, we did that because we felt his skill set would really help us on the field and we had also heard a lot about his reputation as a teammate and the other things that he brings to the table. Of course having spent several months around him, that became very clear that he was not just a really important part of the team on the field and what he does on the field, but particularly important guy in the clubhouse. Really just a lot of things that Mike does as a player are things that we believe in strongly. He’s accountable, he’s responsible, he’s prepared, he’s a unique player in a lot of different ways. Obviously if you talk about the power and all that, and he certainly has power, but he just does a lot of things on the field that we think help the team win. He’s an excellent base-runner. He worked his tail off to become an excellent defender at first base. He sees a ton of pitches. Even when the results aren’t good, he sees a ton of pitches, so there are just a lot of things he does that contribute. So it’s important on a number of levels for us to bring him back.”
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