BOSTON — Mike Napoli showed the Boston Red Sox he could have a strong season despite a hip condition that delayed his signing a year ago. So they rushed to re-sign the first baseman whom General Manager Ben Cherington described Friday as “a unique player.”
The Red Sox finalized a $32 million, two-year agreement with the slugging former catcher who turned into a surprisingly good defender.
“It was clearly one of our priorities,” Cherington said. “When we pursued Mike last year and ultimately signed him, we did that because we felt like his skill set would obviously help us on the field and we also heard a lot about his reputation as a teammate.”
After agreeing to a $39 million, three-year contract last December, the Red Sox heard about his avascular necrosis condition in both hips that can cause bone tissue to die because of poor blood supply. About six weeks later, in late January, a $5 million, one-year deal was reached. With performance bonuses, Napoli ended up making $13 million.
His new contract has no provisions protecting the team against hip problems, Cherington said.
Napoli, 32, was eager to return to the city he excited with his homers and bushy beard.
“After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief to just go through this,” he said. “I’m happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place where I was comfortable and somewhere where we can win.”
Fears about his hips were unfounded, at least for last season. The eight-year veteran had career highs in at-bats, run, hits, doubles, RBI, walks and strikeouts, and made just six errors in his first full season as a first baseman.
He also had a good time bonding with his beard-tugging teammates.
“As a player, it’s probably the best time I’ve ever had being around a group of guys,” Napoli said. “It was a lot of fun going to the park every day, seeing those guys, trying to see what was going to happen that day, see how we were going to mess around with each other.”
Napoli said other teams were interested in signing him. He had been comfortable the previous two seasons in Texas but told his agent he wanted to stay in Boston.
“After going through this and being able to sit down and realize what happened for me, it makes me hungry,” Napoli said. “I can’t wait to get back on the field, be with my teammates again, and try to do it again.”
ROYALS: Second baseman Omar Infante is nearing an agreement on a four-year contract.
TWINS: Outfielder Jason Kubel returned, agreeing to a minor league contract.
INDIANS: Free-agent infielder David Adams, 26, agreed to a one-year contract.
DIAMONDBACKS: Daniel Hudson, recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, signed a minor league contract.
• Outfielder Brandon Jacobs, who played part of last season with the Portland Sea Dogs, and right-handed pitcher A.J. Schugel were acquired from the Los Angeles Angels to complete the three-team trade that brought Mark Trumbo to Arizona. Outfielder Todd Glaesmann was acquired from Tampa Bay to complete the trade that sent Heath Bell to the Rays.
PIRATES: Pittsburgh signed right-hander pitcher Edinson Volquez and infielder Clint Barmes to one-year deals.
ROCKIES: Colorado signed first baseman Justin Morneau to a two-year, $12.5 million deal.
• Reliever Boone Logan agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal.
CUBS: Chicago claimed Australian right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from Minnesota.