Archive for the ‘Mike Napoli’ Category

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox

One prevailing mythology regarding the 2013 Boston Red Sox runs along the lines of “everything went right.” It is true that they hit on a high number of their free agent signings and received bounce-back seasons from John Lackey and others, but the injury bug bit the Sox as hard as anyone last season.

Of their position players, only Dustin Pedroia managed to play in 150 games or more, even though he did so with a ligament injury in this thumb, a wound that required off-season surgery.

The Red Sox battled injuries like any other team last year. They benefited from role players stepping up in the absence of the starters, getting off to a hot start and never missing a beat.

The 2014 Red Sox aren’t off to quite as hot a start and their ability to rely on depth players is about to be tested once again, as they’re dealing with injuries in bunches while kicking off their title defense.

Yesterday it was Mike Napoli who joined the ranks of the walking wounded. The Sox slugging first baseman dislocated a finger sliding into second base, though he isn’t expected to hit the disabled list. Closer Koji Uehara received a similar piece of news over the weekend as his shoulder tightness is not thought to be serious.

Pedroia played much of last year in pain and now it appears he’ll do the same in 2014, battling a wrist injury and requiring a cortisone shot to avoid the DL. The injuries are relatively minor, but when added together they test the Red Sox championship calibre depth at multiple positions.

Even with Napoli on the shelf for a few days, it forces Mike Carp into an everyday role at first base. Carp is a valuable member of the Sox bench corps as he can play multiple positions and represents a good bench bat at the ready. Carp even played a few innings at third base the other night, as Will Middlebrooks is on the DL and his replacement, Ryan Roberts, is not a viable option on an everyday basis.

With Pedroia ailing and the Middlebrooks out, the Sox rely on defense-first bit players like Jonathan Herrera and waiver-wire claims like Roberts to paper over their problems. On a short term basis it can work, but over 162 games?

The Sox are an aging team that handled last year’s adversity with great performances from part time players. In the early days of 2014, essential contributors like Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Carp aren’t producing as they did. Given the careful workload of Grady Sizemore and the limited role or David Ortiz, any failings on the part of these fill-ins will create huge holes in the lineup.

The Red Sox are in fine shape, all things being equal. Sizemore looks great and the Sox are keeping pace in the tightly-packed AL East. The same talent that won 97 games and a World Series title remains in place, one year older and a little worse for wear but still a championship squad when evaluated objectively.

The Sox have the talent but they will put their industry-leading health professionals to the test with their wizened bunch. Can the Sox keep their talented core on the field long enough to mount a spirited title defense? Though they deserve the benefit of the doubt, I can’t shake this nagging feeling that their nagging injuries might cascade all season long.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

The Yankees don’t have fun beards and don’t have sexy blue chip prospects lining their rotation like some teams. Instead, the Yankees pay top dollar for established stars and known commodities.

In signing Carlos Beltran to a thre-year, $45 million contract, the Yankees now have a glut of aging outfielders who are mostly DHs. The difference between Carlos Beltran and Vernon Wells or Ichiro or Alfonso Soriano is Carlos Beltran remains very, very productive. While his body might betray him, he can still provide value in right field.

The former center fielder showcased some defensive chops during the World Series and the RF job at Yankee Stadium is not the most challenging place to play. More so thanks to Ellsbury & Gardner gobbling up fly balls in left and center.

Beltran put very nice numbers for the Cardinals in 2013 and should take advantage of the short porch in the Bronx when hitting left-handed. The Yanks can pay somebody like Soriano to play for someone else or trade Brett Gardner for a starter if they so desire.

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Ken Rosenthal has more on the hold-up, as today marks 18 days since the initial agreement without an official announcement. The problem is believed to be with one of Napoli’s hips. Rosenthal asks the big questions and, only here at Getting Blanked, Napoli answers.

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Not even the good kind of hysteria, should such a thing exist. Already reeling from the news that deposed folk hero and twitchy weirdo Kevin Youkilis agreed the join the hated New York Yankees, Red Sox fans must now talk themselves off the ledge with news of delays in making the Mike Napoli signing official.

Worse yet, there isn’t actual “news” suggesting a reason for the delay. Instead it is just an information vacuum, greedily consuming all the hopes, fears, and insecurities of a fanbase still grappling with their status as last-place, also-ran ball club.

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The Red Sox are now, officially, lousy with catchers. The Red Sox made news last month when they signed the acknowledged best backup catcher in the game, David Ross, away from the Braves and now add Mike Napoli to the roster of backstops. They already have vowel enthusiast Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their mix as well as highly rated prospect (but quickly ageing himself out of prospect status) Ryan Lavarnway ready to take reps behind the plate.

Too much catching is not a bad problem to have…ordinarily. But what is there to make of this collection of Red Sox receivers?

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Although they added a catcher in David Ross over the weekend, the Boston Red Sox still remain interested in Mike Napoli. Rob Bradford of WEEI suggested in a Monday blog post that Napoli remains on the Red Sox radar, especially given the club’s need for a first baseman. The Red Sox still hold control over catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has been linked to various trade rumours, and 25-year old Ryan Lavarnway as well. Ross inked a two-year $6.2 million deal over the weekend, but is by no means in line to catch on a full-time basis in 2013.

Bradford leans on Napoli’s limited experience at first base as major attraction for the Red Sox, although dreams of a return to his .320/.414/.631 triple-slash line of two seasons ago makes for quite the Green Monster porn. Napoli made 28 appearances at first base in 2012, as well as number of starts as the Rangers DH, but is reportedly interested in a team that will use him primarily behind the plate. Ross has appeared in 54, 59, 52 and 62 games in his four seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but provides strong defensive prowess and an adequate bat from the catcher position.

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When Mike Napoli was traded by the Los Angeles Angels to the Toronto Blue Jays (who curiously moved him to the Texas Rangers) ahead of the 2011 season, he was a part-time catcher whose salary had risen too high, too quickly through arbitration for his team’s taste. Not helping matters was the general lack of support he received from Mike Scioscia and the rest of the Angels coaching staff who seemed more concern with his defensive inefficiencies than his offensive abilities.

After two seasons in Texas, and ahead of his first foray into free agency, he’s emerged as one of those rare catcher/first baseman/designated hitter utility players that’s not only useful to his team, but deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as Joe Mauer.

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