Touching All the Bases

Mike Napoli signing caps a good day for the Red Sox — and good offseason so far


Pretty fine day for the Red Sox. Pretty fine offseason so far too, I’d say.

Friday’s staggering baseball news arrived in the morning, when Robinson Cano, the Yankees second baseman who seemed to treasure New York City as if his hip-hop impresario/agent Jay Z wrote that song for him, instead departed the Bronx for the wonderful city but recently irrelevant baseball port of Seattle.

Cano had $240,000,000 reasons to go, and it’s a riot that his agent, who claims to have made famous the Yankee hat more than the Yankees did, is the one who delivered him there. Maybe he’ll make the Mariners hat more famous than, I don’t know, Don Wakamatsu did.


The Mariners needed to do this. But I can’t believe the Yankees thought Cano would actually do it.

As for the Red Sox, who watched him put up these numbers against them through his nine years in the Bronx …

156 681 627 76 193 51 4 21 104 39 94 .308 .356 .502 .858
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2013.

… they must be thrilled that he’s out of the No. 3 spot in the Yankees batting order, not to mention the AL East altogether. The Yankees salvaged their day to a small degree later, signing Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal (and destroying the hope that he’d reunite with the Royals). Beltran is a fine pickup. But the Cano vacancy will remain a gaping one. I suppose we should all be on Brandon Phillips-To-The-Bronx Watch now.


But enough about the Yankees. Taking schadenfreude out of it, the best baseball news of the day around here is a move the Red Sox made.

Mike Napoli, the bearded basher and occasional merry shirtless wanderer, is sticking around after all. I imagine we’re in consensus with a certain lefthander on this particular transaction:

The terms of the Napoli deal — two years, $32 million — just sound right. It’s a high average annual value, which he absolutely deserves, but a short deal that allows the Red Sox to retain roster flexibility.

Including the $13 million he made with the Red Sox in 2013, he’s now set up to make $45 million here over three years. You probably know the math already: That’s $6 million more than he would have had in the original three-year, $39 million deal the sides agreed upon this time last year before some medical issues with Napoli’s hip led to the reduction of the deal to one year.


Given what he meant to the Red Sox last season, with his knack for hitting important home runs off top-notch pitchers as well as his value in the clubhouse, it’s nice to see it all work out for the best for him.

And we all learned our lesson this year, right? When he goes into one of his trademark six-week slumps where he looks like he couldn’t bat seventh for your over-35 slow-pitch softball team, be patient and remember that the payoff when he goes on a tear makes it all worth it. He’s at his best in September (.298/.403/.631 with 39 homers in 519 career plate appearances), and he’s not shabby in October either (.801 career postseason OPS, seven homers).


While it’s been disappointing to some degree to see likable mainstays Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia move on before the duck boat engines have barely cooled, it’s been an encouraging offseason so far for the Red Sox.

A.J. Pierzynski will fit here, because his motivation comes from the same place as so many of his new teammates: he’ll do what it takes to win, even, in his case, if that means annoying the hell out of everyone in both dugouts.

Edward Mujica, brilliant for five months in St. Louis last season before wearing down and crumbling in September, should be a tremendous complement to Koji Uehara in the bullpen. Get this: Uehara, Mujica and Junichi Tazawa pitched a combined 207.2 innings last year. They walked 26 and struck out 219. Yeah, that could get you through the night. Or at least the last three innings.


Now Napoli is sticking around, and the right pieces are all falling into place.

I say bring back Stephen Drew, add another secondary arm or two and some specifically skilled bench guys, and maybe even surprise us with an out-of-nowhere blockbuster.

And that should about do it for roster alterations during this fledgling winter.

Then, before you know it, the gang will be assembling in Fort Myers again, built to defend a championship with a few new faces and, thankfully, a couple of familiar bearded ones.

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