Sox, Napoli agree to one-year deal with 5 million base salary


BOSTON -- Some six weeks after they had agreed in principle to a deal with free agent Mike Napoli, the Red Sox officially signed the first basemancatcher to a contract Thursday -- albeit one greatly reduced in length and amount.

Napoli and the Sox had agreed on a three-year, 39 million deal on Dec. 3, the first day of the winter meetings. But a physical a week later revealed issues with Napoli's hip, which troubled the Sox and sent the negotiations on a month-and-a-half long roller coaster.

The new deal, according to a baseball source, is a one-year deal worth just 5 million in guarantees with performance bonuses that could approximate the original 13 average annual value (AAV) of the first deal. was the first to report the deal.

The signing, which dragged through most of the offseason, comes just three weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.

In the last week, according to sources, the deal teetered on outright collapse as the Sox held their ground on a one-year deal, while other teams -- including the Texas Rangers, for whom Napoli played the last two seasons -- got back into the bidding.

But although other clubs offered Napoli a bigger base salary, he ultimately chose the Red Sox because of more playing time.

For the Red Sox, their backup options dwindled in recent weeks. Free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche re-signed with the Washington Nationals last week. The Sox had expressed an interest in LaRoche, but were reluctant to give him the three years he was seeking.

Moreover, the Sox did not want to forfeit a second-round pick as compensation. LaRoche had been given a qualifying offer by the Nationals, attaching compensation to his signing.

On Wednesday, the Nationals sent outfielderfirst baseman Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade. The Sox had talked to the Nationals about Morse, but ultimately deemed the asking price to high.

Napoli's history of success at Fenway -- where he's hit 306. with a .710 slugging percentage -- made him a natural target for the Sox, who were looking for a right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup.

But the findings in the physical scared off the Sox, who sought a number of second opinions from other doctors, and convinced them to reduce their liability by limiting the length and scope of the contract offered to Napoli.

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