I mean, the Boston Red Sox don’t like us anyway, so why not heat up the rivalry even more?
Seriously though, this would be far beyond a move out of spite. The New York Yankees’ catching scenario didn’t get any better over the holidays and there have been reports of Austin Romine being on the 25-man roster and probable starter once the season starts. Not to mention, the Red Sox have also been in talks with free-agent Adam LaRoche, so Mike Napoli‘s window in Beantown looks smaller, especially with him garnering the attention of another team. If you’re the Yankees, why not pursue this option?
It’s not impossible to think that the Yankees would be in on Napoli. What Napoli brings to a team is solid contact with the bat alongside major power and a great glove behind the plate. The Yankees would be absolutely crazy to try not be in talks with Napoli because despite being 31, his numbers prove that he is far from slowing down.
Taking a look at his 2012, Napoli had a slash line of .227/.343/.469 alongside 29 homers, 75 RBIs and increased wOBA of .359 from 2011’s .349. While his batting average was down nearly .100 in 2012 from his .320 average in 2011, Napoli was still very effective with the bat. He did however strikeout 30 percent of the time in 2012 whereas in 2011 he only struck only 19.7 percent of the time. He also walked less in 2012 than in 2011. Regardless, Napoli did well enough to raise his value among free-agent catchers.
For Napoli, his best spot in the line-up seems to be around seventh or eighth as he mainly hit from those spots in 2012. His bat would fit nicely into the Bombers’ line-up considering this area was right around where Russell Martin‘s bat used to be. The one unfortunate thing about Napoli is he, like the majority of the Yankees, had some trouble hitting with runners on, but if he were to be in Yankee Stadium, one of the best hitters’ ballparks in the major leagues, he may thrive a little bit more. Not to mention in the little time he’s played in the new Yankee Stadium throughout his career, he’s been pretty successful, holding a .375/.531/.625 slash line with two home runs and six RBIs.
Napoli’s defense is also something that is a highly valued commodity in New York. Napoli had become more vocal with wanting to play first-base while in Texas, which is something that would more than likely not happen in New York. Despite that, Napoli still played 619.1 innings behind the plate in the past season and had a fielding percentage of .993. He threw out 26 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him and only allowed eight passed balls and 16 wild pitches. Aside from the runners caught stealing, Napoli was either at the same level, or better than Martin behind the plate. The Yankees have stressed before that defense is the key in a catcher, so Napoli makes for a great fit.
So clearly if the Yankees make any sort of stab at signing Napoli, it puts Romine’s future as a Yankee up in the air. Here’s what I say they do: sign Napoli, trade Romine while the iron is hot and continue to work with Gary Sanchez until he’s MLB ready. Sanchez has also been noted as one of the top Yankee prospects, so it’d make more sense to keep him than it would Romine. The first base issue might be something that can be ironed out if Napoli comes to New York, but that will remain to be seen. Napoli’s cost may or may not be a deal-breaker, but the team would be better off signing him instead of having no options behind the plate for a long time. As we know now, the Red Sox’s interest in LaRoche clearly proves that things with Napoli aren’t going as well as anticipated. Let’s hope Brian Cashman is keeping his eyes and ears open on this.