The Texas Rangers went the safe route this season, and passed on who would have surely been the MVP in the 2011 World Series if the Rangers would have won. So far, it could be argued that Mike Napoli is the MVP for the 2013 World Series.
The Rangers passed on Mike Napoli at the end of the 2012 season due to concerns with Napoli’s hip. The Rangers instead, bet on players such as Mitch Moreland, Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski. The Red Sox initially offered Napoli a 3 year deal valued at $39 millon, but after his physical, there were concerns.
It didn’t help Napoli that in 2011 and 2012 while with the Rangers Napoli went on the disabled list numerous times. He did although keep up his playing time with 113 games in 2011 and 108 games in 2012.
When it was all said and done, Napoli received a one year deal from the Red Sox valued at $5 million, but was loaded with tons of incentives. For example, his contract included items such as the following:
- $500,000 for every 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the active roster
- $500,000 for every 300, 325, 350 and 375 plate appearances
- $1,000,000 for every 400, 475, 550 and 625 plate appearances
- If Napoli is active for at least 165 days, he qualifies for the full $8,000,000
Surprisingly, Napoli remained healthy all year long and the hip was never an issue. It probably did help that he played first base, a position in which he made a very smooth transition to. Napoli reached the 165 active mark on September 12 and managed to play in 139 games with 578 plate appearance for the season.
The downside for the Red Sox and Napoli has been his plate discipline. Napoli surpassed the single season strikeout record by Mark Belhorn of 177 on September 15, 2013. Napoli finished the regular season with 187 strikeouts. Not the best plate discipline, but it did result in 38 doubles, 2 triples and 23 home runs.
Napoli continues to deliver in the postseason, just like he did when he was with the Texas Rangers.
For the Texas Rangers, besides for coming through in the postseason, he always gave his former team grief. Anytime Napoli played against the Los Angeles Angels, he was almost guaranteed to get on base. Napoli tormented the Angels in 2011 with a batting average of .356 and a stunning .442 in 2012.
Napoli was probably a player the Angels regretted to see leave. Maybe it was the clash of personalities between Napoli and Mike Sciocia on why he left back the Angels, but seeing what he did against them has changed their opinion.
Now that the season has ended, and the Texas Rangers passed on keeping Mike Napoli, it could be argued that the Rangers should have kept him. One, he was a fan favorite. Every game, there was a rolling chant of Napoli when he came to the plate. Personalities never clashed in the Rangers clubhouse, he was one of the most loved guys in the place.
It came down to a business decision, will Napoli remain healthy. It looks like the answer was yes.
He played all year with the Red Sox, he had a great year at first base, and a decent year at the plate.
He would have been an excellent substitution for Mitch Moreland at first base. Not saying that his fielding would have made a big difference, but maybe Moreland could have been used differently and also maybe the Texas Rangers wouldn’t have had to bring Lance Berkman on.
After the season, Mike Napoli will be a free agent. He has stated he loves it in Boston, and I’m sure if the Red Sox make him an offer, he’ll take it. But it wouldn’t be a bad choice if the Rangers try to bring him back. He’s proved he still has plenty left and if they Rangers manage to make the postseason in 2014, he could be their MVP.
Stats from baseball-reference.com