In what has amounted to a mostly boring offseason here on the southern shores of Lake Erie, the Indians finally signed someone. It was announced earlier today by Ken Rosenthal that the Indians had signed Mike Napoli to a one year deal worth $7 million, with up to $3 million in incentives.
What does Napoli bring to the Cleveland Indians? Well, this move reminds me of the team acquiring Mark Reynolds or Brandon Moss over the last few seasons, but perhaps with the caveat of management learning something in the process. Reynolds and Moss are fine, albeit limited, players in the same vein: they can hit the ball really hard, take an occasional walk, and swing and miss a LOT. In much the same way, Mike Napoli is a fine, albeit limited, player. Mike Napoli can:
-He can take more than the occasional walk – even in a down 2015, he managed 57 walks between Boston and Texas. That would have been 4th best on the Indians.
-He can hit a little bit of power – though his power numbers have dropped precipitously (18 HR in 2015 after 17 the year before), he has demonstrated 30-HR power at times in his career.
But Mike Napoli cannot:
-Mike Napoli cannot run. Please do not ask him to do that.
-He cannot hit for average. In 2011 with Texas he somehow hit .320, but outside of that weird year his career high has been .273 — when he was 26.
-I was going to add that he cannot field and would only DH (I still think that is true, with Carlos’ stated preference to field), but Napoli actually grades out as a decent fielder over 6 seasons at first base (and nearly 500 games), but I need to see it before I believe it.
So what is this deal?
Is it an earth-shattering, division-defining megadeal? Of course not. It’s a stab by the Front Office to gamble on a fringe player’s best qualities and hope that the team can do enough to mask the (often glaring) deficiencies. With Mark Reynolds and Brandon Moss, it became apparent that a team of solid-but-not-great hitters needed more than a semi-automatic strikeout to generate runs. Reynolds is not a good baseball player, but his power is scary enough to offer value to some teams, and Moss fits in that same vein.
Mike Napoli, however, does not. Mike Napoli fits more in the Jason Giambi Old-Veteran-Here-To-Help-Tito-Lead mold, just with the added capability of being able to produce on the field at the same time.
It’s a solid pickup for a team that desperately needs a clubhouse leader as well as a productive bat with a proven track record of getting on base. After last season, when rumors swirled about an immature and lost clubhouse, do not be surprised if Mike Napoli’s greatest contribution to the Cleveland Indians is a sense of order in a relatively young clubhouse.