There was a report yesterday that the Mariners are in on Mike Napoli, and are going to meet with him to discuss a deal.
Per MLB TRADERUMORS:
"The Red Sox and Mariners continue pursuing free agent catcher Mike Napoli, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio reports (on Twitter). Napoli is holding out for a fourth guaranteed year from Boston, and he’s meeting with the Mariners, who might be willing to commit for the extra year. August 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli (25) during the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers won 11-10 beating the Angels. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE"
Keep in mind this report is coming from Jim Bowden, who isn’t always the most trustworthy guy when it comes to rumors. However, there was some confirmation from others like John Heyman, who also say we are interested in the 31 year old catcher slash DH slash 1st baseman.
Before I get into my thoughts on the situation, here is some background on Napoli. Coming off a career year in 2011 where he put up a massive .320/.440/.631 — .445 wOBA — 177 wRC+ — 30 HR line in 113 games, he came back down to earth in 2012. He still had a solid year, posting a .227/.343/.469 — .349 wOBA, 114 wRC+ and 24 HR stat line in 108 games, but it was no where close to his 2011. Those stats were pretty similar to the rest of his seasons. If you take out 2011, his wOBA/wRC+ is .357/120, which is very good production from a catcher/DH/1B combo.
Napoli is also great at taking a walk, which is especially helpful when you see that his career K% is 25.4%, which is considered “poor” by Fangraphs. He has walked at a 12% clip for his career, and 13.4% in each of his last two seasons. Fangraphs considers that in the “great” to “excellent” range. His ability to take a walk is a big reason why he has a .343 OBP despite only hitting .227.
Something else Napoli definitely doesn’t lack is power. He averages about 21 bombs in 104 games a season. If you extrapolate that out to 150 games, that’s 30 home runs a year. That kind of power would definitely be welcome in Seattle. On base ability and power make for a very valuable player.
However, the numbers above also show you something a little less exciting: he averages 104 games a season. While some of that is because he catches and gets those days off, he also has a problem staying healthy. Catchers, especially ones who have the luxury of moving to 1st or DH, tend to be able to play 140 games a year. Very similar to Josh Hamilton, the fact that you may only get 110 games out of him needs to be factored into his value.
In my opinion, Napoli is a decent option, but is far from my favorite. I love his bat, but I am not sure I want to give up on Smoak, and eventually Jaso once Mike Zunino is ready, in favor of him. If the Ms are willing to spend on a 4 year deal, I would much rather they give up a little extra to get Swisher. His bat isn’t quite as strong, but he fills a much bigger hole in the outfield.
If its either Napoli or an outfielder, I choose the outfielder. I would much rather role with Smoak for another year and upgrade over the Wells/Thames platoon than toss Smoak aside and leave a fairly average platoon in right field (at least Thames’ half needs to be upgraded). On the other hand, if they were to get Napoli and sign or trade for another bat in the outfield, I would be all for it. I am fine with dumping Smoak in the right situation.
If Napoli is it though, then we end up with a Napoli/Montero/Zunino rotation at 1B/catcher/DH, Jaso loses his job and we have a hole left in the outfield. This may be what happens. It depends on how the front office wants to spend. I just think that people confuse what the team CAN pay and what they will pay. The Mariners could be a high payroll team, they just choose not to be. That’s why I doubt the team brings in Napoli and Swisher or another bat. And even if they do, that would probably max us out could leave us strapped for cash.
That being said, I could see a move for a left handed platoon bat in right field in addition to Napoli. Someone like Seth Smith, Garrett Jones or Shin Soo Choo who all crush right handed pitching. Casper Wells is a great hitter against lefties, as seen in his .382 wOBA and 150 wRC+ against them last season. That right field platoon would look a lot better with one of those three than it does with Eric Thames. For example, a Jones/Wells platoon last year would have combined for a .278/.348/.541/.889 line. A Smith/Wells platoon would have made for a .263/.358/.490/.848 line, and Choo/Wells would have been .297/.383/525/.908.
Okay, I’ve rambled on enough. In conclusion, a Napoli signing in addition to bringing in an outfielder is a very good move. Napoli by himself, not so much. It all depends on what the team decides to do and how much they are willing to spend. If they can get Napoli for 3/34, or 4/44 and bring in an outfielder, I am all for it.
What would you guys think of Napoli coming to Seattle?