The Cleveland Indians got a great season out of Mike Napoli in 2016, and would love to sign him before someone else in free agency lures him away. The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners are hoping to add the big hitting first baseman, relying on being able to spend a bit more than the Indians.
Napoli signed a one-year deal with the Indians last year, playing first base and designated hitter, helping Cleveland win the AL Central and make the World Series for the first time in almost 20 years, losing to the Cubs in six games. Napoli delivered 34 home runs and 101 RBIs, his most productive season in terms of knocking the ball out of the park. All that for $7 million, which paid off quite well for both sides. Now the 35-year old is hoping to land a bigger multiyear deal from someone who is looking for power, nothing else (he batted .239 last season).
The Astros adding Napoli would be a major declaration of intent after already signing Josh Reddick and Brian McCann, who are both right-handed hitters like Napoli. It’s not quite clear how the Astros would reshuffle the rest of their lineup (they have a number of options thanks the versatility of Yulieski Gurriel), but Napoli would probably split his time between first base and DH. He played 91 games last season at 1B.
The Mariners will probably use him more in a DH capacity but wouldn’t mind getting someone to add depth and security to their first base position. The Indians will use him just like they did last season, and he probably means more to them considering the Mariners don’t lack players who can hit the ball out of the park. Napoli disappointed in the postseason with just one home run in 56 plate appearances while batting .173, but overall the impression he left makes it difficult for the Indians to let him go, as long as he doesn’t become too expensive for them. Many believe Napoli will be able to sign a deal north of $25 million over two years, which could be too much for the Indians.