Veteran slugger Mike Napoli is one of the free agent hitters drawing interest from the Astros, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). While a left-handed bat would be a better fit within a Houston lineup is heavy with right-handed hitters (even after the acquisitions of Josh Reddick and Brian McCann), Napoli would bring some extra veteran leadership to a young team as well as a significant amount of pop.
First base is an area of uncertainty for the Astros for 2017. Top prospect A.J. Reed is still likely seen as the long-term answer at the position, though Reed didn’t show much in his first taste of the big leagues and perhaps isn’t ready to be a regular for a contending team. Yulieski Gurriel is penciled in as Houston’s top first base option, with Reed, Tyler White, Marwin Gonzalez and McCann in the mix for backup duty.
It’s also still possible that Gurriel ends up as the regular left fielder if the Astros go with George Springer in center and Reddick in right, so adding a player like Napoli would go a long way towards stabilizing the first base situation. Whereas a big-ticket free agent first baseman like Edwin Encarnacion would require a commitment of four or five years, Napoli probably won’t require anything more than a two-year deal, so Reed wouldn’t be blocked for too long.
GM Jeff Luhnow’s statement earlier this month that the Astros were going to look to the free agent market for upgrades has already proven to be true with the signings of Reddick and Charlie Morton, though Houston also swung a big trade to land McCann from the Yankees.
Seattle and Cleveland have both been linked to Napoli this winter, and he has been speculatively connected to several other teams with vacancies at first base or DH. The 35-year-old put himself in line for a nice contract in the wake of his 34-homer, .239/.335/.465 season with the American League champion Indians last season.