The Indians hope to re-sign first baseman Mike Napoli this winter, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. It’s not known whether the club will issue the veteran slugger a qualifying offer, he adds.
There certainly seems to be mutual interest, and Cleveland still could use a first baseman/DH to pair with Carlos Santana — whose option seems all but certain to be exercised. Napoli has performed well, swatting 34 home runs in 631 plate appearances and compiling a .242/.338/.473 slash. And he seems to have taken up an important place in the clubhouse.
Still, there are limits to the veteran’s value. He certainly isn’t young, and his total output adjusts to a 116 wRC+ and 106 OPS+, which isn’t exactly world-beating for a player with his defensive limitations. When it comes to the glove, Napoli received negative ratings from both UZR and DRS after previously rating as a quality defender at first.
All said, it’s easy to see both the cause for the continued interest but also for the questions over how much to spend. At $16.7MM, the qualifying offer seems rather steep — particularly with numerous other slugging types set to reach the open market — and it’s not impossible to imagine him accepting.
The best case for Napoli, of course, would be to hit free agency without the necessity of draft compensation hanging over him, as that could significantly tamp down market interest. He will be seeking multiple years this winter, Heyman notes, after settling for a one-year, $7MM contract with the Indians — as well as up to $2MM in plate appearance bonuses that he may max out — following a disappointing 2015 campaign.
While there’s no indication that team and player have discussed a new contract at this point, it’s possible to imagine discussions taking place before the qualifying offer deadline (or while Napoli is mulling it, if issued). Ultimately, it may be that some kind of two-year accommodation to keep Napoli in Cleveland could make sense for all involved.