There was at least some reason to believe that Napoli could be considered for the $17.2MM offer, with the team hoping he’d decline so that it could recoup a draft pick if he signed elsewhere. Alternatively, the tag also might’ve helped set up a cheaper, two-year arrangement between the sides.
While those possibilities held some appeal, Cleveland was evidently not willing to pay that much to Napoli in the event he accepted. Given that he just turned 35, and would’ve faced disadvantages had he carried draft compensation with him onto the free agent market, that certainly wouldn’t have been a surprising outcome.
Napoli had a productive year and seemingly played a major role in the clubhouse. That the Indians not only won the AL Central, but very nearly won the World Series, surely helps the case for a return. But if that’s to happen now, it’ll occur after Napoli first gauges the interest of the league’s remaining clubs — and the Indians, too, consider alternatives.
Though Napoli did have a strong year at the plate, his market is relatively constrained since he’s limited to first base or DH duties at this stage of his career. He ended with a .239/.335/.465 slash and 34 home runs over 645 plate appearances, solidly above-average hitting that represented a bounceback from a disappointing 2015. But Napoli’s hefty strikeout tallies remain a concern, and defensive metrics soured on his typically well-reviewed glovework at first.
All told, it seems that Napoli will be in a much better spot on the market this year than he was last, although there are quite a few other lumbering slugger types. Still, he figures to command a multi-year guarantee at an annual rate that handily tops the $7MM base salary he was promised in 2016.