Veteran slugger Mike Napoli has undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right hand, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford (via Twitter). Per the report, Napoli played through the injury for at least a significant portion of the 2017 campaign.
Certainly, the hand ailment — the details of which aren’t yet clear — may have contributed to a down year for the 36-year-old. Napoli had joined the Rangers on a one-year deal that promised him $8.5MM, including a $2.5MM buyout on a $11MM club option.
It came as no surprise when Texas declined that option. Though Napoli produced 29 long balls in just 485 plate appearances, he also managed only a .193 batting average and .285 on-base mark. He also recorded a career-high strikeout rate (33.6%) and posted his lowest walk rate (10.1%) since 2010. On the flip side, he was no doubt somewhat unlucky to carry a miserly .225 batting average on balls in play.
Now a free agent, Napoli could certainly hold appeal to teams looking for a cheap source of power. He’s a poor baserunner but does typically grade out as a solid defender at first. And while he has typically been better against left-handed pitching, Napoli also carries a lifetime 112 wRC+ against righties, so he’s not a strict platoon bat. He also produced at a .239/.335/.465 rate in full-time action with the Indians in 2016.
While there are quite a lot of choices in the lumbering slugger department, much of the competition swings from the left side. Among righty first basemen/designated hitters who’ll likely be available for relatively meager commitments, players such as Matt Holliday, Jose Bautista, Mark Reynolds and Danny Valencia figure to be the top alternatives to Napoli. So long as Napoli’s reps can show that he can be expected to be at full health for 2018, he ought to land a MLB roster spot and fairly significant role for his 13th campaign.