37-year-old Mike Napoli has announced his retirement on Twitter. Napoli, who’d dealt with significant injuries to his right knee over the last calendar year, had initially planned to give it another go after completing the rehab process, but has decided, “after much thought and consideration,” to call it quits.
Napoli, a 2011 All-Star and 2013 World Series Champion, will long be remembered for his soaring moonshots, magnetic personality and sought-after clubhouse presence, and a preternatural eye at the plate. Napoli’s career spanned 12 major league seasons, during which time he featured prominently on seven playoff teams, three pennant winners, and the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox.
The catcher/first baseman piled up 5,330 plate appearances for four teams during that time, including three stints with the Texas Rangers, for whom his 2011 season (.320/.414/.631, 179 wRC+) was among the best in club history. In all, Napoli appeared in nearly 1400 major league games, slashing .246/.346/.475 with 267 career HR and an offensive output that graded approximately 20% above the league average during that frame. His 25.1 career fWAR is an outstanding mark for a player who never ranked among his organization’s top 10 prospects at any point during his minor league career.
Selected in the 17th round of the 2000 draft out of a high school in Florida, Napoli’s career began with a slow burn in the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angel farm system. By the time he finally reached the majors in 2006, after nearly seven full seasons in the minors, the then-catcher wasted no time making his mark. His 2.5fWAR in just 99 games places him squarely in the pantheon of most impressive seasons in history for a rookie catcher, and his 92 HR while behind the dish is easily tops in club history.
Persistent friction with skipper Mike Scioscia, though, who never quite seemed satisfied with Napoli’s work behind the plate, led the club to move Napoli in a bizarre 2011 swap with the Blue Jays, where the productive backstop was traded with outfielder Juan Rivera in exchange for the aging Vernon Wells, whose four years and $90MM in remaining salary placed him high on the list of least attractive assets in the game. Napoli was quickly shipped to Texas, where in 2011 he established himself as one of the game’s premier hitters; substantial decline followed, though, and the then-first baseman found a new home for the next three seasons in Beantown.
After the championship run of ’13, and a solid follow-up the next season, an aging Napoli sputtered a bit in ’15, and was left searching for a new home prior to the start of the 2016 season. He found it in Cleveland, where a last hurrah – a career-high 34 HR for the pennant-winning Tribe – left him within mere outs of a second ring.