NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Adding offense following a disappointing season, the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a $39 million, three-year contract with catcher Mike Napoli, a person familiar with the deal said.
The agreement is subject to Napoli passing a physical, which will take place later this week, the person said Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final.
“Awesome addition to our team!” Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester tweeted.
A 31-year-old who also plays first base, Napoli hit .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs as the Texas Rangers won their second straight AL pennant in 2011, then slumped to a .227 average with 24 homers and 56 RBIs this year as he became a first-time All-Star. His on-base percentage dropped from .416 to .343.
Napoli is a .306 career hitter at Fenway Park (19 for 62) with seven homers and 17 RBIs. He is the third free agent this offseason to join the Red Sox following outfielder Jonny Gomes, who got a $10 million, two-year contract, and catcher David Ross, who received a $6.2 million, two-year deal.
“He’s a guy who is getting on base, has power, would be a good fit for our ballpark,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, without confirming the agreement. “We like his offense at Fenway. We like the versatility.”
The right-handed-hitting Napoli could see most of his playing time at first base because Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August along with pitcher Josh Beckett and outfielder Carl Crawford.
“We knew when we made the Dodger trade and we moved Gonzalez that we were going to have to try to find a way to replace that offense,” Cherington said.
Texas was unwilling to guarantee three seasons for Napoli, who hit .350 with two homers and 10 RBIs in the 2011 World Series against St. Louis.
“They were very upfront with us throughout the process. So not a surprise,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “I’m hesitant to use the word disappointment because ultimately we had a decision to make.”
Boston now has four catchers, with Napoli joining Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway and Ross. Saltalamacchia started 95 games behind the plate last season, with Kelly Shoppach getting 42 starts and Lavarnway 25.
The Red Sox could trade one of their catchers, but that might wait until spring training.
“We’re pretty comfortable where we are,” Cherington said.
Boston still is looking for a left-handed bat and starting pitching. The Mets are discussing whether to trade NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but the price in prospects would be high.
“It’s always steep for the better guys, a valuable commodity, so if a team is going to move someone, especially if there’s any length of control, they’re asking for a lot,” Cherington said, “as we would.”
Boston is coming off its first last-place finish in two decades, a year when the Red Sox went 69-93 and lost 26 of their last 33 games. Manager Bobby Valentine was fired and replaced by John Farrell.
“You’ve got to add a lot of wins (from) where we finished to compete in this division,” Cherington said. “I think players and agents understand that despite what happened this year, Boston is Boston. We’re committed to having a winning team. We have a history of a winning team. We’re going to commit resources to the team.”
At last year’s session in Dallas, Cherington called the winter meetings a “cesspool of information flow and dialogue.”
“You go through the cycle once and you’re a little bit more comfortable with everything you have to do,” he said, “and maybe more aware of the potential pot holes and able to navigate those hopefully.”
But he did have some levity. Asked what player he was looking at to play right field, Cherington responded: “Dwight Evans.”
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