Napoli thrilled to be returning to World Series champs
Despite other teams showing interest, slugger wanted to stay with Red Sox
BOSTON -- Sure, there was a business element to Mike Napoli's free-agent negotiations. However, the slugger made it clear that his top priority was to remain with the Red Sox, and he got his wish.
A week after agreeing to terms on his new two-year, $32 million pact that will have him taking aim at the Green Monster through the end of 2015, Napoli and the Red Sox formalized the contract with a conference call on Friday afternoon.
"There were a lot of teams [interested] actually," said Napoli. "I'm not going to get into specifics, but there were a lot of teams in it, but ultimately it came down to [the fact that] I told my agent I wanted to come back to Boston and play there. We were able to get something worked out."
Like many of the players general manager Ben Cherington signed in the offseason prior to the 2013 season, Napoli fit in seamlessly both in the lineup and in the clubhouse.
Napoli can now continue the relationship for at least a couple of more years, providing protection for David Ortiz in the lineup and giving the Red Sox a solid glove at first base.
Winning the World Series was pretty much the best time Napoli has had in his career, and he made sure to enjoy it, hanging around Boston for a couple of weeks after the fact.
"I definitely had a good time after the World Series," Napoli said. "I just spent time with my family and my friends, the fans and the people in Boston. It was a great time, something I'll never forget."
It's also something that won't make Napoli content. If anything, he now has a burning desire to experience the same thing all over again -- hopefully in 2014.
"I think after going through this, being able to sit down and realize what happened for me, it makes me hungry," said Napoli. "I started training again and I can't wait to get back on the field, be with my teammates again and try to do it again."
After the complications of last winter, when an MRI revealed that Napoli had necrosis in his hips and his original three-year deal was turned into a one-year contract, Napoli was glad his physical was straightforward this time around.
And when you tack his current two-year deal on to the one he got last year, he ended up getting his three years after all, making a total of $45 million instead of the original three-year, $39 million pact that fell apart.
"After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief just to go through this and it was easier than last year," Napoli said. "Ultimately, I'm happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place to be comfortable and in a place where I could win."
"There are no special covenants or anything like that related to the hip," Cherington said. "We're confident that Mike is healthy and we feel he's going to be a big part of our team over the next couple years."
Getting Napoli back in the fold was no small part of Boston's offseason blueprint.
"It was important," Cherington said. "It was clearly one of our priorities as we got into the offseason. Having spent several months around him, it became very clear that he was not just a really important part of the team on the field and what he does on the field, but he was a particularly important guy in the clubhouse.
"Really, just a lot of things that Mike does as a player are things that we believe in strongly. He's accountable, he's responsible, he's prepared, he's a unique player in a lot of different ways. Obviously if you talk about the power and all that, and he certainly has power, but he just does a lot of things on the field that we think help the team win. He's an excellent baserunner.
"He worked his tail off to become an excellent defender at first base. He sees a ton of pitches. Even when the results aren't good, he sees a ton of pitches, so there are just a lot of things he does that contribute. So it's important on a number of levels for us to bring him back."
Though the offseason can sometimes feel quick for a player when he comes off a World Series championship, Napoli sounds like a man who can't wait to reunite with his teammates in Fort Myers, Fla., in a couple of months.
"As a player, it was probably the best time I ever had being around the group of guys," Napoli said. "It was a lot of fun going to the park seeing those guys, going to the park every day and seeing what was going to happen every day. It was fun going to the ballpark every day."