St. Louis Cardinals: Is Mike Napoli a cheap option?
The St. Louis Cardinals made their big offseason move by signing center fielder Dexter Fowler. However, fans and reporters are wondering if there is anything else up general manager John Mozeliak’s sleeve.
The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be pleased with their current roster for the 2017 season. They signed Brett Cecil which provided depth to the bullpen and added Dexter Fowler to be their new lead-off guy while also improving the outfield defense.
Manager Mike Matheny also made the announcement earlier this offseason that Matt Carpenter will be the full-time first baseman. However, that announcement was before the annual Winter Meetings and before a number of high profile players failed to find new teams. Sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista haven’t quite had their markets develop and remain free agents while nearly every other big name free agent has signed a contract.
Now, John Mozeliak may stick to his word about only being interested in complementary pieces, but in an interview with Frank Cusumano he mentioned that he would consider pursuing players that are still available in January so long as they would fit into the Cardinals’ plans. Many fans (including our own contributors) are clamoring for a slugger like Encarnacion or Trumbo to be signed but both are looking for multi-year deals around $80-million.
So if Encarnacion or Trumbo don’t quite fit Mozeliak’s plans or the payroll, there still may be a slugger that is worth taking a look at. Drew Silva of Rotoworld and NBCSports suggested on “The Kevin Wheeler Show” on 101 ESPN radio that right handed slugger Mike Napoli could be an interesting fit.
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Napoli, 35, was part of the Cleveland Indians team that lost Game 7 of the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs. He played in 150 regular season games and batted .239/.335/.465 with 34 home runs and 101 RBI. The end of 2016 didn’t go so smooth for Napoli but Silva suggests it could be due to fatigue considering he logged career high plate-attempts and games-played.
Napoli also tallied 859.1 innings at first base and was “okay” defensively posting a minus-4 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.4 Ultimate Zone Rating. However, he’s only a year removed from an above average season for first base and if he’s being compared to Encarnacion or Trumbo, then he’s the best option defensively.
The St. Louis Cardinals could reasonably retract their statement about Matt Carpenter playing first base in 2017. They could sign Mike Napoli to a 1-year deal to play first while Carpenter returns to 3rd and with Wong and Diaz playing the middle infield positions full-time, the defense wouldn’t be compromised completely. There is plenty of time for Carpenter to prepare for 3rd base and if the excuse is because the Cardinals signed a 30-home run, 100-RBI slugger, he and the fans would probably understand.
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It would also allow Jhonny Peralta to either be a utility infielder to be used off the bench while the Cardinals stomach the remaining $10-million he is owed. Or, Peralta could be dealt for mid to low-level prospects similarly to the Jaime Garcia deal with the Atlanta Braves. A number of teams could use a veteran infielder with 1-year left on their contract so it wouldn’t be impossible to find a trade partner.
Signing Napoli would also make Matt Adams relevant again. With Carpenter’s move to first, there didn’t seem to be a real spot for Adams on the team other than pinch hitting. If Napoli is added to the mix, he could platoon at first with Adams in hopes that they both maximize their offensive abilities with favorable match-ups.
Napoli could come to the Cardinals at a relatively low price compared to other big bats. He was paid $7-million last year with the Tribe and likely wants a raise to put him somewhere around $10-million. Recently, there have been reports stating the Indians remain interested in bringing Napoli back but if Napoli’s market doesn’t progress or if the Indians move on, the Cardinals could capitalize on an interesting opportunity.
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The St. Louis Cardinals made the right moves in adding Fowler and Cecil but is it enough to bring them back into playoff contention? The team looks well-rounded but there is a feeling that they could still be one or two moves away. Does Napoli make sense if he is still available at the end of December? And if so, should the Cardinals give him a shot?