Mike Napoli agrees to 2 years, $32M

Mike Napoli

BOSTON -- Mike Napoli came to terms with the Red Sox on a two-year, $32 million deal, agent Brian Grieper said Friday night, allowing the team to breathe a collective sigh of relief after the power-hitting first baseman left money on the table in order to return to Boston.

"Mike's really pumped," Grieper said Friday night. "He loves Boston."

Napoli tweeted the news himself, in a fashion that left little doubt about his affection for the city and a team for which he played an integral part in a World Series title.

The deal is pending a physical, but unlike last December, when Napoli had come to terms on a three-year, $39 million deal only to have it voided and reworked after he failed his physical, this will be a mere formality, Grieper said. In last year's exam, the Red Sox discovered a debilitating hip condition, avascular necrosis, and reduced their commitment to one year.

Napoli actually made money by failing that physical. He was paid $13 million in 2013 ($5 million base, plus $8 million met in performance incentives), and the additional $32 million will make his three-year earnings $45 million -- or $6 million more than he would have been paid under the original deal.

Napoli's agreement comes during the same week that former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to terms with the New York Yankees on a seven-year, $153 million deal  and former Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia reached a three-year, $21 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

Ellsbury's departure, while expected, created some urgency for the Red Sox to retain Napoli, who also was vigorously pursued by the Texas Rangers, with whom he had played in 2011 and '12, and by the Seattle Mariners. At least one team offered Napoli a three-year deal, and there was at least one offer for a larger financial package than what he took from the Red Sox.

Napoli, who very publicly celebrated winning the World Series in Boston watering holes, is already a fan favorite, and the news that he took less money to stay undoubtedly will endear him even more to the team's fan base.

Only one Red Sox free agent of significance remains unsigned: shortstop Stephen Drew, who a month ago was declared out of the running for a return by one baseball source who predicted he would receive a multiyear offer from another club. The Red Sox remain engaged in talks with agent Scott Boras about Drew returning, but the pressure to bring him back might be eased by Napoli's signing.

Had Napoli left, the Red Sox had discussed internally the possibility of signing Drew, moving rookie Xander Bogaerts to third, and employing a platoon of Will Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava at first.

Napoli becomes the third free agent signed by the Red Sox since the end of the season, joining catcher A.J. Pierzynski (one year, $8.25 million) and reliever Edward Mujica (two years, $9.5 million). Coincidentally, Pierzynski replaced Napoli as Texas' catcher after he left the Rangers following the 2012 season.

It didn't take Napoli's Red Sox teammates long to take out the needle.

"Took ya long enough," pitcher Jon Lester tweeted.

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