ESPN's Tim Kurkjian joined Mut & Merloni on Monday, shortly after reports emerged that the Red Sox have agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with free agent Mike Napoli.
"It's roughly what I thought he was going to get," Kurkjian said. "It's probably a little bit more than I thought he was going to get, but you're dealing with a Red Sox team here that is clearly in trouble, clearly needed to have a bat at first base. We all know his swing is perfect for Fenway Park, we've all seen his numbers at Fenway Park. Of course, not a whole lot matters from that until he actually gets to Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox and we can see what he can do.
"I think it was the right thing to do for them because they had to have a bat. He's a real pro. A couple of years ago he was as good a hitter as there was in the American League the second half of the season. He had a real drop-off last year. But I think he'll be a better hitter playing first base most of the time, because just the obvious wear and tear on his body that comes from being a catcher most of the time."
The converted catcher has some defensive issues at first base. Kurkjian said that's part of the package with Napoli.
"He's not a particularly good defensive first baseman, and I don't think anyone thinks that he is," Kurkjian said. "After watching Adrian Gonzalez for a short period, you'll see the difference between these two guys, and it will be a stark difference here. But I think Napoli does serve a couple of purposes. He can go behind the plate here and there. And even though they already have a couple of catchers, and David Ross is a very good backup and I think he's going to play more than a backup plays, I think they'll be OK behind the plate -- in fact, better than OK behind the plate. But you're right, defensively at first base they're going to lose something there. And you can't do that in the American League East -- starting letting runs in, because that's really going to hurt you."
Asked if he thought the Red Sox would make a major deal during this week's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., Kurkjian wasn't sure.
"They might make a big trade," he said. "Justin Upton is out there, and he's available. There's a real question for me right now how good a player Justin Upton is and how much it's going to cost to get him. But that would qualify, I would think, as a big move. There's your everyday right fielder and your middle-of-the-order guy, and then you hope to revive him.
"The other interesting thing is -- and I'm not going to get anything started here because I just don't see it happening -- is if you had told me today: How can the Red Sox not make a run at Josh Hamilton if they can get him for four years? It seemed to make sense, they need an everyday outfielder who can hit. And then I talked to a Red Sox source who told me they would never give Josh Hamilton more than two years, which means that deal is not going to happen.
"I just can't believe the Red Sox with all their money aren't going to leave without a big splash of some sort. But maybe they'll go with several medium splashes -- Napoli, Swisher and somebody else, and start to fill the holes that way."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On free agent outfielder Shane Victorino: "He's available, certainly, and there are a bunch of players out on the market who are kind of like him. There are center fielders out there, even with B.J. Upton gone, there's still Michael Bourn and some other people. Victorino has shown now that he can play the corners. The danger with Victorino is his OPS last year was about a hundred points lower than where it normally is, and about 142 points down from where it was last season, in 2011. So, there's a danger there that he's no longer the dynamic offensive player that he used to be. That may keep the price down on him.
"He fits [GM Ben Cherington's] description perfectly: He can play left field, he can right field, but mostly he can play center field. And that's a really nice guy to have. Exactly how much it's going to cost for him, I'm not so sure. … The Red Sox had better be prepared to pay him, and they're going to have to pay him as an everyday player. Because he's not going to go anywhere and be a backup anywhere. He's going to want everyday player money. So, it's going to be relatively expensive."
On free agent outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher and if he's a good clubhouse presence: "I think he brought a lot to the Yankees as far as just a free spirit, a little bit of an edge. And I think he would be good in Boston. I think he would be good in the clubhouse. If I were the Red Sox I would look long and hard at him, because obviously he can play left and right field, he switch hits and, as you guys said, he can play first base also. So, I think he's very much on the radar there for the Red Sox, and I think he should be. I guess there's a debate how good he is in the [locker] room. From all indications from my eyes, he's very good in the room. And I think he could help the Red Sox in several different ways."
On Alex Rodriguez reportedly needing hip surgery that will force him to miss 2-3 months next season: "I watched him in the postseason last year, him struggle so badly like that. And I must have said to myself three different times: This guy's got to be hurt. He can't be this bad. And yet you're right, how in the world can this come up this late if he was hurt three months ago? It just doesn't follow. Maybe he was hurt. But if he was hurt, how could they not have done this surgery the minute they got knocked out of the playoffs so they could cut down the time into the season that he's going to miss? Now they have to go find a replacement for A-Rod at third. Where are they going to get that from? Is Eric Chavez going to replace him for a long period of time? Absolutely not. So, now the Yankees have something else to worry about. Now they have a shortstop and a third baseman coming back from an injury, not to mention the other holes on that team. Boy, they have a lot of work to do right now. And as of today, more than they had yesterday."
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