It was recently announced that Mike Napoli plans on testing free agency. I immediately wondered if this was a good idea or not. After just a little bit of research, I’ve made my decision. Before I get to that decision, let’s take a look at some stats and other information.
I want to start off by discussing his defense. He plays both catcher and first base. He has a not very good arm to play behind the plate. He has thrown out 25% of would be base stealers in his career. Considering last season, there were 16 catchers that had a minimum of 940 innings, their combined thrown out percentage was 27.75%. So not awful, but really not great either. He was better at first base, albeit in a much smaller sample size. He has logged 832.2 innings at first base over two seasons. In those two season, he has a 0.4 UZR and 0.8 UZR/150. Not terrible by any means. But again, very small sample size as it is only 105 games (92 games based on just innings). So yeah. His strength is not defense.
Offense, however, certainly is. In the last four seasons, only once has he played in more than 114 games. In those four seasons, he has not hit fewer than 20 home runs, including 30 last season. To go with his .249 ISO, his career slashline is .264/.359/.514/.873. His K% in his career is at 24.5% which is rather high but his 11.6% BB% is pretty good, especially considering he has been north of 12% mulitple times in his career. So not only does he have power, but he’s shown the ability to be patient. Great combination.
Next up, I’d like to look at his competition. I’m using current 2013 free agents by MLBTradeRumors.
For catchers, competition is thin. Other than Miguel Montero and Brian McCann, there really aren’t any catchers that I would consider taking over Napoli. And if I’m being completely honest, I think that both Montero and McCann will be resigned to long contracts. You just don’t let talent like that walk especially at the catcher position. Of the remaining catchers, only four are younger than Napoli. Of those four, Russell Martin and Chris Iannetta are the only two I would consider to maybe be full time starters — and it’s truly pushing it. Napoli is clearly heads and shoulders above the competition.
And then you have first base. I would have thought that it would be better — but it’s really not. In my opinion, a majority of those that will be free agents are more designated hitters than first basemen. nine of the 15 are 35 years or older and includes Jason Giambi who is 42. Call me crazy, but I don’t really see Giambi, James Loney, Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman as being serious competition to Napoli.
So is it a good idea? I give it an overwhelming yes. He can command seriously high money thanks to supply and demand. High demand of power for the catcher and first base positions as well as a very low supply of players that can fit that description.
Now let’s look at a possible contract. Going based on FanGraphs linear dollars per win article, we should expect Napoli to get $5.25MM per WAR. Let’s assume his stats remain exactly the same and he posts a 5.7 WAR. He should look to finding a contract that is worth nearly $30MM per year. That’s slightly outrageous. I think that he will be overpaid, no question in my mind. I don’t think he’ll get $30MM per year. I think it’ll be closer to $20MM per year. At 33, Victor Martinez signed a 4 year $50MM contract. He’s two years older and had not put up as good of an offensive year nor is he as good as Napoli defensively. I think that if he performs like he did last year, he’s staring a 4 year $80MM contract in the face.