Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Mike Napoli was supposed to fill the void left behind by the departure of Adrian Gonzalez. Now, the team is not confident in his long-term health.
The Boston Red Sox do not look poised to make any additional free agent moves or trades to help insure their position at first base. The club has Mike Napoli signed to a one-year deal, but if his hip does not hold up, the Red Sox currently have few options to replace him. After depleting their minor league system and trading away Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox were left with signing a free agent first baseman this offseason. If something goes wrong with that signing, they will not look for another free agent.
As Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests, the Red Sox have some internal candidates to help them ride out any issues that may come from Napoli's health. The former Texas Rangers' slugger was originally slated to sign a three-year deal with the Red Sox, but a routine physical revealed avascular necrosis - the same condition that essentially ended Bo Jackson's career. The Red Sox and Napoli re-negotiated the contract to one year, and both sides hope the 31-year old can stay healthy.
Related: Overbay likely bench bat.
If Napoli does miss time, the Red Sox could turn to Travis Shaw or Daniel Nava to play first base. Neither is an ideal candidate for the position, but they can certainly provide Boston with the service necessary to guide the club through a possible loss of Napoli. Shaw is a third baseman who can play first (not uncommon). Nava is an outfielder who can be converted as necessary.
Lyle Overbay is probably the most-likely candidate if Napoli goes down. The Red Sox signed him to a one-year minor league contract. He is getting an invite to Major League camp this spring, and there is a chance he makes the 25-man roster. If he doesn't, though, he will surely be an option if Napoli suffers any sort of injury, hip-related or otherwise. Overbay has spent the majority of his career at first base. He will certainly have the most experience if the club needs to turn to someone in a pinch.
Napoli put up fantastic numbers in 2011. However, he took a step back in 2012. Part of the problem was a strained quadriceps, but the other part could have been his degenerative hip condition. The Red Sox will not truly know until he starts playing. Napoli is fully recovered from the quad, but the hip is still a bug concern.