The Yankees have a first base problem, and it’s hard to say the issue has been solved after one deal. They traded for Todd Frazier and moved Chase Headley to first in the hopes that things would finally work themselves out. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the team could still use a bat at first, and perhaps Mike Napoli can be that solution.
It’s hard to say that the Yankees are all set at the position when Frazier has not hit after coming over to play third. It’s also important to note that Matt Holliday has been terrible since he returned from his viral infection. In the midst of all this, Brian Cashman continues to bring in more Quad-A first basemen. First it was 26-year-old rookie Garrett Cooper and now there’s Double-A veteran Ryan McBroom. Neither are going to solve the issue at hand, yet here they are, scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Napoli himself is not the perfect solution. He has hit a mere .202/.281/.457 with career-worst peripherals, which is honestly not that far off from Chris Carter. Coupled with his subpar defense at the position, it’s hard to imagine why the Yankees would want him at all. Then you see the 21 home runs, and it’s clear that Napoli is a Chris Carter that actually hits for power.
If the Yankees aren’t going to upgrade the rotation, it makes sense to continue bolstering the offense. This is why I’m advocating for a guy that profiles as who we expected Carter to be this year. Napoli would be able to fill in for Holliday if he’s not getting the job done, and he can play first if Joe Girardi wants to move Headley back to third. Frazier isn’t helping much right now, so what’s the point of keeping him in the lineup every day?
Now, before any of this can even happen, the Texas Rangers have to understand that they are out of the race. As things stand now, they are under .500 and the Astros have absolutely run away with the division. They may just be 2.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, but they would have to jump the Mariners, Angels, Twins, Royals, and Rays to gain a playoff spot. They might want to take things down to the wire, but at some point it’s worth it to call it a day and regroup for next year.
The biggest obstacle in the face of the Yankees acquiring Napoli is obviously going to be his salary. He’s making $6 million this year, and even if they can get the Rangers to take on some of what’s left on the deal, there’s also next season to think about. Napoli has an $11 million team option that the Yankees would certainly decline, but that means they would have to pay him $2.5 million as a buyout.
Would the Yankees think that this cost is worth it? In the end, if they took on all the pro-rated portion of the salary and declined the option, they would likely be on the hook for $6 million total. Cashman has already complemented Hal Steinbrenner for heroically agreeing to add payroll, but would that continue? Who knows.
Napoli might not be the best first baseman available on the market (that would be Justin Bour and Lucas Duda) but he could be the most affordable. The more money the Yankees take on, the lighter the return package will be. Maybe they can give up someone like Jake Cave for a chance to catch lightning in a bottle like they hoped they did with Carter.