2016 Statistics: 150 G, 645 PA, .239/.335/.465, 34 HR, 101 RBI, 113 wRC+, 1.0 WAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 35
Heading into the 2017 offseason, the Yankees could use another power bat. Last year’s team leader maxed out at 22 home runs, but now Carlos Beltran is gone, Alex Rodriguez was released, and Brian McCann has been traded. The team has now removed all aging hitters off their roster, leaving them with no obvious candidate for the designated hitter job. They don’t even have many veterans who would fit a part-time role. This leaves an opening at DH that can be filled on the open market, if the Yankees choose to go down that route. One player who they could reach out to is Mike Napoli.
Last year, as a member of the AL champion Cleveland Indians, Napoli hit 34 home runs and contributed 101 RBI on their way to the World Series. Despite his power tendencies, he isn’t the one-dimensional player that can come from being a power hitting DH. He showed an excellent eye at the plate, walking 12.1% of the time, putting him in line with his career numbers. His strikeout total reached 30% for just the second time in his career, but he still managed to be an above average hitter on the season.
Napoli split his time between DH and first base, primarily playing in the field. Despite his versatility, he isn’t rated very well as a first baseman and his negative defensive numbers helped to knock some value off him. If the Yankees were to sign Napoli, he would primarily stay out of the field with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin available at first base. Allowing him to focus only on hitting should help him be more valuable than the 1.0 WAR he last in 2016.
It’s hard to tell what kind of contract he will attract. Napoli is currently getting attention from both AL and NL teams, meaning some still view him as a first baseman. This would make it harder for him to settle for a DH job, which tend to pay less than a fielder. If the Yankees were to sign a designated hitter, it would probably work best on a short-term deal, taking them out of the running for Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion. In the end, someone will give Napoli a multi-year deal that will take him out of New York’s price range. However, I would advise that a two-year deal might not be the worst contract in the world. At the very least, he will provide enough power that he could still be a valuable commodity on the trade market.
Without the services of Napoli, or any other free agent signing, the Yankees will have to use a combination of young hitters who don’t require DH days and veterans who don’t necessarily profile as traditional power hitters. While Napoli isn’t necessarily a must-have, he would provide the team with 20-30 home runs, which is something the Yankees desperately need at this point. They currently have Beltran on their radar, but if that falls through, a deal with Napoli might be just what they need.