Mike Napoli the Perfect Fit for Boston Red Sox

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIDecember 3, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Mike Napoli #25 of the Texas Rangers bats against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on October 1, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With news that the Boston Red Sox have signed Mike Napoli, the Sox have an instant fix to their lineup. His defense may not be golden, but his power potential is just what Boston needs.

Napoli has reportedly signed on for three years and $39 million. His decision to take on a higher annual salary allowed Boston to get away with just three years instead of four.

The big catcher/first baseman/DH will be converted to first base full time for the Sox, though there's still a chance he sees time at other positions.

At first glance, this is a good but not great signing.

Napoli doesn't play amazing defense (career -2.6 UZR at first) and is coming off a somewhat disappointing season in which he hit just .227/.343/.469.

But let's delve into this a little bit more.

Napoli is just one year removed from hitting .320/.414/.631 in 2011. Yes, that was with a .344 BABIP, but he also had a low .273 BABIP in 2012—his career BABIP is .299.

With some normalization, Napoli's career line of .259/.356/.507 seems like a fair estimate for the 31-year-old moving forward. And that still comes out to a solid .863 OPS.

And the thing to remember is Boston wasn't aiming to buy average here. With holes at major power positions, they're looking for home runs.

They'll get it with Napoli, who has 20 or more home runs a year over his last five seasons. That streak starting in a crazy 2008 when Napoli played in a mere 78 games.

Then of course, there's the Fenway factor.

I do not expect Mike Napoli to go the way of Adrian Gonzalez. When A-Gon came to Boston, his average and RBI skyrocketed, but he saw a lot of home runs become doubles against the Green Monster.

Seeing that Napoli is a career .306/.397/.710 hitter at Boston with seven home runs in 19 games, I think it's safe to say he'll see plenty of bombs in his new home park.

Now that doesn't mean I think Napoli's a perennial MVP with Boston, but his numbers should get a good boost.

My guess is that Napoli will hit third or fifth in the lineup, allowing lefty David Ortiz to be sandwiched between two right handers (Napoli and Will Middlebrooks).

Either way, he'll be well protected in the lineup with plenty of RBI opportunities.

With plenty of new power in the lineup, Boston's lineup is starting to take shape for 2013. Mike Napoli was a great first move, and chances are Ben Cherington is just getting started.