Posted on December 4, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
For much of the offseason, the Cleveland Indians have been interested in re-signing first baseman Mike Napoli. After the role Napoli played in helping the Indians reach the World Series in 2016, it’s not surprising that Cleveland is interested in a reunion. However, the Indians are not putting all of their first base eggs in one basket. Jon Morosi reports that the Indians are considering Chris Carter, Adam Lind, and Mitch Moreland, in addition to Napoli, as options to be the team’s first baseman in 2017.
The Indians were quite fortunate to sign Napoli last year for a mere $7 million, making him one of the biggest bargains in baseball after he contributed 34 home runs and 101 RBIs during the regular season. But coming off such an impressive season, Napoli is reportedly seeking a three-year contract, and is likely expecting more than $7 million per season.
The Indians are understandably reluctant to promise three years to the 35-year old Napoli. Cleveland also doesn’t want to block first base for one of its top prospects Bobby Bradley. While Bradley is unlikely to reach the big leagues in 2017, he’s on track for make his major league debut some time in 2018 after hitting 29 home runs in advanced-A ball in 2016.
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With Bradley on the horizon, the Indians are likely to stay away from any contract that’s more than two years with any first baseman. With Napoli receiving interest from both the Rangers and Red Sox, two of his other former teams, the Indians may not be able to re-sign Napoli to a contract on their terms.
Among their other targets, Carter is an intriguing name after the Brewers let him go earlier in the week when they signed Eric Thames. Carter is a bit of a one-trick pony, but he did hit 41 home runs last season, so he could certainly make up for the power that Napoli provided in 2016. Carter is also younger than Napoli and has some experience playing the outfield, potentially giving the Indians some more defensive versatility with Carlos Santana also an option at first base.
Lind is a less attractive option, although he would be more affordable and provide the Indians with a left-handed power option. The 33-year old slugger had a down year in 2016, but he did post an OPS over .800 in each of the previous three seasons, so it’s possible he could bounce back in 2017 and put together one more outstanding season, although that’s far from a guarantee at his age.
Moreland is likely a better option than Lind among left-handed first baseman, although there are other teams interested in signing him. Moreland has also been rather inconsistent from one year to the next, and while he may be good for 20 home runs per season, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to replicate Napoli’s power numbers from last season.
Among the other first basemen on the market, Logan Morrison, Brandon Moss, and Mark Reynolds may be worth looking at for the Indians, but it’s fair to say that Napoli remains their top target at that position. Of course, based on his contract demands, re-signign Napoli may not be feasible for the Indians, forcing them to settle for one of their options, as they look for a first baseman to pair with Santana in the middle of their order in 2017.