The Cleveland Indians have officially found a partner for Carlos Santana at first base and and designated hitter. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Tribe have signed 34-year-old Mike Napoli to a one-year deal worth $7 million (plus $3 million in incentives), pending a physical.
This signing stays in line with the perceived Indians approach this offseason, which involves finding deals in minor league contracts and veteran players who are seeking playing time--something ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated on earlier in the offseason.
In 133 games split between the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers last season, Napoli slashed .224/.324/.410 (98 wRC+) with 18 home runs. STEAMER projects him to have an ever better season next year, with a .231/.333/.417 slash and 18 home runs expected out of 113 games.
Cleveland was previously believed to be interested in first base/designated hitters types such as Chris Carter or Pedro Alvarez, but it would be hard to imagine them signing two players with such limited utility on defense, so they may be out of the running on those two recently non-tender free agents. Recent speculation was that Alvarez was drawing a lot of attention from teams, and the Indians may have been leering of spending a huge chunk of money on him.
According to Rosenthal, Napoli is expected to be the Indians everyday first baseman while Santana stays at designated hitter. Santana has historically struggled on defense, but his bat could easily shine as an everyday designated hitter. This is a hard move to hate: It is cost-effective and improves several aspects of the team in one swoop.