BOSTON (CBS) – After helping lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series championship with his big bat and solid defense at first base, Mike Napoli had plenty of suitors on the free agent market.
While there may have been a bigger deal out there than the two-year, $32 million pact he signed with the Red Sox, he knew after just one season that he wanted to call Boston home for the near future.
“There were a lot of teams in it, but I told my agent I wanted to come back to Boston and play there,” Napoli said on a conference call with reporters on Friday.
“It was probably the best time I’ve ever had being around a group of guys,” he said of the 2013 campaign. “It was a lot of fun going to the park every day, seeing those guys and trying to see what would happen that day; how we were going to mess around with each other.”
“It’s the whole organization,” he said. “Coming in to spring training last year and getting to know all the guys, coaches, everybody, there was a strong bond there. I made a lot of friends, and I love the city of Boston. Just being there and the people there. That’s how I am and how I grew up. It was an easy decision for me.”
Napoli initially signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox last winter, but a hip issue discovered in his physical nullified the deal. More than a month later, the two sides agreed on a one-year deal with a $5 million base salary and incentives that ultimately earned him $13 million.
The hip issue — avascular nerosis — didn’t stop Napoli from producing, as he played in 139 games, batting .259 with 38 doubles, 23 home runs, 92 RBIs and an .842 OPS.
This season, there were no doubts about the 32-year-old’s health.
“After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief to go through this fairly easier than that,” Napoli said on Friday. “Ultimately I’m happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place where I was comfortable and a place where I can win.”
Boston general manager Ben Cherington said there is no fear of the hip issue, and that retaining Napoli’s services was one of the biggest priorities of the off-season.
“When we pursued him last year and untimely signed him, we did that because we felt his skillset would help us on the field and we heard a lot about his reputation as a teammate. Having spent several months around him, it became very clear that he wasn’t just an important part on the field, but a particularly important guy in the clubhouse,” said Cherington.
And don’t think that just because he has his title, Napoli won’t be thirsty for another.
“For me, it makes me hungry,” he said. “I started training again and I cant wait to get back on the field with my teammates and try to win it again.”
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