Pirates View Mike Napoli as the Perfect Fit at First Base, But…

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates view Mike Napoli as the perfect fit at first base, although you shouldn’t be penciling him into the lineup anytime soon.

Napoli has been one of the biggest names on the market this off-season. He is being pursued by his former team, the Red Sox, along with the Marlins, Mariners, and probably a lot of other teams. The Red Sox are some of the biggest spenders in the game, and by all reports the Mariners seem desperate to spend some money for a quick fix. I’ve seen predictions ranging from $17-20 M per year, which makes sense when you consider who is bidding on him.

He would be the perfect fit at first base. He’s got impressive power, and could slide into the middle of the lineup, which is a need for the Pirates. He also surprisingly put up some strong defensive numbers at first base, with a 13.3 UZR/150 in 2013 and a career 4.9 UZR/150 in over 2100 innings.

Cafardo’s comments about money is more than just a usual “Nutting is cheap” comment. The Pirates are currently sitting with a projected $66 M payroll on Opening Day. They usually add about $8-10 M per year during the season. If Napoli did cost $17-20 M per year, then you’re looking at an $83-86 M payroll on Opening Day and about $90-95 M at the end of the year. The Pirates spent around $75 M in 2013, which means that Napoli alone would take up their entire increase in salary. That means they wouldn’t have room in the budget for another pitcher or any other position.

If Napoli’s price came down, he would be a perfect fit. However, I don’t really see that happening, and I don’t see the Pirates being able to afford him and other players at the estimated prices that are being thrown around.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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I know this opinion will find plenty of support here, but I mean I really hate the Yankees. I don’t hate that they spend money that’s up to them and I’m not jealous. But 7 years and 153M for Ellsbury? Are you frickin kiddin mean?! That’s stupid! The Yankees are actually bad for baseball. This deal is stupid. A deal similar to Matt Kemp and Manny?! Ellsbury isn’t that level, sorry!


I hate them too. Totally agree. But this is what happens when you have a broken system. Large market teams set the market for free agency and price out the smaller markets. Pisses me off. We can have a cap on draft spending, international spending, but not overall spending. All of that = a broken system. Hope that those contract bite the Yankees in the backend like they did last year.


Yeah, I really would like to write an article or see someone write an article that gets into the national media about how broken the system is. I mean the Yankees cried like babies because the Pirates spent money in the draft and they ended up getting the rules changed. What is the difference between the draft and free agency? What the Yankees do in free agency is much worse for the game than what the Pirates did in the draft. The Pirates spend $13M in a draft and the Yankees go crazy…the Yankees are primed to spend close to 1/2 of a BILLION dollars in one offseason setting the market so unrealistically that other teams, not just other small market teams but even other larger market teams, really can’t even compete/comprehend the money and that is somehow normal and acceptable. The Yankees are going to sign someone else, they have made that very clear….that next big contract will likely push them to close to 1/2 of a billion dollars in one off season. Its disgusting for the game. Let the Pirates spend 13M on 30 players in the draft…hell, let the Pirates spend 30M on 30 players in the draft if they want because what the Yankees do is much, much worse for the game of baseball.


We disagree on a lot Jared, but I agree 100% with this post. I’ve always hated the Yanks, but to see them rig the few ways a small market team had a chance at accumulating talent is disgusting. I guess they just couldn’t stand seeing the Bucs with an $80 million payroll be better than their $200 mil. Or it’s a lot more hard work learning all of those draftees than it is checking on what free agents want $100 million.

Bob Martin

The price of first basemen just went up. Justin Morneau just signed a two year 13m with the Rockies. That’s an average of 6.5m per season. I know the Pirates won’t sign any guy close to that amount to be a platoon players.
The Pirates best case is to low ball Garett Jones and hope he is willing to come back with an incentitive laden contract. That’s the only player the Pirates can fit into their extremely cheap budget.


100% agree… I don’t think jones would get more than 5 mil on the open market, possible far less. They could sign jones, and let lambo platoon w/ tabata. If lambo is hitting and GIJ is struggling, you can make Lambo Gabby’s platoon partner for the short term. If they aren’t willing to spend, they’ll have to take risks and rely on good pitching. It will be hard for RF to be any worse than last year, either way. Also, even if pushed back to a bench role, I’ll take GIJ over Inge on my bench ANY day.


This is what I mentioned earlier in this thread: that Morneau signing soon would set the market and 6.5×2 years is plenty to make me not want any of the available free agent options!


Has anyone heard anything on Garrett Jones? I wouldn’t be totally surprised if they tried to bring him back on a lesser paying 1 year contract. NH described Jones as a victim of the arbitration process. I wonder if that is some kind of hint they would bring him back for less money. Curious to see what he brings on the open market either way.


Whether we like it or not, the Pirates are simply not in a position to take the same financial risks that other teams are. Tim indicates a possible contract value of 17 – 20 m per year for a player over 30, with significant health concerns and who whiffs a lot. This team does not need another strikeout machine! They need to at least put the ball in play. The likelihood is that Pedro is still going to K a lot, they don’t need to compound that problem even more!!! Sabremetrics and Moneyball tell us that OBP is critical! What happens if Napoli goes downhill physically and the Pirates are stuck with $34 – $40 m of dead payroll over those years – disaster! Abreu was a huge risk too, you’re not just talking 12 m per or whatever, but a $68 million contract for a player who has not swung at a single minor league pitch – huge risk!!!! Like everyone else I’d like to see the Pirates be able to make these signings but huge commitments like this have bigger downsides for teams like the pirates than other organisations. The Yankees just signed McCann and Ellsbury for huge money. What happens if they don’t perform? They just go out and hand out more 100 million plus contracts. We have the team and organisation that we have, not another, so they have to do it the Pirate Way (not the Yankee Way). It may well be that the solution to 1b for the next year may be a Gaby/Lambo platoon or a trade….


I’m likely one of the very few posters here that wouldn’t be surprised if NH did this deal. I’m not saying I expect him to, just that I wouldn’t be shocked. But I really don’t see the cost/ benefit being worth it. Napoli is an incredibly streaky hitter. When he’s hot, he can carry a team. When he’s not, he can be miserable; like 1 for 30 miserable. He’d be better than a Gabby/Lambo platoon; but how much better ? IMO not good enough to warrant the moola.


some shocking, shocking comments here… Did we like having a winning season? yes?

Do we not all comprehend that there is only so much money in the Pirates’ bankroll to spend? This must be spent on the ENTIRE organization. You like foreign free agents like Marte and Polanco ….etc? Like the minors being stacked and setting up a pipeline of talented guys coming to the majors in waves? Like shrewd FA signings like Martin and Liriano?
Yeah, me too.

So WHY IN THE WORLD do you people demand that the Pirates come up with some money out of their butt to pay to a guy for one or two seasons that will ruin the budget?!!? WHY? That would be LUDICROUS. They MUST have depth, they MUST have a strong farm system and everything else. It makes you look irrational or not educated on the subject to simply demand that the pirates sign a 1b that will break their budget and hurt them in other areas. That is NOT a recipe for success. It IS a recipe for setting the organization back years. NO THANKS.

The other alternative is to do bad FA signings like this, deplete the minors, then have debt problems and need to sell the team and maybe relocate… oh wait, that was tried about 20 years ago and we are just now coming out of it thanks in large part to fiscal responsibility and allocating money PROPERLY.


AMEN Swampirate!!! You are awesome Brotha!!! We are in great hands!! Everyone wants to second guess what Neil has done over the pass 6 years!! This dude has delivered!! He has done it with timely trades and signings and most important….PATIENCE!!! Relax people, if worst comes to worst we have Tabata and Snider in Right field until we have a 15 tool outfield in late spring!! Then we can roll with a Lambo-Sanchez 1st base for the season. I love Lambo and the kid deserves a shot!! I am glad we didn’t offer AJ all that money. Not worth it. If we can get him cheaper, I will take it, but if not….Thank you for your services AJ, You were a key piece to our comeback!! Thank you and move on!! The Farm is stacked and ready to be used!! So folks I don’t give a hoot about what other teams are doing. We are just fine and folks have to worry about us because we were 6 games from winning 100. That is very doable this season!!! So Backup off of Neil and let that guy work!!! We will be fine!!!


Nice sense of optimism, but truth is better…and the truth is the Pirates are likely to win less than 94 games, not more! And why should we care what other teams do? Because you do realize that we compete against those other teams, right? The pirates roster as of this minute is worse than last season and our competition is better. Optimism is nice, but be realistic man. AJ is a big loss thus far…and Lambo is having a terrible time in Winter ball right now and certainly isn’t a guarantee, let alone someone to be “loved”…again, some realism man.


I agree almost completely with swamp, and maybe a little counterintuitively, somewhat with Jared too. First off, the Bucs are more likely to win less than 94 games than they are to win more. This is simply a fact, as only the A’s and Braves have won 94 games each of the last 2 seasons. This is a fact no matter what the Pirates do this offseason. They could sign Napoli and the best SP out there plus a SS and 3 great bench pieces and still do worse. After all, the Yanks, Dodgers, Angels, Nats, etc all try to put themselves over the top via free agency. And none have repeated 94 wins.

So the question comes down to what the Bucs should do. And this is where I agree with swamp. If you can’t count on the same # of wins next year, you need to do the best thing for the next 6 – 8 years, not just next season. Signing Napoli would hamstring them for the next 3 – 4 years instead of allowing the flexibility to add the pieces they’ll need. I don’t think it’s irrational or not educated to go for it with a big signing like this. After all, GMs succumb to that feeling often (Brewers a few years ago, Royals right now). I just strongly believe the Bucs will be in a much better place than the Royals in 3 or 4 years, and probably during those years as well.

And I don’t see how anyone can love or hate Lambo at this point. He hasn’t done anything at the MLB level, good or bad (please don’t talk about 30 ABs). But he sure as hell has earned a chance with his 2013 production. His fall ball #s are meaningless compared to the entirety of last season, especially since he took about 3 months off and the rest of the players played a month ahead of him.


The pirates are likely to win just as many games or more due to their system, that’s realism. AJ still might come back. I just don’t understand why everyone is freaking out about that, in fact, I think its highly likely that he will. Also, Lambo hasn’t played every day since about Aug, so this is equal to spring training after the of season for him, it doesn’t matter how much he struggles he is getting back into the groove of things.


Couldn’t say it any better. Yeah, it would be nice to add a power bat at first like Napoli, but not if it costs you a quarter of your payroll. We won by being smart with our money and picks. We sucked for twenty years because the team made poor decisions on FA signings, drafted poorly, and had no presence in Latin America.

Now we have seen success and everyone wants to go back to the model that sunk the boat for a generation by spending wildly. No thanks. I get excited thinking what this team could look like next year and further. Taillon, Kingam, Glasnow, Heredia, Polanco, Meadows, McGuire, etc. man that is serious talent. Better than a big splash, $17 million first baseman who will strike out a 150 plus times a year.

Remember how they got to where they now are. Spend wisely because they have guys who will command more $ down the road.


The Detroit Tigers are in hot pursuit of Choo…maybe there is a way they could be persuaded to unload Rick Porcello on a deal similar, although lesser talent for Porcello, to what they sent Fister to Washington. Porcello could be a decent addition to the staff, young, controlled, and marginally priced. Still would prefer AJ, but Porcello wouldn’t be bad.


Detroit just traded Fister I doubt they would get rid of another starter.


Probably right. I don’t think they have another starter ready…their farm-system was ranked 29th (tied) in baseball.


The 2013 Pirates were all about pitching. The 2014 Pirates had better get more offense, or we are looking at 4th place at best. The Pirates can not win 1-0 games this year like they did last year. We need some more offense, and it seems like we are not going to get it…..do something before time runs out !!


The Pirates certainly will still, hopefully, be able to win 1-0 games. The Pirates will and still should be pitching and defense focused. Yes, they need more offensive help from the LH platoon at 1B and need more consistent at bats from RF…but this team will win, if it wins, because of defense and pitching.

Bob Martin

If the Royals can give Carlos Beltran 48m over 3 years surely the Pirates can afford Napoli. It comes down to a “want to” . The Royals “want to” make their team better so they are willing to spend a few millions to do it. The Pirates don’t want to spend the funds to improve their team so they won’t .


The royals shouldn’t be used as a model for success, it seems like some people think spending money blindly= effort.


Exactly bucyeah. Just because the Royals CAN do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Look at last offseason. They CAN trade the Rookie of the Year for 2 years of a good SP, but it’s not the smart thing to do.

Frank Restly

I thought the Mariners were the $48 million dollar mystery team trying to acquire Beltran?


Bob, I get what you’re saying…but I do not think it would be prudent to sign Napoli for anything north of $12M. This necrosis is an issue, his RH bat is an issue, and I am just not sure I am that in love with him to sign him for that price. I would rather spend the money on starting pitching and a LH platoon 1B. This FA market is not really that appealing, honestly, for a team with this the needs of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That is EXACTLY why I have maintained that they should have QO’d Burnett and should be looking to acquire the 1B platoon via trade.

Bob Martin

Jared, I’m not even saying sign Napoli. Just do something. Show the fans you want to win. Give A.J. a qualifying offer so if he decides to play and wants more money then you get a comp pick. What do the Pirates do,nothing out of fear that he will accept that offer and they’re stuck paying him millions more than the budget allows.
We all know the Pirates need a first baseman so what are they waiting for? It’s pretty simple survey the potential targets and go get one. Past history tells me that will wait until the very last minute and sign some guy who nobody else wanted and thus low ball him or wait until the market dries up and be forced to overpay for somebody that clearly has seen his best days.


They will do something, its only December and the winter meetings havnt even started. Also, giving AJ a qo would probably have insulted him and lowered the likelyhood of him coming back.


Well, it seems like the Rockies are set to sign Morneau to a surprising 2-year deal. That might set the market for the mid-level 1B guys, so maybe we see some more action.

Id really like to see the Pirates find a long(er)-term option at 1B. Maybe a trade…someone younger. I like the potential trade candidates more than I like the available free agents.

Bruce Humbert

ROFL – if the Pirates wanted to spend this kind of money they would have gone hard after Byrd.

Napoli is a nice player – but is a strikeout machine as others have noted.

Lambo-Sanchez platoon at first – Snider-Tabatha platoon in right until Polanco is ready.

And unless things change a lot Polanco will be ready out of Spring Training – just have to wait out his Super 2 date for a call up


Pirates don’t need Byrd, but they need Napoli.


I am not sure that the Pirates need Napoli.


Pirates don’t need Byrd, they need Polanco.


we need a first baseman not a right fielder. In case you havent heard there is a minor prospect named Polanco who is a walking toolshed


so we would not want byrd for any reason


Why should we stake seriously any opinion written by a reporter for the Boston Globe?


Napoli is a fine player, I just don’t see him as the perfect fit that this reporter that knows little about the Pirates states. I’m Luke warm on James Loney, my preference in no particular order would be trading for either, Adam Lind, Billy Butler, Mitch Moreland, or Logan Morrison.


Adam Lind, yes…Ike Davis…not Mitch Moreland or Logan Morrison…Billy Butler would be a decent addition, but the issue is that if the rumors are true that the Royals have offered 3 years and $48M to Beltran to get him back to KC, I doubt they will be getting rid of any of their talent…seems like they’d be tooling-up instead of shedding talent.

Frank Restly


From what I hear it’s the Mariners not KC offering $48 million to Beltran.


This runs afoul of Buster Olney’s tweet that says executives are convinced that Beltran will be going back to KC at 3 years and $48M.


The problem with Napoli is he’s a righty. Facing LHP last year he hit more HRs (which will be tougher in PNC with a deep left and center) compared to Gaby but had a lower avg, ops, and worse strikeout ratio. So you aren’t gaining much value there.

Facing RHP he still had power but he had .248 avg, .816 ops (still good but not remarkable), and struck out over a third of the time.

The line against RHP is what you are gaining. I like the idea of a guy who can play everyday, but is Napoli worth 20 million? There has to be a much cheaper platoon option who can give you that kind of line if not better against RHP.


I agree with this. Right now for this team, unfortunately, a platoon makes the most sense…and Napoli certainly does not fit that, that is also why it is baffling that he’s considered a strong fit.

Frank Restly

No the Pirates do not need another strike out machine at 1B. Check the numbers, last year Napoli had 187 strikeouts in 498 at bats to Alvarez’s 186 strikeouts in 558 at bats. And you were cringing every time Pedro came up to bat weren’t you?

For the money talked about the Pirates would get better value with Morneau. For better value at a cheaper price they could look at Eric Hosmer at KC or Brandon Moss at Oakland.


I agree and would love to get Hosmer but I doubt KC would deal him right now.


I guess the thing that troubles me a little bit is this: Jose Abreu came at a much lower price tag, if I am correct I believe it was $11-12M per year, but the Pirates were never really a strong contender for him. He, also, would not have been tied to draft pick compensation and a signing like Abreu would actually fall completely in-line with the way small market teams are built, that is: acquiring prime talent through the draft and international signings that provide great deal of upside at a lower cost than usually older free agents. If you think about it as Abreu at $12M and a pitcher at $10-12M then the Pirates get the 1B they need, younger, and more years of control and also get a starter that they need all for around the same price as Napoli. If they like Napoli, I just do not understand why they weren’t stronger players for Abreu.


Abreu has horrible defense at first reports said, so he was going to be a dh. The Pirates need good defense at first.


Jared, the difference is that Jose Abreu hasn’t even had a major league at bat yet. I know he looks good and I was hoping the Bucs would make a push for him but he hasn’t proven jack yet. So that would have been a huge payout gamble.


Thanks csnumber23…I am not one to scream for the Pirates to spend just to have seen them spend money. It has to make sense…and IF Napoli makes sense, then I contend that Abreu made as much if not more sense for obvious reasons: less $$$, more years of control, less injury-risk, more upside.

This offseason has been an interesting one so far…there is not a lot of elite talent out there and the talent that is out there really isn’t worth the loss of a pick. If the Pirates are going to spend it will have to be internally, through a trade, or through international signings.


Yes and no. It would have been a gamble and would have still been a huge payout, but so was giving Garrit Cole an $8M signing bonus. Yes, they aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons, but it works. Consider, further, that the Cuban Professional League is at least as good, competition wise, as AA if not AAA, and you have to also take into account the recent monster successes of his Team Cuba teammates who have made the transition to MLB.

In the words of Rick Hahn:
“I was talking about [the risk] with a GM of another club and he pointed out every free-agent deal has a risk and comes with potential for down side. You can choose to sit and do nothing, which is the safest route, or aggressively address need.”

I am not so certain that the risk with Napoli, especially injury-concern, is not greater than Abreu.


Serie Nacional is equivalent to high A ball at the most, with a less homogenized talent pool, so projecting outliers is very difficult. Jose Abreau made sense at lower average value.


Plus 1 Andrew !


That’s true, good points!


I’ve always been a big Nutting supporter, but even I can’t defend this one. The Pirates’ have a glaring hole at 1B, and Napoli is the best option out there. Go spend some money so this team can compete for the playoffs again. My God is it really that difficult.


Marty : I will answer you with this quote from Andrew. ” With free agency being the least efficient way to allocate money, it would very suspect for the Pirates to give $17-20 million (1/4 of a $80 million dollar payroll) to a player with avascular necrosis in both hips.” Does that make any sense to you ?


Spending 17-20 mil is Difficult!!! It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money….

Ian Rothermund

No. It’s super easy actually. It’s just stupid.

Stephen Brooks

The loss of a draft pick makes it more stupider-er.


I also find it hard to believe that the Pirates would offer the number of years that Napoli will be seeking in a contract. Overspending on a 1 year deal has its drawbacks, but overspending on a 3 year deal, particularly for some who has the long-term type of injury which is hurting Napoli would be ridiculous.

I don’t see the Pirates and Napoli as a good match.


With free agency being the least efficient way to allocate money, it would very suspect for the Pirates to give $17-20 million (1/4 of a $80 million dollar payroll) to a player with avascular necrosis in both hips.


James Loney!!!


I’m sorry for laughing, but is there anyone that the Pirates CAN afford?
Every story line is the same old story. “Pirate’s interested in {insert name} but budget constraints will make it unlikely for them to land {insert name}.


I question this whole report. The wording of Mr. Cafardo’s tweet makes it seem like somebody in the Bucs FO told him this. But saying this publicly would be even dumber than NH’s comments last week about not paying AJ market value. After all, the Bucs are supposedly the only option for AJ while this tweet if the first link to Napoli that I’m aware of.

On top of the stupidity of saying this, there’s also the matter of whether it’s actually accurate. Napoli is a proven hitter with good enough defense in limited 1B time (about 1 1/2 seasons based on 2100 innings). That much would be a perfect fit for the Bucs. Offsetting that are the facts that he strikes out way too much, he’d be moving to the NL, as a RH hitter he’d be leaving a favorable park for a less than favorable one, he’s already 32 years old, he has a degenerative hip condition that can strike him down at any time, he’d cost a 1st round draft pick and the $ being talked about would be 1/4 of the Pirates payroll.

Looks like 7 things against him and 2 in favor of him. Hardly a perfect fit and HN would be stupid to sign him. Absolutely no chance he does.


AMEN JUSTspend it for a 2or 3 year contract for Napoli The pitchers are there. Just do it MR nuttttsss and show the FANS ?????? 100 MILL NEVER


No Napoli has way too many hip problems for the Pirates to spend that much on him.


I never would have thought the Pirates would be contenders for one of the top 2-3 free agents on the market because of the likely price-tag. However, to hear that they are interested, but not at the current price is just more irritating in regards to why they won’t spend the money to bring AJ Burnett back. It also is more frustrating when you consider that they should have been serious contenders for Jose Abreu…someone who presents similar upside, is younger, less expensive, and without the injury concerns.


How many times are you going to say they are cheap about Burnett? Like he really would have accepted a qo.


Whether he accepted it or not is not determinative of whether making the offer was correct or not. It was the correct thing to do…

And I would much rather have AJ than Napoli.


Haven’ t you heard the news Jared ? AJ hasn’t decided whether he wants to pitch this year. So no matter what the offer is/was,he wasn’t answering yet. Case closed,give it a rest.


Most vets hate those offers and I’m sure with aj being the big baby head case that he is, would have been pissed if we offered him one. I’m surprised he is still considering playing for us after we passed him up for game 5. I like aj and it would be nice to have him back for just next year. I could care less to have Napoli. He will be basket overpaid be somebody.


Yeah, I don’t want Napoli. I wanted Jose Abreu…but I don’t want Napoli.

There is probably better value in the trade-market for 1B than via free agency. I am OK with the 1B platoon idea…I care more about pitching.


I liked abreu but not as a guy for the pirates. If he is a bust, then that’s too much dead money for this team. You would like to think he would be worth the money and I know you need to take risks as a small market team, but I like them taking risks with pitchers more than hitters at this point. I’m excited to see our young guys come up like tailion and Kingham. As long as we don’t block these younger top pitching prospects, the rotation hopefully will be solid wit these young guys hopefully performing well.


This is what the high revenue teams have done to the small revenue teams, they have driven up prices where they are the only ones that can afford a Napoli or a Cano. A small market team could get him, but they would have to put a few 500k guys in the starting lineup to go with him. The bad news is it is going to get worse, wait till the Dodgers pay Kershaw.


The price of a win was always set by the large firms in the free agent market.

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