Why the Detroit Tigers should sign Mike Napoli

Editorial: The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Detroit Sports Nation. 

As of today, former Indians first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli is still a free agent. When the Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion this off-season, Napoli became the odd man out for the Tribe. Even though Tigers GM Al Avila has talked about shedding payroll, traded Cameron Maybin, and then did nothing else, a Napoli signing could be a good move on the Tigers part, even if it’s just for one year.

It is no secret that our Tigers are aging, and the window to claim a World Series now is more of a crack, but adding a veteran guy to the lineup, that has shown he can still play (34 HR, 101 RBI in 2016), will go a long way to helping the Tigers contend this season. I base this “wish” on two factors: 1) I would rather Napoli be in a Tigers uniform than have to play against him and 2) He will help an aging lineup stay fresh.

First, Napoli throughout his career has been a Tiger killer. According to ESPN, in 112 AB against Tigers’ pitching, Napoli has 34 hits, 16 XBH, 9 HR, 30 RBIs, and a .304/.424/.607 slash line. It is simple really if you can’t get a guy out, sign him to play for your team. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? Napoli is also a winner, and bringing guys into your clubhouse with postseason experience can only help. He was with the Rangers and Indians for World Series runs and won a ring with the Red Sox back in 2013. Avila would be doing Detroit, and maybe himself, a favor by signing Napoli

Second, Napoli is a right-handed hitter and is serviceable as a DH or first baseman. I know what you’re thinking, we already have two of those! You’re right we do, and both of them are getting older and breaking down. My suggestion would be to bring in Napoli to platoon with Victor Martinez–Victor getting the majority of the at-bats left-handed, and a day off versus left-handed pitching. Victor is 38 years old and has been struggling to stay healthy each of the last two seasons. Having a platoon guy to keep him fresh will go a long way to a playoff run.

Martinez is set to make $18 million this year, so getting Napoli for the right price is of utmost importance. But, the longer he falls into free agency, the bigger discount the Tigers can hopefully get.

Also, when Miguel Cabrera needs a break, which he hates taking, Napoli would be a more than appropriate replacement for him. This gives the Tigers a great bat to use, rather than having to stick Romine, Avila, or some other less-than-productive bat in the lineup when Cabrera needs a blow.

Signing Napoli may sound like a long shot or bad business move. However, he can only help a team that is essentially the same from a year ago when they fell one game short of a Wild-Card spot. It makes sense that they sign him and that they do it very quickly. When they do, they will be a better team, then we can all “party at Napoli’s”.

Written by AJ Reilly

A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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