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Sports

Red Sox agree to three-year deal with Mike Napoli

NASHVILLE - According to major league sources, the Red Sox have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with free-agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli.

The deal is for 3 years, $39 million.

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The Red Sox want Napoli to be their first baseman and part-time catcher, as well as provide a boost to their offense.

The plan, according to a major league source, would be for Napoli to catch a lot in spring training, and then depending what happens with other Sox catchers via trade, have him catch some so he keeps that aspect of his game intact.

Napoli will become the Red Sox’ second big free agent addition, joining outfielder Jonny Gomes. His addition fits in with the team’s plan to avoid long-term deals.

Napoli has a .931 OPS the last two seasons. Among righthanded hitters, only Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp were higher. As was the case with Gomes, the Red Sox zeroed in on a righthanded hitter who should perform well at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox are 79-83 at Fenway Park the last two seasons. Adding Napoli and Gomes is evidence of the team’s desire to improve their offense at home. Both also are players who walk often and grind through at-bats, skills the lineup was missing last season.

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Napoli was a player the Red Sox have been targeting for a long time, going back to the summer. Team owner John Henry was telling people then that Napoli was a player he thought would be a good fit.

Napoli is also considered a solid teammate by those who have played with him and know of him from his time both in Anaheim and Texas.

“He’ll work hard, give it all he has,” said one former Angels coach who coached Napoli in Anaheim. “He’s not the best catcher or thrower, but he can handle pitchers and knows how to call a game. At first base, I suppose the more he plays there the better he’ll be. He’s average to below average as a fielder, but he’ll work at it. Listen, the Red Sox are getting him for his bat and power at Fenway and that part of it should work out well.”

Said a Texas official: “He wants to do well and do the right thing. He’s tough for us to lose but we just didn’t want to go as far as Boston did on the contract.”

The Sox have now have eight lineup pieces in place: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, Napoli, Gomes and their assorted catchers. They need a right fielder.

There was competition for Napoli with the Mariners going hard after him as well. The Rangers, who currently do not have a catcher, were also keeping Napoli in mind, but had not been willing to go beyond two years with an option.

Napoli played for the Angels and Rangers during his seven-year career. He endured a down year last season, despite making his first All-Star team, hitting just .227 in 108 games. His best season came in 2011 for Texas, when he mashed 30 homers while hitting .320.

There are other free agent splashes the Red Sox are considering. Currently there hasn’t been much action on Nick Swisher, another first baseman/outfielder. The Red Sox are still focusing on Cody Ross and others.

The Josh Hamilton market is also about to develop. Hamilton has been seen in Nashville and may start meeting with teams. It’s not known if the Red Sox are one of them.

Larry Lucchino said that comments he made on his XM radio appearance Sunday were confused. It was reported that Lucchino said the Red Sox would be willing to pursue Hamilton, but for no more than five years.

Lucchino denied that’s what he said.

The Red Sox are in a wait-and- see approach with Hamilton. They are monitoring the market and if it falls they will pursue it.

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