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Mike Napoli takes big cut to join Red Sox

PROVIDENCE — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington thought in December that he had first baseman Mike Napoli signed to a contract. This time around he’s going to make sure.

Napoli has agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox, major league sources said Thursday. The agreement would pay the first baseman a base salary of $5 million, with an additional $8 million possible based on the number of days he spends on the active roster.

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But the deal is not completely done, Cherington said Thursday night before taping an appearance at La Salle Academy for NESN.

“It’s fair to say we’ve made some progress in the last day or so,” said the GM. “Hopefully I’ll have something more formal to say soon.”

Napoli, 31, originally had a three-year, $39 million agreement with the Sox in December. That vanished when a physical revealed damage in one of Napoli’s hips.

The Red Sox stayed with Napoli, believing that his righthanded pull swing was a good fit for their lineup and Fenway Park. The result was Napoli taking a salary well below the $9.4 million he made with Texas last season.

“We’ve kept talking,” said Cherington. “I think when there’s dialogue, there always a chance to get somewhere. It means that there’s an interest on both sides, and when there’s an interest on both sides, there’s a chance. Hopefully we’re getting somewhere.”

Cherington indicated there was no rancor between the Sox and Napoli during the weeks of negotiations. The relationship, he said, was a good one.

“I think there will be a time to talk about that more,” Cherington said. “We tried and did have a consistent dialogue throughout the winter. There were a lot of conversations.”

Cherington said Napoli wouldn’t need to undergo another physical. But there were some issues to iron out with agent Brian Grieper.

“There’s still some things we’ve just got to work through,” he said.

Napoli hit .320 with 30 home runs and 75 RBIs in 2011, helping the Texas Rangers to the World Series. He fell to .227 last year, but had 24 home runs.

Napoli has been primarily a catcher in his career but has 118 starts at first base.

Because of his inexperience at first base, the Red Sox would like to sign a capable backup, preferably a lefthanded hitter.

Mauro Gomez, a 28-year-old minor leaguer who bats righthanded, is the only other first baseman on the 40-man roster.

“We’d like to find someone like that,” said Cherington. “We’ll look at some options between now and spring training perhaps.

“If we can’t find anything, it may turn into a spring training project and [the team] will keep looking then.”

Cherington said a trade could fill that need but nothing was “on the front burner.” There are only a few free agent first basemen on the market, one being former Red Sox player Casey Kotchman. Kotchman is lefthanded and solid defensively. He hit .229 for Cleveland last season with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.

Trade candidates could include Seattle first basemen Mike Carp and Justin Smoak.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.
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