DETROIT — And then there was Koji.
He’s the last of The Class of ’13 free agents, the guys who helped win it all, the last one left standing after Mike Napoli was traded to the Texas Rangers Friday in a waiver deal.
The memory of 2013 seems to be getting dimmer. A championship team broken up so quickly, so fast. Just two years ago, this team basked in some unbelievable glory, brought together by the Boston Marathon bombings that brought a a team, a city, together.
On that Marathon Monday as the team left for a trip to Cleveland, explosions already had been heard near the finish line on Boylston Street. Players were trying to get caught up on what had happened. There was a genuine kinship, a real unity for a bunch of guys who had been thrown together so quickly after a terrible 2012 season. They bonded to help heal the city after the tragedy.
The Magnificent Seven included Shane Victorino (3 years, $39 million), Ryan Dempster (2 years, $26.5 million), Jonny Gomes (2 years, $10 million), David Ross (2 years, $6.2 million), Stephen Drew (1 year, $9.5 million), Mike Napoli (1 year, $5 million), and Koji Uehara (1 year, $4.5 million).
They contributed in such different ways, but it was amazing to watch the unity of these veteran players who weren’t spectacular, who didn’t light up the sabermetrics, but had a winning spirit that couldn’t be measured in statistics.
At the Winter Meetings in December of 2012, a source tipped me off to the Victorino signing, giving the figure of $39 million for three years after Victorino had a horrible year with the Phillies and Dodgers.
“That can’t be right,” I said.
It was right, and it was worth the money.
Napoli had a subpar season in Texas after a very good one the year before, but he, too, got the three-year, $39 million deal until it was discovered during a physical that he had a hip condition.
The deal had to be reconfigured to a one-year contract with a $5 million base with a chance to earn $13 million. To the surprise of many, Napoli hung in and took the deal when he could have gone elsewhere for a bigger salary.
Napoli was Boston’s righthanded power guy.
He was their ’13 version of Mike Lowell. He had big hits, big at-bats. Throwing away the catching gear for the first time in his career and donning a first baseman’s mitt full time was to his liking.
He provided a force in the middle of the lineup. A fierce competitor and, right to the end, someone who really cared about the team even though he was having a poor season.
Why the 2013 gang didn’t stay together is anyone’s guess.
Dempster, who had been a strong back-end starter, retired in spring training of 2014. And that began the decimation of the group.
Gomes was traded away with Jon Lester to Oakland at the trading deadline in 2014. Victorino spent most of 2014 on the disabled list and part of 2015 until he was dealt to the Angels.
Drew was a rock at shortstop, the pitching staff’s favorite player because pitchers never had to worry about a ball getting through the infield that shouldn’t get through. He also contributed big hits until the playoffs, when he lost his offense and never really regained it.
Drew, at the urging of those pitchers, was re-signed in late May, but wasn’t the same guy. He was later traded to the Yankees.
Ross was one the best short-term leaders the Red Sox have had in recent memory. He was the glue that kept the pitching staff together. He was Lester’s guy, but more than that, he created a clubhouse presence.
Ross was a huge part of the great clubhouse atmosphere. The Red Sox let him go after last season, figuring they could replace him with a younger version (Ryan Hanigan). Ross signed with the Cubs and has done the same for them.
The Napoli deal wasn’t a surprise. They had placed him on revocable waivers on Wednesday. He cleared waivers, and the Red Sox and Rangers worked out the deal for cash and a player to be named.
The Rangers needed another righthanded bat and they were certainly familiar with Napoli, who had his best offensive seasons in Arlington.
Napoli, 33, was hitting only .207 (68 for 329) with 18 doubles, 1 triple, 13 home runs, and 40 RBIs in 98 games this season.
In 2013, Napoli set career bests in several offensive categories, including hits (129), extra-base hits (63), RBIs (92), and runs (79).
Over 356 games with the Red Sox from 2013-15, he batted .242 (300 for 1,242) with 76 doubles, 3 triples, 53 home runs, and 187 RBIs. Defensively, Napoli appeared in 337 games for Boston at first base, making 322 starts.
In 2011 he hit 30 home runs for the Rangers. He batted .320 and he had an OPS of 1.046 OPS. He loved hitting at what is now named Globe Life Park in Arlington, where the ball carried far and quickly. And that’s where he hopes he can give his career a jolt again for the final month and a half of the season.
Napoli has probably hurt his free agency with the poor year, but a good run and a possible playoff berth for the Rangers could help things out. He’s reunited with people he’s familiar with, such as Josh Hamilton. Napoli said he’d never met a more talented player in all his years in baseball.
And that last great Red Sox team of free agents leaves us with Uehara, who is under contract for next season. The Red Sox have refused to deal him because he’s been the best performer.
It’s getting harder to remember that great year as the players who made it possible go away.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.