It was two weeks ago, during the winter meetings in Nashville, when word got out that the Red Sox had reached an agreement on a three-year, 39 million deal with free agent Mike Napoli. The Sox have yet to make that official.
The Sox and Napolis agent have remained mum on the subject. Last week, Sox general manager Ben Cherington said he did not want to comment on the situation.
I dont want to comment specifically, Cherington said last Thursday. Every time we sign a free agent to a guaranteed deal there are a number of things you have to come to agreement on and resolve. Some is contract language, terms, and money, and then theres a physical with all these agreements. Until all those things are done and agreed upon cant comment on it.
Will Carroll of SI.com reported on Thursday (via Twitter) that the Sox were trying to get Napoli to take fewer years but with the same annual average value (AAV) to protect themselves from what was thought to be a hipquad issue, with Nick Swisher being a Plan B. However, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland reported Monday afternoon (also via Twitter) that Swisher would visit Cleveland Monday night to have dinner with Indians president Mark Shapiro.
Protracted negotiations with a free agent are not completely foreign to the Sox. At the winter meetings in early December 2006, word broke that the Sox had reached an agreement with J.D. Drew. That deal was not official until Jan. 26, 2007. The Sox inserted a clause into the five-year, 70 million contract that allowed the team to void the deal after three or four years if Drew had a recurrence of a preexisting issue with his right shoulder. The clause did not become necessary. While Drew appeared in just 109 games in 2008, his second season with the Sox, it was mostly attributable to a lower back strain, and not his right shoulder.
The Sox also used a similar approach when they signed right-hander John Lackey to a five-year, 82.5 million deal in December 2009. The Sox hold an option for 2015 at the major league minimum that became effective when Lackey required Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.
That approach has not always been successful for the Sox, though. The team attempted to have a protective clause inserted into their deal with left fielder Jason Bay, whom the Sox acquired at the trade deadline in 2008 and who had become a free agent after the 2009 season. Bay balked at the clause and signed with the Mets instead.