Mike Napoli is top free agent priority for Red Sox


Free agent slugger Mike Napoli has drawn interest from several different organizations this winter. But we can probably already identify the frontrunner.

According to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, the Red Sox have made Napoli their top free agent pursuit and are considering all other potential free agent signings to be secondary. And Boston has enough room in its budget — courtesy of that late-July blockbuster with Los Angeles — to outbid any of the other teams currently vying for Napoli’s services.

Napoli batted .227/.343/.469 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI in 417 plate appearances this past season for the Rangers. He had a career-best .320/.414/.631 batting line, 30 home runs and 75 RBI in 432 plate appearances the season before.

The 31-year-old catcher and first baseman is thought to be seeking a four-year contract.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.