Mike Napoli is top free agent priority for Red Sox

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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.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.

The A’s designate Stephen Vogt for assignment

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A surprising move out of Oakland: the Athletics have designated catcher Stephen Vogt for assignment.

Vogt is suffering through a bad season at the plate, hitting .217/.287/.357, so on the basis of pure performance it’s understandable that the A’s may want to part ways with the 32-year-old former All-Star. That said, Vogt is considered to be a leader in the Oakland clubhouse and is one of the last players remaining from the A’s 2013-14 playoff teams.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogt’s place on the roster. Main catching duties will belong to Josh Phegley.