<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

mike napoli getty

Mike Napoli reveals hip condition: avascular necrosis

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That Mike Napoli ended up accepting a one-year, $5 million guarantee from the Red Sox after originally agreeing to a three-year, $39 million contract suggested that something pretty bad was going on with his hip. The details came out today, courtesy of Napoli’s agent: Napoli was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both of his hips.

Avascular necrosis is pretty much what it sounds like: the death of bone due to a lack of blood supply. According to Wikipedia, it’s most common in the hip, though it can also take place at the shoulder, knee and other joints.

The 31-year-old Napoli has experienced no symptoms as a result of the condition. According to his agent, it was caught at the very early stages, having been revealed in the Red Sox’s original physical. While people with avascular necrosis of the hip often end up needing a total hip replacement, that appears to be many years off in this case, if it ever proves necessary at all.

Bo Jackson’s is the most famous case of avascular necrosis, with his developing after he injured his hip in an NFL game. He later returned to baseball and the major leagues, but he was never the same kind of athlete.

Brett Favre was also diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip in 1992. He never required surgery and did OK for himself playing football for a couple of decades.

The Red Sox are planning on Napoli being their everyday first baseman this season after finalizing the contract. Playing the position should definitely be easier on his body than catching. Napoli said he’s on medication to help stave off any symptoms and that he’s really excited for the season to start up.

Scott Boras is trying to drum up interest in Jose Valverde

Jose Valverde
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Now that he’s found a taker for Rafael Soriano on a heavily deferred deal, Scott Boras is trying to get teams interested in ex-Tigers closer Jose Valverde.

Valverde, 34, was 49-for-49 saving games for the Tigers in 2011 and 35-for-40 last season, but the postseason meltdown that saw him give up nine runs in 2 2/3 innings, combined with some declining peripherals from the regular season, has scared away seemingly every team this winter.

Boras knows he can’t use words to sweep away Valverde’s October struggles, but he does cite workload and fatigue as a possible reason for the sudden swoon. Counting the postseason, Valverde appeared in 81 games in 2011 and 75 last season.

“Closers normally have anywhere from 58 to 62 appearances and Valverde’s just had two years where he was used a lot,” Boras told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “It was a very unusual year this year, because he had so many non-save situations. He had like 31 of them, which normally they only have 17 or 18. So, it was a very unusual year.”

Those non-save situations are another thing working against Valverde this winter. He has a history  of struggling without a save on the line, so contenders aren’t looking at him as a potential setup man.

Realistically, Valverde is going to have to settle for a cheap one-year deal with a chance to rebuild his value. If he’s willing to sign for $2 million or so, then maybe the Mets, Astros, Marlins or Twins could give him the chance to close. There’s certainly no reason to give him anything more than that, not with Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, Jon Rauch and Francisco Cordero all sitting around waiting for phone calls, too.

Reports: Shortstop Alexander Guerrero defects from Cuba

Alexander Guerrero
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Rafael Rofes Perez writes on his blog, Pasaje Deportivo, that rumors in Cuba have placed former Las Tunas shortstop Alexander Guerrero in the Dominican Republic.

LaOpinionDeportiva.com makes the same claim.

Guerrero, 26, was sitting out the Cuban baseball season, saying he lacked the motivation to play. He expressed disappointment over not being selected for a spot on Cuba’s World Baseball Classic roster.

Guerrero has been one of Cuba’s best players the last few years, hitting .338/.408/.641 in 2009, .343/.414/.583 in 2010 and .310/.400/.599 in 2011. Between the three seasons, he delivered 60 homers in 886 at-bats. One imagines that if the reports are true and he eventually becomes a free agent, he could take over as a starting shortstop or second baseman for an MLB team in short order.

Report: Rockies sign Chris Volstad to minor league contract

Chris Volstad
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The Denver Post’s Troy Renck reports that the Rockies have signed former first-round pick Chris Volstad to a minor league deal that will net him $1.5 million if he makes the team.

It has to be a disappointing outcome for the 26-year-old Volstad, who was originally acquired by the Royals this winter, only to be let go after the team found superior options elsewhere. While he does have a better chance of getting a rotation spot in Colorado than he would anywhere else, he doesn’t even land a major league contract here and he faces an uphill climb trying to rebuild his value in Coors Field.

Volstad debuted with the 2.88 ERA in 84 1/3 innings with the Marlins as a 21-year-old in 2008, but he’s been a disappointment ever since. Only in 2010, when he went 12-9 with a 4.58 ERA, was he close to being an average big-league starter. He went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in his last year with the Marlins in 2011 and 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA for the Cubs last season.

The Rockies are currently planning to go with Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis as their top four starters, leaving Volstad, Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood to battle for the fifth spot. According to Renck, the Rockies are still hoping to add one more veteran to the mix.

Michael Bourn is still waiting for some love

Michael Bourn
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Considered by many as the No. 2 free agent hitter available this winter, Michael Bourn has now gone three months with seemingly no market developing for his services. The Braves struck early to sign B.J. Upton to replace him. The Phillies also targeted Upton and then traded for Ben Revere after coming up short. The Nationals traded for Denard Span. The Giants re-signed Angel Pagan. And it’s unclear if Bourn has even one offer on the table at this point.

Let’s explore all of the possible suitors as of Jan. 20, going from most likely to least likely.

Rangers – The most obvious destination; the Rangers have no clear starting center fielder and they possess as much payroll flexibility as any AL team. Still, one gets the idea that if they were truly high on Bourn, something would have gotten done already. Perhaps they’ll be more interested if he proves willing to accept a three-year deal.

Mariners – Management knows changes are on the horizon if the Mariners fail to take a clear step forward in 2013. Bringing in Bourn to play center fielder over the injury-prone Franklin Gutierrez would likely result in at least a couple of more wins. However, the team has been focused on adding power at the expense of speed and defense this winter.

Braves – Bourn is open to returning, even after the Braves initially shoved him aside to bring in Upton, and Atlanta still needs an outfielder and a leadoff hitter. If the Braves could come up with the cash to make it happen, they’d have a much better chance of hanging with the Nationals all season.

Cubs – The Cubs had no plans to splurge on a hitter this winter, but if Bourn’s price tag falls, they could find room in their plans for him. They’ve already upgraded their pitching staff enough to entertain dreams of sneaking up on teams in the NL Central.

Rays – He’d be a terrific fit if they could come up with the money. The Rays seem to prefer keeping Desmond Jennings in left field, and Bourn would be an upgrade in the leadoff spot, with Jennings hitting sixth or lower. Still, it’s hard to see them making the salary work.

Dodgers – They’re here simply because they do have the budget room for Bourn. However, any chance of them trading Andre Ethier and signing an outfielder seems to have passed.

Astros – If the Astros thought bringing back Bourn would excite the fans, then maybe they’d make a run. They certainly have room for him in their outfield. Unfortunately, they’re so far from contention that it makes little on-field sense to sign him.

White Sox – What would the winter be without a big surprise move from Ken Williams and Rick Hahn? Center field isn’t a need, but Bourn would be an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza in the leadoff spot.

Tigers – The team signed Prince Fielder last winter despite already having Miguel Cabrera at first base. However, with Austin Jackson in center, the upgrade from Andy Dirks to Bourn isn’t nearly worth Bourn’s asking price.

Yankees – There’s been some talk about a Curtis Granderson trade, but since he’s a free agent after 2013 and the Yankees are trying to cut payroll for 2014, Granderson is still a really good fit in New York. Plus, a Brett Gardner-Bourn-Ichiro Suzuki outfield, while ridiculously awesome defensively, just wouldn’t be very practical.

Blue Jays – They’re capped out as is, so they’d have to beg ownership for the money. Besides, they’re not too badly off with Colby Rasmus in center and Jose Reyes batting leadoff.

Red Sox – Would have to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and still might not be interested then.

Mets – Bourn would be a huge upgrade for the game’s second worst outfield (ahead of only Houston’s), but the Mets don’t have the money right now.

In my estimation, that’s three realistic possibilities (Rangers, Mariners and Braves) with maybe the Cubs as a sleeper if this drags on a few more weeks. My guess is that we’ll finally see some real Bourn talk this week, and he’s still going to get his $15 million per year in the end, even if some of that ends up being deferred (see Soriano, Rafael).