Red Sox lineup a whole lot deeper with Mike Napoli in the middle

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Mike Napoli to Boston has long seemed like destiny. That he’s been such a roaring success at Fenway is part of it: Napoli has hit .306/.397/.710 with seven homers in 62 lifetime at-bats in Boston.

The Red Sox initially tried to acquire Napoli in 2010, when the Angels weighed parting with him before the deadline. The Halos kept him then, only to send him to Toronto in the Vernon Wells deal after the season.

Napoli was moved quickly to Texas from there, and he hit 54 homers in his two seasons with the Rangers. Now a free agent for the first time, he’s struck a three-year, $39 million deal to play for the Red Sox. It was an easier price for Boston to pay since the Rangers didn’t make Napoli a $13.3 million qualifying offer, meaning there was no draft pick compensation attached to the signing.

Adding the 31-year-old Napoli presents the Red Sox with possibilities. They now have four catchers in Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. Napoli, though, wasn’t being viewed as a full-time option behind the plate by Boston or anyone else. He’s always struggled to stay healthy as a catcher, and some feel he might perform even better offensively if his time behind the plate is limited.

As things stand now, Napoli will see the vast majority of his time at first base. If Salty is traded, then perhaps Napoli will catch two or three times per week. If not, then Napoli may do most of his catching in NL parks when the Red Sox put David Ortiz at first base.

With Napoli in the fold, the Red Sox are currently looking at the following lineup:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Mike Napoli
LF Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava
3B Will Middlebrooks
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross
RF Ryan Kalish
SS Jose Iglesias/Pedro Ciriaco

It’s a given that they’ll add a starting outfielder, which would likely leave Gomes, Nava and Kalish to battle for time in one spot. They could also sign Stephen Drew for shortstop, but if they don’t get him, they’ll probably give Iglesias a shot rather than turn to an Alex Gonzalez-type free agent.

Napoli may not be the ideal cleanup man, given that he’s likely to hit closer to last year’s .227 mark than his .320 average from 2011. Still, his power numbers should be very impressive if playing first base allows him to get 500 at-bats for the first time. His career average puts him at 32 homers per 500 at-bats.

Clayton Kershaw returning to Dodgers on 1-year, $20M deal

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LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw will pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023 after signing a one-year, $20 million deal.

For the second straight year, the Dodgers didn’t extend a qualifying offer to the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Instead, they gave him additional time to mull his future, and he once again decided to stay with the only franchise he’s ever played for during his 15-year major league career.

The deal includes a $5 million signing bonus payable on June 30, a salary of $15 million and a hotel suite on road trips.

The 34-year-old left-hander was 12-3 with 2.28 ERA in 22 starts last season. He struck out 137 and walked 23. Kershaw made his ninth All-Star team and started the Midsummer Classic for the first time in his career at Dodger Stadium.

Last April, he became the franchise’s all-time strikeout leader with 2,697. He reached 2,800 strikeouts in his last start of the regular season on Oct. 5 against Colorado. Kershaw ranks 24th all-time with 2,807.

Kershaw has a career record of 197-87 with a 2.48 ERA. He won his only World Series title in 2020, when the Dodgers beat Tampa Bay during the pandemic-shortened season.