Mike Napoli still hasn’t anchored himself to a major league team for the upcoming season, but FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman speculates that the Twins might be just what he’s looking for.
While it’s all conjecture at this point, Heyman cites comments made by Twins’ GM Thad Levine, who told press on Friday that the team is actively searching for a veteran clubhouse leader. Napoli fits the bill off and on the field, where he batted a career-high 34 home runs for the Indians in 2016 (never mind the .239/.335/.465 slash line or the career-high 194 strikeouts).
Despite some early inquires from the Orioles and Astros, the 35-year-old infielder has received the most substantial interest from the Rangers this offseason. The club is reportedly only interested in offering a one-year deal, however, and it’s unclear whether or not Napoli is interested in a short-term situation moving forward. Should the Twins come knocking, Heyman notes that they’ll likely have to consider a platoon at first base/DH with Joe Mauer in order to accommodate Napoli in the lineup.
Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.
It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.
While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.
If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.