Mike Napoli
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Mike Napoli announces retirement

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First baseman Mike Napoli has decided to retire from Major League Baseball. Napoli announced his decision in a social media post on Saturday, thanking his family, agent, and previous teams for helping shape his 12-year career in the majors.

“I dreamed about playing baseball since I was a little kid growing up in Hollywood, FL,” Napoli wrote, “and I was lucky enough to get paid to play a kids game for 18 years. Along the way, I formed a ton of lifelong relationships with my teammates, coaches and front office personnel. I want to give a special thanks to my brothers on the 2011 Rangers, 2013 Red Sox and 2016 Indians. Without them, I would never have had the opportunity to play in three World Series, all incredibly memorable, and win one epic Championship with my Bearded Brothers in Beantown. I was blessed to be mentored by great people at the beginning of my career with the Angels and was able to bring that winning attitude to each clubhouse that I was fortunate to be a part of.”

Napoli, 37, has not appeared in a major league game since September 14, 2017. He inked a minor league contract with the Indians in February, but made it through just seven games in Triple-A before a torn ACL and meniscus forced him to undergo season-ending knee surgery. With a projected recovery timetable of 10-14 months and no promise of another major-league call-up, retirement seemed to be the inevitable next step for the veteran infielder.

He’ll leave behind a storied major league career, one which saw him contribute to eight postseason runs with the 2007 – 2009 Angels, 2011, 2012 and 2015 Rangers, 2013 World Champion Red Sox and 2016 Indians. He turned in his most impressive regular-season performance in 2011, when he slugged .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs, a 1.046 OPS, and 5.4 fWAR across 432 PA for the Rangers. The following season, he earned his first and only All-Star berth after a strong showing in the first half, but slumped to a .227 average and 2.1 fWAR by season’s end. During his final major league campaign in 2017, the aging first baseman took another one-year deal with the Rangers and slashed a career-worst .193/.285/.428 with 29 home runs and a .428 OPS in 485 PA.

While his playing days are well behind him now, Napoli doesn’t appear to be closing the door on future MLB opportunities. He may never squat behind the plate or man first base in another major league game, but a front-office gig or media role may still be open to him. “I look forward to exploring opportunities in the baseball world as I plan to continue giving back to the game that has given me so much,” he said.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.