On Tuesday morning news came out thatMike Napoli will once again be with the Cleveland Indians. The Indians signed Napoli to a minor-league contract and will have a spring training invite pending a physical.
The Party At Napoli's will start once again. Things are a bit different though since the last time Napoli was in an Indians uniform; Carlos Santana was still playing first base, and Edwin Encarnacion was still with Toronto.
I think it is a great idea for the Indians and Mike Napoli to reunite, here are three reasons why.
1.) Veteran Leadership/ Clubhouse Leader
In his first run with the Cleveland Indians, Mike Napoli emerged as the Clubhouse Leader and also provided veteran leadership throughout the 2016 season. Napoli became the clubhouse leader partly because their usual leader Michael Brantley only played in 11 games during that season.
Napoli brought with him 10 years of MLB experience when he came to Cleveland and also brought along 7 years of playoff experiences. Napoli was someone that was already there when it came to the playoffs and became someone to look up to and for the roster to mold themselves after.
Not many players on the Indians roster in 2016 had a taste of postseason experience yet until that season. The likes of Bryan Shaw, Dan Otero, Coco Crisp, Rajai Davis, Andrew Miller had the most playoff experience outside of the few members that played during the 2013 Wild Card game for the Indians.
For the 2018 Indians season, I expect Napoli to make the team and have a similar role as Jason Giambi did in the 2013 season. Giambi was signed by the Indians in 2013 to a minor league contract, similar situation to Napoli.
2.) Napoli Played Well in Cleveland
Even though Napoli had a sub-par year in Texas in 2017, there is hope for him to bounce back if he does make the team. With the Rangers in 2017, he had a batting average of .193, had 29 homers (out of 82 hits), drove in 66 runs, and had 11 doubles. During his 2016 season with the Tribe, he hit .239, had 22 doubles, homered 34 times, drove in 101 runs, and also played in 26 more games compared to the amount he played with the Rangers.
Napoli set a career high in the number of home runs he hit in 2016 with the Indians, beating his previous best of 30 that he set in 2011 with the Rangers. The right-handed hitter also set a career high in RBIs with 101, his previous best was 92 when he was with the Red Sox in 2013. Lastly, Napoli played the most with any team when he played in 150 games with the Tribe, beating his previous best of 140 that he set with the Angels in 2010.
With the numbers declining last season, they can raise once again playing in Cleveland.
3.) Fall Back Plan if Things Don't Work Out
With the departure of Carlos Santana and the signing of Yonder Alonso, first base will be looking different this upcoming season. Alonso had his best year in 2017 but there is no guarantee that those numbers will remain consistent. Alonso had a career high in homers with 28, a major jump from his previous best of 9 that he had in 2012 with the San Diego Padres. Sometimes a batter figures out how to produce more homers with an uppercut swing, but what is preventing Alonso from falling back to his old self. Many Indians fans are worried because of Alonso not being able to provide the home run numbers before last season.
If for whatever reason Alonso doesn't pan out for the Tribe, they now have a fall back plan in Napoli at first base.
With the news coming out before spring training that the Indians were in talks with the Red Sox for a possible trade for Jackie Bradley Jr. and giving up Edwin Encarnacion, if worst comes to worst and they need that improvement in the outfield they now have a power hitter to fill somewhat of the void that would be left behind.