(ESPNBoston)–As the Boston Red Sox continue to work toward finalizing their agreement with Mike Napoli, they remain in contact with free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, baseball sources told ESPN’s Jim Bowden on Thursday.
The team’s concern about Napoli’s hip is the primary issue holding up the deal, sources told ESPNBoston.com over the weekend. Simply adding contract language that protects the Red Sox as a remedy in case the hip condition proves to be debilitating might not be enough to salvage the agreement, the sources said.
Such contract language was inserted in prior deals the Red Sox did with outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher John Lackey.
“From our standpoint we don’t have anything new or different to report at this time,” Napoli’s agent, Brian Grieper, told ESPNBoston.com on Thursday.
The Red Sox and Napoli reached terms on a three-year, $39 million contract on Dec. 3. Napoli underwent what was expected to be a routine physical Dec. 10-11, with the expectation that a news conference announcing his signing would come the next day.
That didn’t happen. Instead, reports surfaced there were undisclosed issues with his physical.
More than three weeks later, it remains unclear whether the Red Sox and Napoli will be able to finalize the deal. Meanwhile, the Red Sox need to formulate a Plan B in case they walk away from the Napoli deal, which is where the 33-year-old LaRoche comes in.
“I can’t comment on it specifically,” Red Sox assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran said of the Napoli situation on Wednesday. “There’s nothing new from when (GM) Ben (Cherington) spoke the last time (last week at a news conference announcing the signing of Ryan Dempster). We do continue to talk to a number of free agents and there are conversations ongoing, as Ben alluded to previously.”
LaRoche, who declined Washington’s $13.3 million qualifying offer, had 33 home runs and 100 RBIs in addition to winning the Gold Glove at first base this past season for the Washington Nationals. He reportedly is seeking a three-year offer. So far, Washington has only been willing to go to two years, according to reports.
The Red Sox thus far in free agency have stayed away from free agents who declined qualifying offers because they would have to give up a second-round draft pick in order to do so.
The Red Sox also could wait to see if Washington signs LaRoche, which could make the Nationals amenable to moving outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse in a deal.
Morse, who turns 31 in March, hit 31 home runs and batted .303 in 2011, when he last played regularly. He hit 18 home runs in 406 at-bats while batting .291 last season.
The 31-year-old Napoli was expected to be a key component of Boston’s lineup next season. He has hit 20 or more home runs in each of the past five seasons and batted a career-high .320 in 2011 before slumping to .227 last year.
Napoli has been on the disabled list five times in his career, not including the fractured ankle he sustained in the 2011 World Series, but never for a hip condition. He missed 34 games with a strained quad last season, missed 19 games with a strained abdomen in 2011, missed 27 games with a strained shoulder in 2008 before undergoing surgery, and missed a total of 43 games with ankle and hamstring injuries in 2007.