The beard is back.
The Red Sox agreed to a new two-year, $32 million contract with first baseman Mike Napoli on Dec. 6.
A key member of the Red Sox 2013 World Series title run, Napoli tweeted, "The beard is coming back to Boston!!!" on Friday. "Couldn't be happier!!"
During the Red Sox's run to the World Series title, Napoli belted the winning home run in Game 3 and started a three-run second inning in Game 5 with a leadoff homer against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
According to a FOX Sports report, Napoli had one other offer -- possibly from the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers or Miami Marlins -- but took less money to remain with the Red Sox.
The move comes after the Boston Red Sox brought in one of baseball's most disliked players and lost one of their own most popular players earlier in the week.
Hours after news broke that the World Series champions agreed to a one-year, $8.25 million deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury reached a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Red Sox's archrival, the New York Yankees, on Dec. 3.
Retaining Napoli, a fan favorite, is a big step in appeasing fans disappointment with those moves.
2013: 97-65, first place in AL East, won World Series
TEAM MVP: Despite owning the best record in the American League, the Red Sox didn't have a player finish in the top six of the MVP voting. A compelling case could be made that DH David Ortiz is the team MVP after a seventh 30-homer/100-RBIs season. It's difficult to argue against Koji Uehara, who took over as closer in mid-June and was literally unhittable for most of the season's second half. But for day-in, day-out value, look no further than 2B Dustin Pedroia, who played in a career-high 160 games despite dealing with a torn thumb ligament and still batted .301 with a .372 on-base percentage.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Underachievement was rare in nearly all areas of the Red Sox' roster, with most players matching or exceeding their career norms. But the club expected more from 3B Will Middlebrooks, who struggled so badly through the middle of the season that he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in late June. Middlebrooks returned in August, reclaimed his job and went 40-for-141 (.284) with eight home runs and 24 RBI over his final 42 games. But his overall numbers, particularly a .227 average and .271 on-base percentage, fell short of spring training projections.
TOP PROSPECT: After he tore through the Double-A and Triple-A levels, the Xander Bogaerts era officially began in Boston on Aug. 19. And despite getting only irregular playing time down the stretch, the 20-year-old shortstop showed flashes of the talent that has made him the Red Sox' most hyped prospect since Hanley Ramirez. He hit a titanic shot over the bullpen in left-center field at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 7, his first major league home run. And there will be more where that came from. After getting his feet wet by going 11-for-44 (.250) with one homer and five RBI in 18 games, he figures to be an everyday contributor next year, either at shortstop or third base.
--1B Mike Napoli agreed to a new two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox worth $32 million. Napoli received a significant raise over a one-year, $5 million deal that he signed when he joined the Red Sox. After originally agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox during the offseason last year, the contract was amended when a degenerative hip condition was found during a physical. The 32-year-old Napoli batted .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs in 139 games last season.
--RHP Edward Mujica finalized to a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Sox, who likely will use him in the seventh or eighth inning. Mujica, 29, did well as the Cardinals' closer for five months last season, but then ran out of gas and barely appeared in the postseason. He finished 37-for-41 in save opportunities, and his season ERA ended up at 2.78 after he posted 11.05 ERA in September.
--RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Kalish were non-tendered by the Red Sox on Dec. 2, making them free agents.
Bailey, 29, served as the Red Sox's closer for several stretches early in the season before he sustained a shoulder injury. He underwent season-ending surgery in July.
Kalish, 25, had right shoulder surgery in January, then neck surgery in August. He did not play in 2013.
--RHP Burke Badenhop was acquired by the Red Sox from the Brewers on Nov. 22 in exchange for minor league LHP Luis Ortega. Badenhop, 30, went 2-3 with one save and a 3.47 ERA in 63 appearances for Milwaukee this year. He had previous major league stints with the Marlins and Rays. Badenhop will be eligible for arbitration this winter after making $1.55 million in 2013.
"I couldn't be more blessed," Badenhop told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I enjoyed playing in Milwaukee but I understand the situation. This is an awesome opportunity for me."
Ortega, 20, went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 12 games (one start) for the Red Sox's rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate this year.
--2B Dustin Pedroia underwent left thumb surgery Nov. 13, and he might not be ready for the start of spring training. Pedroia, two weeks removed from winning his second World Series ring, had a torn ulnar collateral ligament repaired. He should be back in time for the 2014 season opener. The operation, performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Scottsdale, Ariz., was not as involved as was initially feared. "(I'm) fully confident in (Pedroia returning for) the regular season," Boston general manager Ben Cherington said
Pedroia was selected the American League's Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in early November after winning his third Gold Glove award. He committed only five errors in 160 regular-season games this year and ranked first at his position in Total Zone Runs, an advanced defensive metric.
--OF Quintin Berry and INF Brandon Snyder became free agents when the Red Sox outrighted them off the 40-man roster. Berry, 28, was acquired from the Royals organization in August, and he proved to be a valuable pinch runner in the postseason. He stole one base in each round of the playoffs, and he was not caught. In 13 regular-season games with the Red Sox, Berry went 5-for-8 (.625) with a homer and four RBIs. Snyder, 26, appeared in 27 games for Boston this year, batting .180/.212/.360 with two homers and seven RBIs.
--LHP Matt Thornton's $6 million club option was not picked up by the Red Sox. Thornton, 37, went 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 20 appearances for Boston after he was picked up midseason from the White Sox. He was left off the Red Sox's roster for each round of the postseason. The Red Sox gave him a $1 million buyout.
--LHP Jon Lester's $13 million contract option for next year was exercised by the Red Sox on Nov. 1. The 29-year-old has spent all eight years of his major league career with the Red Sox. In 2013, he posted a 15-8 record with a 3.75 ERA in 213 1/3 innings. Lester was even better during the postseason, logging a 4-1 record and allowing only six runs in five postseason starts as the Red Sox won the World Series. Lester will be eligible for free agency after next season.
--DH David Ortiz has joined an exclusive fraternity: The Red Sox' third-time champions club. Ortiz is only the 14th player -- and the first since 1918 -- to win three World Series with the Red Sox, joining Babe Ruth, Everett Scott, Harry Hooper, Dick Hoblitzell, Heinie Wagner, Carl Mays, Dutch Leonard, Pinch Thomas, Larry Gardner, Duffy Lewis, Hick Cady, Olaf Henriksen and Bill Carrigan as three-time champs. So, Big Papi, where does the 2013 title rank compared to 2004 and 2007? "We probably don't have the talent that we had in '07 and '04, but we have guys that are capable to stay focused and do the little things," said Ortiz, who was named World Series MVP after batting .688 (11-for-16) and reaching base in 19 of his 25 plate appearances. "And when you win with a ballclub like that, that's special. In 2007, we have a lot of bangers. I wasn't supposed to be the guy. I don't have to be the guy in 2007. 2004, same thing. We have a guy in the nine-hole, the nine-hole hitter, won the batting title in 2004. I would say this is a team that we have a lot of players with a lot of heart. I think it might be the most special out of all the World Series that I have been part of, to be honest with you."
--RHP John Lackey is the personification of redemption. Lackey has been through a lot -- most of it miserable -- since he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox. There was the underwhelming 2010 season and the nightmarish 2011, when he pitched with a shredded ligament in his elbow, posted a 6.41 ERA and was implicated among the pitchers who drank beer and ate fried chicken during games. He missed all of the 2012 season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, and most Red Sox fans wouldn't have complained if they never saw him again. But then, Lackey capped a solid 2013 season by tossing 6 2/3 strong innings in Game 6 of the World Series and getting a standing ovation from a jam-packed crowd at Fenway Park. And as he walked off the field, he tipped his cap. "It was nice," Lackey said. "It was my appreciation back to them. Thanks for understanding what I've gone through, I guess."
--LF Jonny Gomes didn't know what to expect. After spending the 2012 season with the Oakland A's, a team that exceeded all expectations by improbably winning the AL West and making the playoffs despite their shoestring budget, Gomes walked into the Red Sox' clubhouse for the first time in spring training, unsure what the atmosphere would be like after a 93-loss season, the franchise's worst in nearly a half-century. What he found was a positive attitude, led by second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who already had started working out and preaching the work ethic that came to set the example for the rest of the team. "I didn't get my other foot in the door before I was like, 'Wow, we've turned the page from what happened last year,'" Gomes said. "Bringing my bag in, setting it down, and (Pedroia) was like in full sweat, in uni, in midseason shape. I was like, 'Oh, I need that guy to play second for me.' I didn't want to walk in there and be head-high and then be the outsider, feeling like we have our work cut out for us. I didn't know how everybody was going to take that. It was already high. With the changes and new faces all around, it was a clean slate."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought my career was over at one point this year, and now, I catch the last out of the World Series. Are you kidding me?" -- C David Ross, who missed two months of the season while recovering from two concussions.
The champagne was barely dry after Boston's World Series-winning celebration when six players became free agents. The Red Sox have some difficult decisions to make, but with a strong farm system, a surplus of starting pitching and their usual financial might, they're well-positioned to endure losses, including that of CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed with the Yankees.
General manager Ben Cherington vowed last winter to build "the next great Red Sox team," and while an unexpected World Series championship certainly puts the 2013 club in that category, Cherington continues to insist the work isn't done.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Red Sox won 108 games, including 11 in the postseason, by virtue of having a deep roster that was able to withstand injuries. They will look to maintain that depth by protecting the assets in their farm system. With six veteran starting pitchers and several top prospects closing in, Cherington has the flexibility to make a trade to strengthen other areas, and a center fielder is needed to replace Ellsbury. The team also needs to decide the future of 3B Will Middlebrooks, who faltered after a promising rookie season and wound up on the bench during the World Series.
ARRIVALS: RHP Burke Badenhop (trade with Brewers), C A.J. Pierzynski (free agent from Rangers), RHP Edward Mujica (free agent from Cardinals)
DEPARTURES: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (free agent, signed with Yankees), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent, signed with Marlins)
FREE AGENTS: SS Stephen Drew, RHP Joel Hanrahan, INF John McDonald, LHP Matt Thornton, RHP Andrew Bailey, OF Ryan Kalish
Drew was a perfect fit, but might not return, while 1B Mike Napoli reportedly took less money to remain with the club on a two-year deal.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Franklin Morales, 1B/OF Mike Carp, RHP Junichi Tazawa, RHP Burke Badenhop
Tazawa emerged as the primary setup man, especially once both Miller and Bailey were lost to season-ending injuries, and is a lock to come back. Miller also figures to be retained and is expected to be ready by spring training. Carp was a valuable player off the bench and therefore a likely candidate to return.
IN LIMBO: 3B Will Middlebrooks
Contractually, Middlebrooks remains under the Red Sox's control for four more years. But after a poor second season in the majors, which concluded with a seat on the bench during the World Series, it's worth wondering how much he factors into their future plans.
--2B Dustin Pedroia (left thumb surgery in November 2013) had a torn ulnar collateral ligament repaired. He might be slowed at the start of spring training, but he is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
--LHP Andrew Miller (left foot surgery in July 2013) is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
--RHP Joel Hanrahan (Tommy John surgery in May 2013) is a free agent.
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