BOSTON -- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered no new details on the status of negotiations with free agent Mike Napoli, the first baseman-catcher who came to an agreement with the Sox on a three-year, $39 million deal on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings Dec. 3 but has not had his deal finalized because of apparent issues raised by his physical.
“There’s nothing to comment on,’’ Cherington said Wednesday at the press conference announcing the signing of free-agent pitcher Ryan Dempster, a teammate of Napoli’s for a half-season in Texas. “As with any free agent or acquisition, until it’s done, it’s not done. We continue to work on different ways to improve the team. I’ll comment on (Napoli) as soon as I can, but I can’t right now.’’
Cherington declined to address a report on SI.com that the Red Sox were trying to reduce Napoli’s contract by a year because of concerns regarding his hip.
“I haven’t seen that,’’ he said. “I’m not going to comment on the discussions we’re having other than to say we’re still talking, we’re still working through some issues, and will continue to do so.’’
Cherington will offer no indication of whether the deal could potentially be voided, which would leave the Red Sox without a first baseman. Fallback options could include Nick Swisher, who visited with Cleveland on Tuesday and was expected in Seattle, and Adam LaRoche, who is being wooed to return by the Washington Nationals. To sign either Swisher or LaRoche, both of whom received qualifying offers, the Sox would be forced to part with a draft choice, the 44th overall taken in next June’s draft. Their first-round pick is protected.
“We’re still working on a number of fronts,’’ Cherington said. “We’re still hoping we can add to the team. We’ll continue that in January up to spring training.’’
Without mentioning him by name, Cherington said he expected shortstop Stephen Drew, who came to an agreement on a one-year, $9.5 million deal, to undergo his physical “soon.” Cherington said that the club’s preference will be for shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias to play every day in 2013, which almost certainly assures his return to Triple-A Pawtucket. Iglesias hit .118 in a limited stint in Boston last season.
Cherington also reiterated that it is not his intent to trade center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and expects him to be a key part of the 2013 team.