Reluctance on the part of the Boston Red Sox to give Mike Napoli a long-term contract might screw up the St. Louis Cardinals' plans to trade for a shortstop.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Texas Rangers are interested in trying to swoop in and bring Napoli back as a free ageny after a one-year absence. Napoli, who played for Texas in 2011 and 2012, agreed to a big contract with Boston last off-season. But a problem with the slugger's hips revealed during his team physical caused Boston to pull back and, after an uncomfortable delay, the Red Sox signed Napoli to only a one-year deal.
The former catcher in 2013 hit .259 with 23 homers for Boston and played first base instead of behind the plate. The Rangers, according to Olney, are impressed with Napoli's improvement at first and would be interested in bringing him back to play that position.
How does this impact the Redbirds? Well, the Cardinals are interested in both of the Rangers' shortstops, veteran Elvis Andrus and prospect Jurickson Profar. One of the most valuable commodities the Birds are apparently willing to part with is slugging first baseman Matt Adams who is blocked by Allen Craig at that position in St. Louis. The Cardinals also are poised to add top prospect Oscar Taveras to the right field picture which could prevent Craig from making room for Adams by moving to right.
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Another team said to be interested in Napoli is Colorado. The Rockies lost veteran Todd Helton to retirement and the Birds could offer Adams as part of a deal for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. It diminishes the value of Adams to have Napoli on the market as an easy plug in through free agency. So the Cardinals might have to wait around until he signs to see the shortstop market shake out.