AL East: Napoli to Boston, Rays add Loney

12/03/2012 4:39 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
On the day the Yankees learned they would be without Alex Rodriguez for a good chunk of 2012, the Bombers watched two AL East rivals land key free agents and a third claim a former pinstriper.

The biggest fish of the day (so far) is Mike Napoli, who agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with Boston on Monday. Napoli, 31, was considered by many the top catcher available in a thin market, and was an All-Star with Texas in 2012 despite struggling with a quad injury and hitting just .227 with 24 homers and 56 RBI – a bit of a decline from his .320-30-75 career year in 2011.

Despite his expressed desire to be a full-time catcher, Napoli’s versatility is a key asset; he caught 72 games last season, but played 28 at first base and nine at DH; the Red Sox have David Ortiz to fill the latter slot and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway among others behind the plate, but have had a hole at first base since trading Adrian Gonzalez last August, so Napoli is likely to see time there.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay swooped in to pick up the man who finished 2012 as Boston’s first baseman, signing James Loney to a one-year, $2 million deal. Loney, 27, hit .249 with six home runs and 41 RBI for the Dodgers and Red Sox last season, and is noted as an excellent defensive first baseman; he’ll replace Carlos Pena, who hit .197 with 19 home runs in 2012.

As for the former pinstriper, that is catcher Eli Whiteside, who was claimed on waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. Whiteside, 33, was claimed by the Yankees on waivers from San Francisco on Nov. 5 and signed to a one-year deal on Nov. 26, but he was designated for assignment two days later to make room for the re-signed Andy Pettitte.

In news involving two West Coast players with New York ties, the San Diego Padres have re-signed pitcher Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million deal, and the San Francisco Giants have reportedly agreed to a four-year, $40 million pact with outfielder Angel Pagan.

Marquis, 34, is from Staten Island and has been rumored over the last couple off-seasons to desire a homecoming, but this winter chose to return to San Diego. Marquis started 2012 with Minnesota, but was released on May 28 after going 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA in seven starts; the Padres signed him the next day, and the righty was 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts before suffering a broken wrist on August 21 that ended his season.

Pagan, who was traded by the Mets to San Francisco last off-season, hit .288 with eight homers, 56 RBI, 29 steals, and an NL-high 15 triples for the Giants in 2012. Bobby Evans, San Francisco’s vice president of baseball operations, said Monday the deal was “very close” pending a physical, with Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown Tweeting the reported terms of the deal later in the afternoon.

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