Mariners reportedly show interest in Napoli

Mariners reportedly show interest in Napoli

SEATTLE -- Free agency opened on Tuesday in Major League Baseball, and one of the first reports was that the Mariners are showing interest in first baseman Mike Napoli, which would make perfect sense given Seattle's offseason needs.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto will be looking to add some right-handed thump to a lefty-leaning lineup, and the club has only one returning first baseman on its 40-man roster in left-handed-hitting Daniel Vogelbach, who has just 12 Major League at-bats.

"We'll have to address some form of first-base balance," Dipoto said on Tuesday at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. "We do want to give Dan Vogelbach an opportunity to play, but he's going to need some help over there."

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MLB.com's Jon Morosi reported on Twitter: "#Mariners showing early interest in Mike Napoli, sources say. He has a good history with Scott Servais going back to the #Rangers."

Napoli, 35, was with Texas in 2011-12, where Servais, now the Mariners' manager, was the Rangers' director of player development in 2011. Napoli, an 11-year veteran, is a career .252/.352/.480 hitter and is coming off a big season with the American League champion Indians, when he hit 34 home runs and 101 RBIs with a .239 average.

The Indians chose not to extend a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Napoli, so he can be signed by any team without compensation. Cleveland has expressed an interest in retaining the former catcher, but not at that price.

Napoli earned $10 million last year, with $7 million in base salary and another $3 million in incentives on a one-year deal.

Seattle's two primary first basemen -- platoon partners Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee -- both are free agents. Dipoto acquired Vogelbach from the Cubs in July in a trade for Mike Montgomery, but the GM figures to add a right-handed hitter to team with Vogelbach.

Napoli put together career bests in home runs, RBIs and games played (150), but that heavy workload might have caught up with him as he hit .140 (13-for-93) over Cleveland's final 26 games in the regular season and .173 (9-for-52) in the playoffs.

So a situation where Napoli could at least split some time with the 23-year-old Vogelbach might be a good opportunity for both parties, though Napoli would surely get the bulk of the playing time if he signs with a Seattle club looking to take the next step after improving 10 wins to 86-76 last season.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.