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Cherington hopeful about Napoli but exploring options

Cherington hopeful about Napoli but exploring options
BOSTON -- Back on Dec. 3, when the Red Sox and Mike Napoli reached a tentative agreement on a three-year, $39 million agreement, it would have been hard to believe that no official deal would be in place by the second week of January.

Although general manager Ben Cherington won't go so far as to say a signed contract with the right-handed-hitting slugger is imminent, he did express that there is still hope.

"I think as everyone knows, one of our goals this offseason was to add offense at first base," Cherington said on WEEI's "Hot Stove" radio program on Thursday night. "We haven't been unable to really do that, officially, yet. We're still talking, and when you're talking, there's hope for a resolution. But nothing to report right now."

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Though neither side has publicly acknowledged reasons for the hold-up, it is believed to stem from issues that popped up regarding Napoli's hip during the physical he underwent in Boston roughly a month ago.

"We've had dialogue," Cherington said. "It's one of those situations, out of respect to Mike and the process, [where] I'm not going to get into detail. Whenever we're talking and there's dialogue, it means we're hopeful of being able to do something, but we just don't know yet. We'll see how it plays out."

A healthy Napoli remains Boston's top target for first base and in the middle of the batting order. But until there's a deal, Cherington must examine all the alternatives.

One target went off the board earlier this week, when Adam LaRoche re-upped with the Nationals on a two-year deal. One reason the Red Sox were reluctant to go all in on LaRoche is that it would have cost them a second-round Draft pick.

The spinoff of the LaRoche re-signing is that the Nats are making Michael Morse available in trade talks, and he could be a good fallback option for Cherington.

"Until something is done, you have to consider other options, so we've had to do that, and we've continued to consider other ways to improve the team, whether it's at first base or elsewhere," Cherington said. "At this point, we just haven't found anything that made sense to us in the sort of big picture. So that's where we are. We obviously had targeted someone at that position earlier in the offseason, and we're still hopeful we can add someone there.

"There's no one particular player that's available or not available that would have changed the course of our offseason. We're just examining and evaluating things as they come. Certainly, when you have a position you're trying to improve on, until it's improved upon, you have to continue to consider other options.

"It's fair to say as you sort of get deeper into the winter, the free agents start to go off the board. You can look at trades and other ways to do things. It remains a focus. We're still hoping we can do something to improve ourselves in that area before we get to Fort Myers."

The only internal option the Red Sox have at first base is Mauro Gomez, a right-handed hitter who hit .275 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 102 at-bats last season.

"Gomez can play there," said Cherington. "We've talked about -- even sort of outside of this conversation about Napoli -- we've talked about looking at some other guys at that position and different ways to look at that position. Gomez is a guy we believe in. We believe in the bat; we believe he can help us, and no matter what we do, he'll be in Spring Training and getting at-bats at first base, and we'll see what he can do."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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