CLEVELAND -- Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis played key roles in the Indians' season, and the team has interest in bringing both veterans back for next year. Over the next few days, Cleveland's decision-makers will hold internal discussions to determine just how much they are willing to pay.By Monday, the
CLEVELAND -- Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis played key roles in the Indians' season, and the team has interest in bringing both veterans back for next year. Over the next few days, Cleveland's decision-makers will hold internal discussions to determine just how much they are willing to pay.
By Monday, the Indians need to decide whether to extend a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Napoli or Davis, who are both eligible for free agency. Of the two, Napoli is the more likely candidate to be given the one-year opportunity to continue his time in Cleveland. If an offer is given and declined, then the Indians would receive a compensatory Draft pick if the player signs elsewhere.
"Obviously, the offseason is just getting started for us," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Friday. "But we have a lot of decisions to make, and both for Raj and Mike, we expressed our desire to potentially have them back. And we recognize they both have alternatives, based on the years that they had, but we're certainly open to exploring different ways where both of them could be back here."
Napoli presents an intriguing case.
Before the Indians signed Napoli to a one-year, $7 million contract, the club cut ties with first baseman Chris Johnson, eating the $7 million he was owed for the 2016 campaign. Napoli, 35, went on to have a career year, hitting all his financial incentives and boosting his final salary to $10 million. That means that Cleveland paid roughly $17 million -- or nearly the same cost of a qualifying offer -- to have Napoli on the team.
Behind the scenes, Napoli emerged as a leader in the clubhouse and a cult hero among fans. The "Party at Napoli's" motto became a kind of rallying cry, not to mention a source of charitable donations for each T-shirt purchased bearing the slogan. On the field, Napoli set career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (101), while racking up more games (150) and plate appearances (645) than any other season in his 11-year career.
Down the stretch, though, that heavy workload may have caught up with the slugger. Napoli hit .140 (13-for-93) in September and then .173 (9-for-52) in the postseason. In the World Series against the Cubs, the first baseman hit .167 (4-for-24) with 11 strikeouts.
"I think you have to look at the balance of the season," Antonetti said. "And Mike did a phenomenal job for us. I think he posted career highs in plate appearances, home runs, RBIs, all of those areas. He made a huge impact for us on the field and in the clubhouse, and I think that's the lens through which we'll view it."
Throughout this season, Napoli has expressed a desire to stay with Cleveland beyond this year.
Davis also enjoyed a strong season, but it is unlikely that he will receive a qualifying offer. Over 134 games, the fleet-footed outfielder led the American League in stolen bases (43) and had an excellent stolen-base success rate (88 percent). Davis, who spent most of his time in center and left field, hit .249 with 48 RBIs and career highs in homers (12) and runs scored (74).
In the postseason, Davis hit only .147 in 15 games, but he also provided a handful of memorable moments. Davis stole three bases in Game 5 of the World Series, becoming only the fifth player in baseball history to achieve that feat in a Fall Classic game. In the eighth inning of Game 7 against the Cubs, Davis launched a game-tying two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman.
After the Game 7 defeat, Davis said he would love to return with Napoli for next season.
"This is the best season I've ever had in my Major League career," said Davis, who signed a one-year contract worth $5.25 million with the Indians last winter. "That would be great if we could get us both back, especially with this group of guys. They're a good group, talented. I think they're ready to learn.
"I don't make those decisions. I just go out there and do whatever I'm told, really. If I get the opportunity, I get it. If I don't, I'll be somewhere else."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.