Red Sox have options besides Napoli

Mike Napoli played a huge role for Boston in 2013. But it could be someone else in 2014. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Ben Cherington was honored as baseball’s executive of the year the other day, an award that pleased his peers, as well as his friends in the front office. Even throughout the trying 2012 season, Cherington was never caught up in privately placing blame on others. Rather, Cherington always seemed to be focused on what he felt he could do better, to help the Red Sox.

“He never looked for an excuse,” a friend of Cherington said. “He did everything he could to make it work.”

What the Red Sox were able to do quickly, under Cherington’s leadership, was to structure a pliable roster filled with value, while fostering an improving farm system. Boston won the World Series, but the payoffs for the team’s choices will continue into this offseason.

Mike Napoli is a free agent and the Red Sox would like to retain him. But Napoli, who turned 32 at the end of October, redefined the perception of him within the industry with his adept transition to first base, built on the many days and hours he worked with Red Sox coach Brian Butterfield, and through the work that he did with Dustin Pedroia on positioning.

A year ago, he was regarded as a beaten-down catcher with a chronically bad hip. Now he is seen as an above-average first baseman, coming off a season in which he had a .360 on-base percentage, generated 63 extra-base hits and helped propel to the Red Sox to a championship.

He is drawing interest from other teams, and some executives are convinced that Boston’s greatest competition for Napoli