As much as Mike Napoli wants to clutch this past season as tightly as his Red Sox teammates did his beard, his status as one of the top free agent power hitters has compelled him to test his worth on the open market.

Tough to fault him for that.

And make no mistake, there is interest in a 32-year-old right-handed hitter who posted the fifth-most home runs (23), third-highest slugging percentage (.482) and third-best OPS (.842) of any unsigned free agent while playing surprisingly strong defense in his first year as a full-time first baseman and staying healthy enough to make a career-high 578 plate appearances.

Even now, with the Texas Rangers presumably out of the bidding after their blockbuster trade for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, the Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies and New York Mets are a few of the teams that have been linked to Napoli, and surely, there are others. The Rangers, who plan to add another big bat, still could make room for Napoli in a first base/DH split with Fielder, but have more pressing needs at catcher (Brian McCann?) and in the outfield (Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury?).

And so, three weeks after celebrating a World Series championship by walking shirtless on Boylston Street, Napoli continues to play the field while the Sox discuss contingency plans, including doling out more playing time to super-sub Mike Carp or taking a flier on free agent Corey Hart, who missed this season while recovering from surgeries on both knees.

In the end, though, both sides may realize a reunion represents their best option.

For their part, the Sox have expressed a desire to retain Napoli, although it’s unclear whether they’re willing to make more than a two-year commitment. Last winter, they signed him to a three-year, $39 million contract that was revised to a one-year deal after tests revealed the existence of a degenerative condition in both hips.