Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Napoli on the Move...Again

It looks like Mike Napoli is on the move again.  According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Blue Jays have traded their recently acquired catcher to the Texas Rangers in exchange for relief pitcher Frank Francisco.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit surprised by this trade, but that's mostly because it's rare to see a player traded twice within the same week.  Napoli doesn't seem like the ideal fit in Texas.  Currently, the Rangers already have players encumbered at his natural positions with Yorvit Torrealba at catcher, Mitch Moreland at first base, and Michael Young at DH.  Still, despite the positional roadblock, I don't foresee Napoli having any problems accumulating 500 plate appearances next season.  My best guess is that Napoli will serve as the Rangers version of Victor Martinez:  play first base against lefties, split time at catcher with Torrealba, and occasionally spell Michael Young at DH.  I should note that this definitely ends any chance Vladmir Guerrero had of re-signing with the Rangers.

Other than the positional complication, this trade should benefit Napoli.  The Ballpark at Arlington seems to play into his one natural offensive skill--the ability to hit home runs.  With Napoli going into his age-29 season and moving to a ballpark that heavily favors power hitters, it wouldn't surprise me to see Napoli breach the 30 homer threshold for the first time next season.  Also, moving away from the Angels could help Napoli rediscover the patience and plate discipline skills that dissipated over the course of his tenure in Anaheim.   If he can rediscover his ability to draw walks, he would become a much more bigger offensive threat for the Rangers.

The Blue Jays acquiring Frank Francisco strikes me as being a little bit redundant.  After losing closer Kevin Gregg and lefty set-up man Scott Downs via free agency, understandably the Blue Jays wanted to rebuild their bullpen.  In doing so, they retained Jason Frasor, signed Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch via free agency, and have now traded for Francisco.  While all four pitchers are quality relievers, I can't help but notice they're all right handed.  Personally, I would've thought that if the Blue Jays were going to trade for another relief pitcher, it might have been a lefty.  Then again, that's just me. 

Francisco's role appears to be unclear at the moment.  Initially, there were reports that Octavio Dotel would close for the Blue Jays in 2011.  With Francisco, a former closer, in the mix, I'm not sure that report remains as true today as it did last month.  Francisco has very good stuff, and tends to miss bats at a high rate.  While he walks a few too many batters to ever be an elite level closer, but not enough that he couldn't be effective in the role over the long haul.  My guess is that he'll be given every opportunity to wrestle ninth inning duties away from Dotel during Spring Training and the first part of the season. 

Frank Francisco produced a 3.12 FIP with a 60/18 K/BB ratio, and 1.0 fWAR in 52-2/3 innings.

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