Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays are getting set to trade Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco and less than a million dollars in cold hard cash money.

The Jays recently acquired Napoli from the Angels in the Vernon Wells trade.  Despite seeming like a good fit for a team in need of coverage at catcher, first base and designated hitter (all positions that Napoli has played in the past), the Jays have moved him for yet another right handed reliever.

With Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel signing before him, Francisco becomes the third right handed potential closer that the Jays have acquired this offseason, in addition to Jason Frasor who remains on the team from last year, and is currently awaiting an arbitration hearing.

Meanwhile, both Francisco and Napoli are awaiting arbitration hearings of their own.  Francisco filed for $4.875 million and was offered $3.5 million by the Rangers.  Napoli filed for $6.1 million while the Angels had offered $5.3 million.

The move likely puts an end to any speculation that Vladimir Guerrero was going to resign for Texas, and means that all those Angels fans who didn’t like seeing Napoli leave town will get to see a lot more of him than if he remained in Toronto.

Try as I might, I cannot get my head around this deal from a Blue Jays perspective.  For the Rangers, it makes perfect sense.  I mean Francisco is a good reliever.  There’s no doubt about it.  But giving him up for a guy that can play catcher and is also a good enough hitter to DH against LHP is a no brainer.  Especially with Neftali Feliz already the team’s closer.

The only way to justify stockpiling right handed relievers the way that the Blue Jays have this offseason is if they’re guaranteed to bring back compensation draft picks.  As Jason Frasor and Frank Francisco already proved this offseason, that’s not a for sure thing, especially if they attain Elias Type A rankings again.

Let’s take a look at the big four of the Blue Jays right handed relief corps last season.

Octavio Dotel: 2.34 K/BB, 1.27 HR/9, .213 AVG, 1.31 WHIP, 4.20 FIP.
Frank Francisco: 3.33 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9, .243 AVG, 1.27 WHIP, 3.12 FIP.
Jason Frasor: 2.41 K/BB, 0.57 HR/9, .246 AVG, 1.38 WHIP, 3.31 FIP.
Jon Rauch: 3.29 K/BB, 0.47 HR/9, .265 AVG, 1.29 WHIP, 2.94 FIP.

At best, Francisco is marginally better than the other three.  At worst, he’s redundant on a team that already has three similar options that could all end up being more than $2 million cheaper in 2011.

Notes on the deal from Alex Anthopoulos via the National Post’s John Lott:

  • Francisco will also compete for closer’s job. Jays tried to trade for him “multiple times.”
  • Francisco’s success against LH batters was important part of deal.
  • Napoli fit well with Jays, but the Rangers interest in the player was known before the Wells trade was completed.
  • The deal doesn’t impact Jason Frasor because Anthopoulos likes having a deep bullpen.
  • Jays would still be interested in a bench player, but also might consider a 13 man pitching staff.

There’s a lot of speculation on what this means for Jason Frasor.  It should be reiterated that a window exists between the arbitrator’s decision and a date in March during which the player’s contract isn’t guaranteed.  Dropping Frasor during that time period would only cost the Blue Jays a nominal fee, but it would make absolutely no sense to rid themselves of Frasor after spending Mike Napoli on a pitcher who puts up similar numbers, and also like Frasor, accepted his team’s arbitration offer instead of becoming a free agent this offseason.

Trading Frasor makes a little more sense, but it’s hard to imagine a player coming back that would be Napoli’s equal or greater.

Perhaps making the least amount of sense is holding onto four similar right handed relief pitchers hoping that the team will be able to flip them at the deadline for something valuable or else have them bring back compensation draft picks when they sign elsewhere at the end of the season.  Frasor and Francisco are both examples of that simply not working and a team being on the hook to pay more through arbitration year after year.

The stockpiling might even be slightly more understandable if this team was a legitimate competitor in their division, but it simply isn’t right now.

And of course there’s also this: