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:

Comments (85)

  1. first move by AA that I truly don’t understand. What am I missing? Even if the Jays need bullpen help (which they don’t) how is FF more valuable than Napoli?

  2. i guess the jays are just lookin to shut down the east with their pen. Can’t do it with the bats, especially considering the red sox this year.

  3. I hope there is more to this deal that just straight Napoli for Francisco. I thought we had enough relievers already. We need the bat more. Maybe AA’s going a little trigger happy?

  4. yeah i don’t understand this at all. what’s FF’s contract like?

  5. Jays have a boat load of RHP. Maybe a big trade or Vlad is coming. With AA you just never know.

  6. I think this is just the setup for another trade…wait and ull see!

  7. Really stumped on this one – maybe there is another reason for it? Signing Vladd for cheap. Not sure I understand having $13 million for Rauch, Dotel, Frasor, Francisco.

  8. I am not quite sure why people are confused by this move, or in terms of your tweet regarding market inefficiencies Parkes, there always is one for right handed relievers. When you think of the trades that happened last season – think of what Matt Capps cost the Twins – would you like to trade Rauch, Dotel or FF for Wilson Ramos? I sure would. Every RH arm in the bullpen right now is expendable, they all have experience closing and they are all veterans. If nothing else the Jays bullpen right now is amazing, I would rather have both Rauch and FF than Gregg from last season.

  9. Don’t like this trade at all. I like Francisco, but there’s no way he’ll be a more valuable player to the Jays than Napoli would’ve been.

  10. I dont get this… I was rather excited by the acquisition of Napoli… I dont get it at all. Must be something that the public doesnt know about for the Angels to dump him and the Jays to turn around and do it too.
    Maybe AA has something else up his sleeve, but everytime I think that I am wrong (following the Marcum/Lawrie deal, etc).

    Either that or they are really excited at the prospects of EE/Lind sharing the 1b/DH duties.

    Oh well, at least dealing Napoli is like playing with house $, he was a piece that never should have been necessary to acquire VW and his whole contract.

  11. I guess maybe they will go after Vlad?
    1. Davis CF
    2. Escobar SS
    3. Lind 1B
    4. Bautista RF
    5. Vlad DH
    6. Snider LF
    7. Hill 2B
    8. Rivera RF
    9. Arencibia C
    with EE backing up at DH and 1st? Still way too many relievers. Is there a premium corner OF or 3B being offered up in a trade?

  12. sorry, Bautista plays 3B in the above scenario

  13. I don’t understand why people were that excited about Mike Napoli – he’s going to arbitration and was going to get paid 6M+ to block JP/Lind at their respective positions. There is a ton of value in a late inning relief pitcher if you haven’t noticed yet.

  14. @ Chris – I think financially the deal is even as they Jays apparently have sent money to Texas and Francisco could make $4.88 million in arbitration. I agree there is a tonne of value in late innings pitchers but there are only so many innings for pitchers to throw in a game. Doesn’t make sense to pay $3 million plus to all of these guys.

  15. At least FF can get lefties out…. one positive I suppose.

  16. I don’t really understand this either, but there’s something to be said for stocking your bullpen with 4 guys who have “closing experience”, which always seems to become so valuable at the trade deadline.

  17. @ JToronto —– reports say that the Jays received cash, not sent. Also, it’s hilarious that Napoli will be playing vs the Angels 18 times this season.

  18. I understand the potential issue financially – you also can’t unfortunately spend 3M plus to acquire a player like Wilson Ramos that can be acquired in a trade at the deadline. I don’t mind the deal in that although we may not need this many rhp, there are teams that inevitably will need bullpen help. What I find interesting is the club options for both Dotel and Rauch – correct me if I am wrong but that allows any team that would potentially trade for either reliever to not have to worry about type a/b status because if either were in line to receive such they could simply excercise the club option.

  19. Francisco’s xFIP’s for the last three seasons: 3.34, 3.53, 3.31.
    Papelbon’s xFIP’s for the last three seasons: 2.38, 3.98, 3.72.

    I understand how this seems to make little sense given the Jays already signed Rauch and Dotel, but Francisco is better than both. I don’t hate this deal at all.

    I do think this adds more credence to my theory that Frasor will be dealt soon and that Vladdy may be on Toronto’s radar.

  20. FF would have been a Type A this year but he accepted arbitration

  21. 12 arms the Bullpen? Another move must be coming. If not, guys will be wasting away in the minors or released for no value.

    losers of the Litsch/Scrabble battle,
    F. Francisco
    O. Dotel
    J. Rauch
    J. Frasor
    S. Camp
    C. Janssen
    C. Villanueava
    D. Purcey
    J. Carlson
    J. Roenicke
    S. Richmond

  22. The Jays are also reportedly getting some cash back in the deal.

  23. I take the opposite view Chris. I think Napoli would’ve allowed them the opportunity to break in Lind and Arencibia slowly, as well as giving them somebody (anybody) that could actually hit LHP. That has far more value on this team than another RH arm (albeit a very good one) out of the bullpen IMHO.

  24. Gotta see Vlad as a definite possibility, especially since they just closed the hole on his biggest suitor.

    Can’t say I love the deal as I liked Napoli’s ability to cover 3 spots but the point about these guys value come June or July is a pretty good one.

  25. @ Swope – thanks for correcting, I misread it. Maybe it does make sense then. If it works out to be Wells for Rivera, Francisco + another player the Jays sign cheap for DH then even better. I agree with Lewis though – too many arms, someone has go to go or else you lose out on their value.

  26. this now means that 24 of the 40 players on the Jays 40 man roster are pitchers

  27. @lewis: That’s not unusual heading into Spring Training.

  28. You are right, buit there is also a lot of quality (at least league avg quality), which I think suggests they may be looking to make another minor move or two.

    At least AA keeps things very interesting. Imagine living in Cleveland. I don’t think they have made one single off-season move that is remotely interesting.

  29. Maybe the Phillies need Lidge insurance?? Contreras doesnt seem like a successor down there.

  30. Oh wait, while grasping at straws I forgot about Madson somehow.

  31. This just seems so strange overall. They can’t possibly have a spot for all these arms on the roster, something is going to have to give, somewhere. To have trade value, these guys have to pitch, and good luck getting everybody some time. I just don’t see the strategy right now. Plus, does this really make the team better in the short term, or long term? I don’t really think so. I agree with tom who said Napoli would have been perfect insurance and seemed to fit nicely.

  32. As I said on DJF, Napoli is simply a better and much more valuable player than Frank Francisco. While Rogers seemingly has a mandate to lower payroll as much as possible (they’ve traded their five best players over the last two years; Halladay, Rolen, Rios, Wells, Marcum), it’s not like they even save much money with this deal.

    On the surface, this deal makes no sense, so I’d really love to hear the team’s explanation.

  33. The cash is less than $1 million. I don’t like this trade.

  34. I’m trying to talk myself into this. The Blue Jays aren’t losing much offensively from Napoli to Encarnacion, they had nearly identical offensive numbers last year except Napoli had 5 more HRs and Encarnacion’s BABIP was 40 points less.

    But I just think a catcher who can hit as much as Napoli can is worth A LOT in this league. Certainly much more than a right handed slightly above average closer. Even with cash changing hands, I feel a lot of value is being lost in this trade.

    Better than my “THIS IS HORRIBLE!!!” initial reaction, but I’m not buying this yet.

  35. Oh, and who cares about whether the Jays bullpen is good or not? This is a 75 win team in 2011 we are talking about. It makes no difference if they have the greatest bullpen ever assembled, they are still going to be mediocre.

  36. What’s Frasor now: the 5th inning pitcher? I realize Parkes and the other FIPsters that he’s better than everyone except Francisco (I think) but I don’t think that’s how he’s perceived. He’s as good as gone. Maybe even before the hearing.

  37. Napoli is also a way better hitter than Encarnacion, so don’t try to justify it that way.

    Mike Napoli: 118 OPS+ career
    Edwin Encarnacion 103 OPS+ career

  38. I don’t know who Neftali Perez is, but that Neftali Feliz is dy-no-mite!

  39. There is also the possibility that there are no free agent compensation picks next year. If this wasn’t the great AA I would be concerned.

  40. @lewis – are you kidding? The Clevelands got Jordan Bastian!

  41. Does it make more sense if he were a LHP, because he get LHBs out pretty well. Still I’m expecting more deals before the spring

  42. Fullmer Fan: Napoli’s better, but the drop off isn’t as big as people might think. For example, Bill James has them with identical .350 wOBA next year.

    But yeah, certainly not trying to justify the trade. I wouldn’t like it even before the Jays got Rausch and Dotel.

  43. @Fullmer I think saying this team is a 75 win team is about as redundant as me pointing out that you probably made that same prediction like everyone else did last year. and then they won what 85? This is a good baseball team. Not a playoff baseball team but a good one nonetheless.

    People also need to remember that Napoli was still eligible for another year or arbitration. The Jays could have potentially been handcuffed by a guy making 7-8M at DH when the actual value on the open market is clearly a lot closer to 2M.

    I think the way to look at this is that for the Angels to do the deal for Vernon, they wanted a way to shed about 10M in payroll for their budget. So we took Napoli at 5 and Rivera at 5 (im not being accurate im sure). But to the Jays, and the Silent Assassin, Napoli is a horrible value. He is a potentially 6M DH/C they don’t need especially when someone like Manny is only worth 2M. I see it as AA striking again. Napoli isn’t a good catcher, he isn’t even an average catcher defensively. He is a DH/1B exclusively on a winning ball club. But on a winning ball club you don’t pay 6M to a DH/1B that puts up Napoli #s. It just isn’t worth it. Instead AA found a suitor that was willing to take a 6M DH/1B in exchange for a type A RHP. If you are a Rangers fan, I would be saying why did my team just spend 6M and trade away our second best bullpen arm for a player whos equivalence is available on the open market for a 1/3 of the price.

  44. Oh and just to add to that last point – in the process AA potentially eliminated the final suitor for Vlad in the Rangers. The Yanks, Rays, Sox, Angels, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Angels all do not need DH’s at this point. Which is the only position Vlad can play anymore. That significantly reduces his bargaining point.

  45. Dustin, now that Jose Molina has moved back to #2 on the C depth chart, can I change my chat vote to “I like farts”? ;)

  46. Help me out here. If Frasor wins his arbitration can the Jays decline to accept him and then they are down a pitcher. If so Francisco makes sense.

  47. @ Tom

    Yours and mine too.

  48. Arb contracts aren’t guaranteed until a particular date during Spring Training. They’d still have to pay him something though.

  49. Frasor may not even make it to the hearing before being traded.

  50. @Canuckistani. Very true how could I forget.

  51. “I think saying this team is a 75 win team is about as redundant as me pointing out that you probably made that same prediction like everyone else did last year. and then they won what 85? This is a good baseball team. Not a playoff baseball team but a good one nonetheless.”

    The real point there was that this team isn’t a contender, so talking about the strengths of the bullpen is really quite irrelevant. Seemingly, this was to gain another draft pick, but it’s not like they wouldn’t have got one (or more) anyway if Napoli stuck around for the two years.

  52. Great point Chris.

    Seriously where is Vlady going to sign? KC? Baltimore? Seattle? or Toronto? I don’t think there are any other options for a DH only player. All the other AL teams are set.

  53. Napoli>Compensation Pick

    I fully expect Francisco to be around more than one year. Otherwise, this trade is really stupid.

  54. and seattle might not be an option as they invested in Jack Cust and Baltimore has Luke Scott unless they move him to LF.

    The market for Vlad is shrinking very quickly.

  55. and where does Michael Young now get his 500-600 AB’s. 1st base I guess.

    I don’t think he is on the Jays radar, but stranger things have happened. And the Rangers suddenly need bullpen depth……….crazy I know.

  56. It better not have been a move to gain another draft pick, unless AA has some inside information because as the glue mentioned above there may or may not be compensation picks in the next CBA, which I think kicks in sometime this year, but still has to be ratified.

  57. With a trade to Texas for Young (has a no trade clause I think, but might waive it to play third) and a signing of Vlad, this could be your lineup.

    1. Davis CF
    2. Escobar SS
    3. Young 3B
    4. Buatista RF
    5. Vlad Guerrero DH
    6. Snider LF
    7. Lind 1B
    8. Hill 2B
    9. Arencibia C

    whoa! I have no idea what the Jays could offer and that Texas would want besides bullpen help

  58. I think AA is constructing a stellar dodgeball team out in that bullpen

  59. I’m quite confident that if the Jays were working out a deal for Young, it would’ve happened here. Or actually, if they were ever interested in Young they would’ve just signed Manny at a fraction of the price.

  60. Of course, the Jays do save a bunch more money in this deal, and they now have a position of strength in the ‘pen – an area that was sorely lacking last year.

    Napoli would have been serviceable on the Jays, but certainly not the key to a team who wants ABs for their young catcher and already has a handful of DH/1B types.

    Seems like another smart move my AA.

  61. $16 million each year through 2013 is a bit rich for what Michael Young brings to the table, which is nowhere near what his reputation suggests it should be.

  62. WTF Michael Young? You think the Jays and Rangers and going to do a position player/relief pitcher trade, then turn around and do the reverse with different players? If they were going to trade for Young, it would have been part of this trade.

  63. Well $2 million (?) is a bunch to regular Joes like us, but in baseball it’s really only a few sheckles.

  64. AA has said it’s team policy not to negotiate one year deals after arbitraion figures have been exchanged. Maybe Napoli had no interest in signing with Toronto for more than one year and so he decided to take a deal fora guy they had their eye on.

    Of course, if that policy holds, the Jays will either go to arbitration with FF or sign him to a multi-year deal.

  65. Dont forget Jays still ahve alot of young tallen thats MLB ready Kyle Drabek can be a number 2 or 3 behind Ricky Romero Brett Lawrie can play 3rd or 1st J.P Arencibia will be catcher or DH behind Jose Molina I see Adam Lind 1st Arron Hill 2nd Brett Lawrie 3rd
    J.P Arencibia behind the plate Juan Rivera Left Raja Davis Center and Bautista Right and Edwin Encarnachion DH and Yunel Escobar SS Pitching Ricky Romero starter Brett Cecil 2nd Brandon Morrow 3rd Kyle Drabek 4th Dana Eveland 5th your 2011 Toronto BlueJays

  66. And how was the bullpen sorely lacking last year? And why does it matter if it’s sorely lacking this year?

  67. Travis, I’m almost wondering if Napoli just never wanted to be in Toronto and wanted out. The only way I can see this trade making sense if it AA’s hand was “forced” by demands from Napoli and he tried to offload him before anyone found out.

    Of course, AA doesn’t have to listen to Napoli, and this is completely baseless, but a publicly unhappy Napoli is worth a lot less than a normal Napoli.

    Of couse, then Napoli never would have agreed to appear on the radio shows in the first place, right?

    I have a headache from trying to make sense of this. I’m done.

  68. Just one last thing. It would make sense if the policy about not negotiating one year deals wasn’t applied to traded for guys. I think the whole point is to try and set a deadline to get the one year deal done.

    If the Blue Jays never had a chance to negotiate, then the whole point behind the negotiating restrictions doesn’t apply.

  69. Yeah my Young suggestion was probably a bit hasty and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And after hearing AA on the fan it sounds like he really might be done for now. If it were me I would sign Vlad and gamble on chavez just to take a chance and see if they can prosper and possibly be flipped at the trade deadline.

  70. from what we’ve learned about AA, him sounding like he’s done means absolutely nothing. Any angle I’ve seen this trade analysed from just doesn’t make sense, I mean if we had a need for a bullpen arm I could justify this trade. I Don’t like the idea of carry 13 pitchers which AA said they might consider(I Don’t buy it for a second) I think we’ll see a couple more moves before the spring. On a completely different topic who would be the Jays back up centre fielder be at this point?

  71. Well, there is only one obvious thing left on AAs agenda. Now that Jason Frasor has become completely and utterly redundant, its time to have him executed… gangland style. This of course will make any Type A Jays relievers think twice about accepting arbitration after the end of the 2011 season. AA sure loves his draft picks!

  72. “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.”

    We’re not considering the park that he pitched in? I think Francisco is clearly better.

    • Sure. Look at the park he pitched in. Then look at the park that Frasor pitched in. Rogers Centre and Rangers Ballpark are pretty similar. And Pittsburgh, where Dotel pitched the majority of his games last year is only a bit off that.

  73. I think all it means is they don’t like Roenicke.

  74. Oh yeah, and they hate Napoli’s d at catcher enough to prefer he not back up JPA there.

  75. I think this speaks to how much they Jose Molina’s D as a backup/ Brandon Morrow’s personal catcher.

  76. I still think a lot of people are too caught up in the fact that Mike Napoli once upon a time played catcher. He is absolutely atrocious behind the plate, hence why Mike Sciocsia, one of the best managers in the league, insisted on playing Jeff “I am literally the worst hitter in baseball” Mathis so often.

    Napoli is a glorified DH/1B who will be paid 6M next year. Perhaps he was worth more than FF, but his value at his position suggests he was grossly overpaid.

  77. At first I wasn’t thrilled about the deal but the more I look at it the more it makes sense. I really like Encarnacion, and still think he is due for a breakout or at least revert back to what he did in Cinci in 2008. If you think this is possible then Napoli is expendable. Encarnacion comes at a better price and is probably a little more athletic. In a pinch he could fill in at 3B. I would rather see Lind get regular at bats against both left and right handed batters to see if he can repeat 2009. He did it once whats to say he cant do it again. I don’t think we can lable him as a platoon player just yet.
    Francisco has had great K rates through his career.He has had some injury trouble, this is a classic case of AA buying low on a guy who he thinks can play better than his track record shows. I don’t know about you, but I have seen enough of Frasor in key situations to know he might not be able to handle them. I think he is much better suited for low leverage situations. That leaves Dotel as a ROOGY, Rauch your RH setup, Purcey your LH setup and Francisco as your closer. This will keep their arms fresh and allow Farrel to play these guys in situations they can succeed. Not a top of the line bullpen but a versatile and deep one.

  78. People are forgetting about Zep and Villenueva who also have really good arms. In fact, I trust Zep more than purcey in high leverage situations because Purcey walks everyone. If I were the Jays, I’d really try to trade Frasor and put Zep in the bullpen with Purcey. They can’t just have one lefty reliever.

  79. Hello,
    Thank you for your nice Move. I like it very much.

    Thanks

  80. there will be no closer, close by committee/matchup which i would love. except its kinda harder to do with only one lefty in the bullpen

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