By Simon Stracher
After just five days in a Blue Jays uniform, 29 year-old catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, has been traded to the Texas Rangers for 31 year-old relief pitcher Frank Francisco. This comes as surprising news, as Napoli was traded five days ago. I can understand this trade for both sides, as the Blue Jays had lost setup man Scott Downs and closer Kevin Gregg. They needed relief pitching, and Francisco is one of the most underrated relief pitchers in the game. He has a 10.89 K/9 since 2008, which is second best in the game, and had a 3.12 FIP in 2010 and a 3.34 FIP in 2009. He also can close for the Blue Jays and had 25 saves in 2009. Anticipate a much better season for Francisco, as he had a .312 BABIP last year. Expect a 2.90 ERA, 75 strikeouts, and a 28 saves.
Napoli is also one of the most underrated players game, and has been shackled by Mike Scioscia and his Jeff Mathis love-fest. Napoli has hit over 20 home-runs the past three years, even with less than 450 at-bats every year. If Napoli was able to get regular at-bats, which was assumed after he was traded to the Blue Jays, he would easily be a top five catcher. But now, with his subsequent trade to the Rangers, Napoli might be in the same position he was with the Angels. The Rangers already have Yorvit Torrealba, and Taylor Teagarden. Expect 400 at-bats, 28 home-runs, 65 RBIs, and a .275 average. Good numbers, but not what he's capable of.
Who got the better end of this trade? In my humble opinion, I would say the Blue Jays. The reasoning behind this is that the Blue Jays already have top prospect J.P. Arencibia, number 48 on MLB.com's top 50 prospects, and reportedly the Rangers are sending a one million dollars to the Blue Jays. It seems like the Blue Jays wanted to save money, Francisco asked for $4,875,000 in arbitration and Texas offered $3.5 million, while Napoli made $3.6 million in 2010 and asked for $6.1 million and the Angels countered with $5.3 million. If both players win their cases, the Blue Jays would be saving roughly $2.3 million. Along with a dominant reliever, the Blue Jays are getting $2.3 million to spend on one of the eight draft picks that they have in the top 120. Even though Napoli is the better player, the Blue Jays thought ahead in this situation and will now have more money to spend on their draft class.
In the end, this trade is just a little better for the Blue Jays, but it could easily turn out to be a better for the Rangers if they can get Napoli can get enough at-bats. And now the Rangers have a versatile power hitter who can play first or catcher, or even DH. Napoli's projection will change if the Rangers trade Michael Young. Meanwhile, the Jays now have a very strong bullpen and could be a surprise contender ( a la the San Diego Padres). In a couple of weeks I will have my top ten catchers list for fantasy. Also, watch out for Francisco in Fantasy Baseball if you want a lot of cheap strikeouts and 20-25 saves. He could be a real steal and will come at a good price.