Blue Jays flip Napoli to Rangers for Francisco
Toronto baseball fans can scratch the purchase of a Mike Napoli Blue Jays uniform off their to-do list.
The power-hitting catcher/first baseman was traded to Texas on Tuesday, four days after general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired him, along with Juan Rivera, from the Los Angeles Angels for fellow outfielder Vernon Wells.
"It's been a crazy couple of days," Napoli said of joining the Rangers. "I know the [American League West] division well and the lineup they have, the type of players they have.
"I'm excited. I can't wait to get to spring training and try to win a job and help these guys win."
Heading to Toronto in exchange for Napoli is right-handed relief pitcher Frank Francisco.
The 31-year-old Francisco further deepens the Jays bullpen, which also boasts newcomers Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch. All three, along with returnee Jason Frasor, are expected to compete for the closer's job at spring training.
Anthopoulos said he had inquired previously about Francisco, and a deal came together when Texas was among several teams that had already asked him about Napoli. The deal involves arbitration-eligible players that have not settled their 2011 contracts.
"Frank Francisco is a guy we've liked for quite some time," Anthopoulos said. "He has closing experience and will compete for a chance to close. This is going to be an open competition.
"We love the fact that we have depth in the bullpen, one through seven," he added. "It's especially critical and important considering how young the rotation is. I've seen a lot of seasons spiral out of control because of a weak bullpen and having depth in that bullpen is going to be vital for us."
Kevin Gregg agreed to a two-year contract with Baltimore this winter after saving 37 games for Toronto last season. Dotel saved 22 games for Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and Rauch, who signed with Toronto last week, had 21 saves filling in for injured Joe Nathan in Minnesota.
Francisco accepted salary arbitration in December instead of becoming a free agent. He asked for $4,875,000 and Texas offered $3.5 million, only a slight bump from his $3,265,000 salary last season.
Francisco began last season as the closer in Texas but soon gave way to American League rookie of the year Neftali Feliz. Francisco missed the last month of the season and the playoffs with a muscle strain.
He posted a career-high 25 saves in 29 opportunities in 2009 for the Rangers, who appear set on having Feliz remain in the stopper's role rather than shift to the starting rotation.
Last season, Francisco had a 6-4 record, two saves and 3.76 earned-run average in 56 games. In 277 major league appearances — all with Texas — the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native boasts a 17-15 mark with 32 saves in 49 chances and 315 strikeouts and only 237 hits allowed in 283 1/3 innings pitched.
Napoli, 29, is headed to salary arbitration and seeking $6.1 million US, while the Angels countered at $5.3 million.
He reached career highs in home runs (26) and runs batted in (68) last season in 453 at-bats, appearing in 140 games, including 70 at first.
"[Napoli] adds a power dynamic to the lineup against anybody. He can catch," Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. "He's caught some good pitching on winning clubs. He can play first base. He gives [manager Ron Washington] an option at DH as well on days when Michael's in the field or Michael gets a day off. On days when he isn't starting, he gives us a pretty good weapon off the bench."
With files from The Associated Press & The Canadian Press