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Napoli Deal a Head Scratcher

Posted By Ben Fisher On Jan 25 2011 @ 11:11 pm In Toronto Blue Jays | 3 Comments

We get it, Alex Anthopoulos. Having capable, veteran arms to fall back on in the bullpen is critical, particularly for a young starting rotation whose innings will be closely monitored.

But surely a power bat like Mike Napoli could have fetched more than Frank Francisco and cash, or at least had a more significant role on this Jays team.

In commenting on the deal with Texas, Anthopoulos pointed to an even bigger training camp battle brewing over the closer position, one that will involve Francisco, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch vying for the job vacated by new Oriole Kevin Gregg. But adding another arm to the already overcrowded late innings crew has also served to leave the first base and DH positions uncontested for Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion, respectively.

Maybe my opinions on the trade are swayed by my own emphasis on starting position players being more essential than pitchers. Whether or not that’s fair, it is reasonable to ask if more than a 31-year old chair tosser could have been had for a versatile 29-year old coming off three consecutive 20-homer campaigns.

Anthopoulos’ talk of an in-house closer competition rings hollow when you consider that this clearly isn’t a team built to win this season, and none of these men are likely to be around to represent a contending Blue Jays squad. In fact, with four of the seven or eight available bullpen spots snapped up by veterans, it’s hard to see too many experience-needy youngsters getting much of an opportunity on the team, as it’s currently constructed.

Not that Napoli would have been a key piece moving forward, but his presence would have helped ease some pressure on both Lind, who will need time to adjust defensively to first base, and J.P. Arencibia, who will likely experience growing pains as he grows accustomed to the starting catcher job. It’s hard to see where much of the power will come from for the Jays, who have lost Vernon Wells and John Buck, and are not likely to see another 54 home runs from Jose Bautista (of course, I suppose the same could have been said at this time last year).

In the grand scheme of things, this trade probably won’t hold significant weight moving forward. Francisco will contribute some innings for the non-contending Jays and Napoli will have a power-heavy, low on-base offensive season in Texas, and neither will be missed by the team that traded them. Heck, I was somewhat pleased with the deal as a money-saver for Toronto (while both men are arbitration-eligible, Napoli figures to make more than Francisco) until Anthopoulos began speaking in glowing terms about a guy I’ve watched for long enough to know is only a slightly above-average hurler.

Plus, like I said in my Wells’ piece, any contributions that we get beyond being rid of Wells’ contract is simply icing on the cake.

But as strictly a one-for-one deal – less than $1 million in cash aside – it’s not Anthopoulos’ best work.

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