Now Departing: Mike Napoli, Now Arriving: Frank Francisco

During his short tenure as General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of the trades Alex Anthopoulos has made have been slam dunks thus far:

Brandon League for Brandon Morrow? Check.
Alex Gonzalez for Yunel Escobar? Check.
And AA7’s latest triumph, Vernon Wells for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli?
86 million checks.

As crafty as the Silent Assassin is, I’m not so sure of this latest venture and am having great difficulty understanding the logic behind trading Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco.


It makes sense that the Blue Jays would be motivated to deal Mike Napoli because they’re essentially playing with house money. Napoli and Rivera were bonus offers after the real prize was unloading Vernon Wells contract.

Mike Napoli brings much more upside to this team than Frank Francisco, in my opinion. Napoli is an extremely valuable asset who can play multiple positions and hit for power, albeit his defensive reputation as a catcher precedes him. Napoli is also under team control for two more seasons.

At best, Frank Francisco is just a great reliever for the Jays who could walk away as a free agent at the end of the season. He could net a couple of draft picks if he becomes a Type A free agent, but the same scenario is true for Mike Napoli in two years.

It’s all very puzzling as this feels like the quintessential anti-Anthopoulos trade: trading away a young player with upside for another with very little upside. I can only see two reasons why AA would make this deal in the first place:

  1. He’s stockpiling relief pitchers in hopes they will achieve Type A or B free agent status and thus netting the Blue Jays a boatload of picks in the 2012 draft. With the increased scouting budget, maybe AA has been alerted to a bevy of talented prospects coming up in the 2012 draft. What better strategy to land those players than by grabbing as many picks as possible.
  2. The Silent Assassin is working on something much larger at hand. This is just my own personal conspiracy theory, but I think the Blue Jays are acquiring a multitude of relievers so they can package them for either a position player or a highly touted prospect.

Bullpen depth is important to a degree, but at this point the Blue Jays roster contains four different pitchers who all have closing experience. Add up the career saves between Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor and there’s 220 saves.

With a bullpen littered with veteran arms, it prevents players like Josh Roenicke, Jesse Carlson and even Jo-Jo Reyes from logging big league innings. More importantly, it delays us from discovering whether they have a future with this club.

If this trade had been made prior to the Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch signings, then it would make perfect sense. However, bullpen depth is not something the Toronto Blue Jays need right now and yet they continue to stockpile pitchers like they’re on sale during Moonlight Madness at Zellers.

I don’t say this very often about Alex Anthopoulos, but I think he lost this trade. I’m not a fan of this deal … yet for the time being, I’ll consider that it could be part of something much larger at hand.

Ultimately, trading Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco is not going to make or break the Toronto Blue Jays; it’s simply a means to an end.


    Ian Hunter

    Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

    18 thoughts on “Now Departing: Mike Napoli, Now Arriving: Frank Francisco

    • January 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      I think this has to do with stockpiling assets for the trade deadline, when contending teams get antsy and will cough up decent prospects for guys like Francisco because they have a weak bullpen.

      Look for the younger guys to start getting playing time come July/August.

      Unless of course, the conspiracy about bigger things is true, which I'm also in favour of.

    • January 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      I think the motivation for the trade was a lot simpler. AA didn't want to put Farrell in a position where he would feel compelled to steal playing time away from Encarnacion and Arrencibia. Had AA not signed Encarnacion, my guess is Napoli would now be the full time DH.

      As for Francisco, I think this is similar to the Lawrie trade and to a lesser extent the Gose trade. AA simply doesn't care about optics he's acquiring a player he covets.

    • January 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      AA is clearly taking advantage of the reliever FA comp loophole stockpiling veteran relievers that will net picks next year. He likely believes that this may be the last year for this loophole and Napoli himself may not bring anything meaningful in 2 years. So looking at the value here, he is saving $2-$3mm on the trade and likely getting back 1-2 high draft picks which AA probably values at least as another $2mm-$3mm (this is obviously speculative). So Napoli is slightly more valuable than Francisco (although the Jays needed someone who gets out lefties to actually close), but its unlikely he is more than $5mm better. I call this a draw with a slight advantage to AA as he attempts to stockpile prospects through the draft that will be ready in 2015 to keep our pennant runs sustainable.

    • January 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      sadp, that's also another possible scenario. I imagine AA was disappointed they couldn't find any takers for Downs/Gregg/Frasor at the deadline, so hopefully having most of these guys with option years will be more valuable to prospective teams looking for bullpen help.

      Noisyflowers, with so many guys at the 1B/DH/C position, undoubtedly somebody would have lost out on playing time. By trading Napoli, they can pretty much stick with the plan of JPA at catcher, Lind at 1B, and EE at DH.

      It sounds like AA had his sights set on Francisco for a long time. And once he lays eyes on someone like that, I'm afraid that his blinders are on and he's willing to acquire those players at all costs.

      James, just taking a look at the Francisco/Frasor/Rauch/Dotel combo, those guys could net 6 draft picks if they maintain their Type A/B status and decline arbitration. At face value, I don't like this trade, but if it's part of a much larger scale, then I'm for it. Lose the battle to win the war.

    • January 26, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      I love that Arencibia, and even Encarnacion, are being given their chances. And I love the bullpen depth. For both the potential picks, and the support of a very young starting rotation. Also, we've got a manager who knows how to use a bullpen this year. It's all very exciting.

    • January 26, 2011 at 5:31 pm

      Nav, John Farrell is the savior in all this and hopefully he can figure things out. Can you imagine if Cito had to deal with this roster?

    • January 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm

      Seriously! Isn't this awesome! Think back a few years and remember all the moans and groans about JP Rich Bitch and the state of the team. Now look at our club! This is fantastic! You may not like this move but really what's not to like! Anyway you look at it we are going in the right direction and until the season starts he's still moulding this team. I'm excited and glad to be a fan today rather than 2-3 years ago! You should too!

    • January 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      You do realise Nap was everything Farell was against (HR hitter with low average and no small ball). Even with Wells Gone the Jays have a bunch of possible 20 HR players (Bautista, Encarnacian, Lind, Hill, Arencibia). It is the same reason the jays shipped out Wallace and got Davis. Davis plays small ball (SB, doubles).Anyone who does not understand why the jays traded NAP needs to watch more baseball. Because, when the pitcher is on you need the small ball baseball to win games, I remember a bunch of games the jays were shutout, and why is that? Because if you focus entirely on HR with a low average, you have guys swinging for the fences, but who cannot get a hit. I guess Jim Edmonds who hit nearly 400 HR is better than Pete Rose who is the alltime hit leader?

    • January 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      I do not have a problem with this deal at all. I never understood why Napoli was acquired in the first place. I think it was mainly because Anaheim didn't want him, not because the Jays did. If we're building for the future with Lind at 1B and Arencibia at C, why bring in somebody who will block them?

    • January 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm

      If Napoli is young (age 29 in 2010, 30 later this year) how is Frank Francisco (31 in 2010, and 32 later this year) old? Also, you do realise that these two positions are completely different, as in in the early 30s the knees are not what they were and they can be more injury prone, also this is not a position you get that much better with age. Where as Relief is something that you usually see some of the best relievers (such as Rivera) are in there mid to late 30s. Heck, Downs was 34. Thus, for you to describe Francisco as having little upside, shows that you are focused on HR over quality.

    • January 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Slymac, I guess we have that to be thankful: the Blue Jays aren't signing free agents to ridiculous contracts like they used to.

      Anon, maybe it was a consultation between AA and Farrell that was a motivator to move him. If they're willing to trade a guy like Napoli has that kind of power, that gives the impression this team is focusing on small ball rather than swinging for the fences and hoping for the best.

      500 Level Fan, when the Blue Jays received Napoli and Rivera in return from the Angels, it was all gravy. Then after having a few days to ponder things, I still couldn't find a clear cut way to fit Napoli in every day unless he DH'd, which would push Encarnacion to the bench.

      Anon, I guess it's that invisible divide at 30 years old that transitions a man from young to old? I honestly didn't realize the gap between Napoli and Francisco was so close, so my mistake.

      You raise a very interesting point though; as a catcher at 29 years old Napoli, this could be the beginning of his decline compared to Francisco who just may be hitting his stride at age 31.

    • January 27, 2011 at 12:24 am

      A deep bullpen is a critical to racking up wins in the AL East. It may not pay off this year, but the modus operandi to restock your bullpen every year is a great sign. Plus we won't have to endure another Summer of Tallet.

    • January 27, 2011 at 2:30 am

      hey BJH, sorry to jump on your throat with my two anonymous postings (one on the small ball and the second on the age question). I think with relievers it is more common to view them as older players but, compared to SP they face less wear and tear on the arms and a lot of relievers are not power relievers, they are more quality pitchers who know how to make there spots. It is why I think Romero is one of the best pitchers on the jays over Morrow. Morrow has the talent, but Romero has better worked his craft. Specifically though I think having Nap on the team drew to many questions on who is the starting catcher and 1b. Personally I would have made the trade for a 3b, but maybe Frasor is flipped for a 3b. If not the jays should go sign Willy Aybar, he is 28 and offer him a 2 year 2 mill deal, he can play 3b,et all and it would allow for Bautista to move into the field. The big question is and has been the whole offseason, on what way can the jays get Bautista into the outfield and off the diamond, because he is better suited for the field and a guy who could be locked up is more happy playing his preffered position over,position by default.

    • January 27, 2011 at 2:56 am

      Never underestimate how far ahead Alex Anthopoulos may be thinking.

      I don't like this trade either – even if you don't want an asset, that doesn't mean you should trade it for less than it's worth. But as you say, this trade may just be a means to a currently undetermined end.

    • January 27, 2011 at 3:49 am

      Anon, now that the Summer of Tallet is over forever, everybody wins.

      PSmith, no worries – I enjoy the discussion and you bring some very valid points. That's exactly why somebody like Arthur Rhodes can enjoy continued success at age 41, right?

      In the Romero vs. Morrow discussion, I think Morrow has the best "stuff" and is obviously a power pitcher, but Romero is turning into a great finesse pitcher.

      As far as Bautista goes, that could be one thing that this contract extension is hinging on. Maybe he wants to command the outfield and the Blue Jays can't promise him that position. If that's the case, Bautista is as good as gone.

      Robbie, looking at this trade just on its own, it's very difficult to see how the Blue Jays won this trade. But now I'm starting to look at it in terms of a chess match.

      This was just one individual move AA made, but he has not lost the chess match yet. He may have sacrificed a knight, but that's just a small loss when the real prize is taking down the queen (was that a lame analogy or what?)

    • January 27, 2011 at 5:00 am

      No, that's a good analogy. It's what the rebuild is all about. Actually, it's more like sacrificing your rook now so you can take the queen, the king, and keep taking them every game afterwards.

    • January 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Although Baeston, and AA have both said Rogers is open to spending what is needed on the jays, unless the jays make a blockbuster trade, even including the 5 mill they are throwing to the Angels in the wells trade they are on for a 70 million payroll one of lowest payrolls since 2005. If you think about Nap trade this also involves a player who is going for less in arbitration then Francisco, does this mean the jays will lock up Bautista or that the jays are going the opposite way in payroll….

    • January 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm

      sadp, I like your version better. But it really is a chess match, and like AA said, you have to think 5-6 steps ahead and and not only focus on your game plan, but anticipate what other teams are going to do as well.

      psmith, I noticed that as well – Napoli has one more shot at arbitration after this year, and then his salary could jump to $10 million depending on what kind of a season he has.

      I don't think saving all this money necessarily means they're preparing to use it on an extension for Jose Bautista, but better to spend the money that way than bring in a high-priced free agent.

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