Here I was, all set to ease back into the week by sharing a short personal experience from a trip to The Ballpark back in September, when out of nowhere Jon Daniels makes one of those out of nowhere kinds of deals that are both his bread and his butter.
So I guess I’m kind of obligated to talk about Mike Napoli.
I’ll admit that early on Saturday I figured the Hot Stove was finally ready to cool off. Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon somehow both found themselves rather suddenly in Tampa [St. Petersburg, to be more specific] and the list of splashy FA types had further dwindled to nearly nothing.
Then the Angels finally arrived to the off-season party in time to pick left-over shrimp off of the plates just before the caterers cleared them away and politely asked them to leave. That is to say, they traded for Vernon Wells [and $5MM], sending Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto.
On the surface this deal makes little sense to me. When I really dig into the numbers, though, well, uh, it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Some have called it a desperation move and that may be exactly what it was.
For those unaware, Wells came through the Blue Jays system with one Michael Young [before Young was traded to some other team and eventually went on to become that organization’s all-time hits leader & de facto captain]. Wells is also the proud owner of a $20MM+ annual salary that he admitted just a few weeks ago he does not deserve [but justified it by saying that his considerable contributions to charity wouldn’t be possible without it].
It has been said that Wells’ contract was an albatross and that the Jays would never be able to move him. Then they just went ahead and proved everyone wrong.
Then, this afternoon, before the dust had even really settled, Mike Napoli was told that he’ll be playing almost as far from Toronto as one can without being a Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighter.
Mike Napoli is coming to Texas in exchange for Frank Francisco and some money that JD found in his couch [less than $1MM].
What does all that mean?
For one, it means that those rumblings about Vlad Guerrero still being a possibility might* finally be over and done with.
Instead of signing Jim Thome or Manny, the Rangers have found someone younger and more versatile that will likely do just as much damage off the bench.
Ron Washington has more depth at 1B, catcher, and DH. Meaning he can burn through Yorvit if he wants to take Treanor out late in the game after CJ has passed it off to the bullpen.
The front office is putting a lot of their eggs in Mark Lowe’s basket. Lowe should be healthy going into Spring Training, so let’s hope he can step it up.
You should keep your eye on Michael Young between now and April 1st.
To make a point about that last point, it didn’t take Ken Rosenthal long to suggest that to count Michael Young’s remaining days in Texas wouldn’t take you nearly as long as you’d think.
His point is basically that Michael Young has nowhere left to play. He won’t be at 2B, 3B, or SS with any regularity and there are only two other spots for three players [MY, Moreland, & Napoli].
Rosenthal goes on to say that either the Angels or the Rockies would be good fits for Young’s talent and I can’t completely disagree with that. But I have a different solution that he fails to consider.
Since the Rangers gave up Franky Frank to get Napoli, why not let Young take over the 8th inning setup role? He’s played all over the infield, so why not give him a shot at the pitcher’s mound too?
In all seriousness, though, I think Young should stay right where he is. We know that no one is immune to injury [especially Kinsler], so MY could be called upon to fill any infield position at any moment. Treanor and Torrealba could also miss time, meaning Napoli might find himself behind the plate. Moreland could have a sophomore slump and both Napoli & MY could be called upon to pick up the slack at 1B.
The fact is, we just don’t know how this will shake out when we’re right in the midst of the dog days of summer. The only thing we can really do to combat the unknown is to build a deep, diverse squad with a lot of interchangeable parts.
At this moment, that’s exactly what we find ourselves with. Let’s see if we can’t make that work.
*I have a feeling that the rumors about Vlad coming back to Texas will never really die, in the same way that no one ever believed that Napoleon had truly gotten his fill of trying to conquer Europe.