The Texas Rangers traded former closer Frank Francisco and cash to Toronto for catcher-first baseman Mike Napoli on Tuesday, giving the AL champions a much-needed versatile bat off the bench and the Blue Jays more bullpen depth.
It was the second time in five days Napoli was traded, quickly returning to the AL West. Toronto acquired Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for outfielder Vernon Wells.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” Napoli said. “I know the division well and the lineup they have, the type of players they have. ”
Napoli was on a cruise last week when he found out he had been traded the first time. He didn’t even talk to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos until Tuesday, then found out he was going to Texas.
“It was kind of weird to me. Obviously there was something going on,” Napoli said. “It’s great. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get to spring training and try to win a job and help these guys win.”
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Napoli “brings a lot to the table” in his ability to catch, play first base or designated hitter.
Anthopoulos said he had inquired previously about Francisco, and a deal came together when Texas was among several teams who 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.”
Kevin Gregg agreed to a two-year contract with Baltimore this winter after saving 37 games for Toronto last season. Octavio Dotel saved 22 games while with Pittsburgh, the Dodgers and Colorado last year and Jon Rauch, who signed with Toronto last week, had 21 saves filling in for injured Joe Nathan in Minnesota. Dotel signed with the Blue Jays earlier this month.
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.
Napoli, who hit .238 with team-leading 26 home runs and 68 RBIs in 140 games last season, requested $6.1 million from the Angels for 2011 while they proposed $5.3 million.
After beginning last season as the Texas closer, Francisco blew two save chances the first week of the season. Hard-throwing Neftali Feliz was then given a chance in that role, and went on to set a major league rookie record with 40 saves and become the AL rookie of the year.
Francisco was 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 56 appearances before missing the final month of the season and the postseason with a muscle strain. He has a career mark of 17-15 with 32 saves and a 3.75 ERA in 277 appearances for Texas since 2004.
“We certainly wish Frankie all the best in Toronto,” Daniels said. “He was a very good part of what we were doing for a number of years and I think the organization has done a good job of adding to our bullpen and our pitching depth over the last couple of years to where we felt we could make this type of move.”
The Rangers recently signed veteran left-hander Arthur Rhodes and agreed to terms on a $1.251 million contract with arbitration-eligible reliever Darren O’Day.
When free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre signed with the Rangers this month, they said Michael Young would become their primary designated hitter and fill in at all the infield positions. That included sharing time with World Series rookie standout Mitch Moreland at first base, a position Young has never played.
“(Napoli) adds a power dynamic to the lineup against anybody. He can catch. He’s caught some good pitching on winning clubs. He can play first base,” Daniels said. “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.”
Napoli played 70 games at first base and 66 at catcher last year for Los Angeles, where he played the last five seasons.
Texas already signed free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba from San Diego to a $6.25 million, two-year deal to be their starter and re-signed backup Matt Treanor. Daniels expects all three catchers to be on the roster, especially considering Napoli’s versatility.
“This is a winning player and a winning piece of the puzzle,” Daniels said. “We got a taste of the World Series last year, and we want to get back and we think Mike helps us do that.”