Fake trade: Mike Napoli to Texas for Frank Francisco

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Rangers acquire C Mike Napoli from the Angels for RHP Frank Francisco and RHP Brandon McCarthy
Why it works for Texas: The Rangers were thought to have an embarrassment of riches behind the plate a couple of years ago, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn’t hit or remained healthy and Taylor Teagarden has been a strikeout machine. They can and likely will stick with the pair and hope for the best. Napoli, though, would give them another big-time power threat for the bottom third of their order. One of the game’s five-best offensive catchers, he’s a career .255/.356/.490 hitter in 1,105 at-bats. Also, this wouldn’t add to the payroll of a team that probably can’t take on any money until Tom Hicks’ sale goes through. Napoli is making $3.6 million this year, compared to $3.265 million for Francisco and $1.3 million for McCarthy.
Why it works for Los Angeles: Despite Napoli’s huge advantage offensively, Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks his team is better with Jeff Mathis behind the plate. Also, the Angels like Bobby Wilson, who has stuck on the roster as a seldom-used third catcher because he’s out of options. In Francisco, the Angels would get a third closer-type reliever and one who is more dominant than either Brian Fuentes or Fernando Rodney when he’s on. While he’s off to a rough start right now, Francisco was 25-for-29 saving games last year and he limited hitters to a .200 average in 2008 and a .214 mark last season. McCarthy could also be of real use to a team that lacks pitching depth. Like the Rangers have done, the Angels could stash him away in Triple-A until they need another starter. Matt Palmer just isn’t likely to prove to be an adequate fallback again, and the Angels can’t expect Scott Kazmir or Ervin Santana to throw 200 innings.
Why it won’t happen: Obviously, neither the Angels nor the Rangers is going to want to risk helping the other in a year in which both are aiming to take the AL West. That’s the only reason that matters. The Angels, though, might be able to do better for Napoli if they put him on the open market. I still think Francisco could be one of the AL’s better relievers this year, but he has a history of getting hurt. Also, he’s in his walk year, whereas Napoli won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2012.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.