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.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.