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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.