According to a recent rumor, the Toronto Blue Jays have interest in free agent, Mike Napoli. Does the rumor make sense?
So, it feels like forever since the Toronto Blue Jays actually did anything this offseason. And, technically, we’re still waiting for bigger news than what has actually happened. We won’t really be happy until we see Edwin Encarnacion (and perhaps, Jose Bautista) return to Toronto. At the very least, we need them to sign elsewhere so we have some form of closure. Until then, we’re stuck in the state of limbo where rumors and guesswork are all we have.
As we’ve stated on the Jays Nest Podcast many a time, you can expect the offseason to result in rumors and reports that go something like this: ‘ Player X is being pursued by Team Y. Other teams interested are A,B,C and the Blue Jays’. Exactly how these types of connections are made is anyone’s guess. But, they certainly do provide for some interesting commentary.
For example, take the latest from Jon Heyman at Fanrag Sports. In a piece where he outlines the Yankees’ interest in several free agents, including Edwin, he throws an interesting line near the very end about Mike Napoli:
“Napoli, who has actually hit better in his career at Yankee Stadium than he has at Fenway, Progressive Field or the Ballpark at Arlington, is an interesting new entry who is believed to have interest from the Indians, Mariners, Jays, Orioles and others.”
See? We weren’t kidding about the kind of things you’ll read about the Blue Jays. Apparently, this offseason is no different. Now, no one here is going to question Heyman and his comments about interest. He’s a respected baseball writer and we shouldn’t dismiss this kind of thing out of hand. He’s not the first person to link the two parties, either. Back in August, Nick Cafardo, of the Boston Globe, mentioned that Napoli would be an interesting piece for the Blue Jays should they lose their slugging duo. But, that seems to be the extent of the connections. A couple of days ago, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk provided the latest on Napoli and the Blue Jays were not mentioned.
So, it is interesting the Heyman would mention the Blue Jays. Aside from them needing a first baseman at the moment, and Napoli being one, there doesn’t seem to be a logical fit…does there? Let’s find out.
Napoli presents a bat with significant power in the (near) middle of a lineup. He’s coming off a year where he hit 34 HR and drove in 101 for Cleveland.
|162 Game Avg.||162||619||81||133||27||30||87||77||167||.252||.352||.480||.832|
Now 35 yrs old, Napoli presents an interesting case for a possible one or two year stop gap at first. And, according to Polishuk, Napoli could fit that: “Napoli probably won’t require anything more than a two-year deal“. So, here’s a guy who could provide some of the power the Blue Jays look to be losing and a veteran presence that has been describe in the postseason broadcasts as respectable to some and scary to others in the clubhouse. The word on Napoli is that he would be a great clubhouse, team guy. So, at first glance, this might be something worth pursuing.
That is until you start looking at the numbers. Let’s start with the fact that Napoli struck out 30% of the time in 2016. That’s a bit higher than his career average, but below his 2013 Red Sox mark of 32%. But, have we not seen enough wasted outs come from the whiffs of Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton Jr. Well, you might argue that his consistent production offsets that whiffs. And, that is a valid point. Napoli hit the ball harder in 2016 than he has in a couple of years. There are signs that he could very well produce for the Blue Jays…I suppose.
But, we’re also asking him to play first base…regularly. Remember that signing Kendrys Morales necessitates a full time first baseman that is not Smoak. In 2013, Napoli committed 13 errors at first. He was worth -4 DRS and put up a UZR/150 of -6.1. That doesn’t exactly scream defensive first baseman. When looking at his value, according to Fangraphs, his defense rated -17.3! Again, you may be willing to live with some deficiencies in order to get that bat in the lineup. After all, his offense was worth 10.4. But, that was negatively impacted by his base running that was valued at -5.2.
After all of this, one might be wondering why the Blue Jays would be linked to Mike Napoli. Well, he’s a good bat and a good presence in a clubhouse. He could likely be had for a year plus an option, or two years flat. The Blue Jays need a first baseman at the moment. But, that is about where the logic stops. The Blue Jays are looking to add balance to their lineup. Many feel that is a lefty bat. Napoli is a righty. Not that that should discount him right away. Let’s also remember that the Blue Jays’ resources are finite and the price tag attached to Napoli could very well temper their interest.
Instead, we should look to the fact that the Blue Jays are also trying to add youth and speed to their lineup. Napoli does not represent either of those things. Now, I could be wrong, but it does not make any sense for the Blue Jays to be linked to Mike Napoli. Of course, if I’m wrong, I certainly won’t complain about him continuing his track record of hitting bombs in the AL East.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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