In yet another jarring display of general ineptitude, Toronto Blue Jays GM (and newly-minted golden boy) Alex Anthopolous has traded the recently acquired Mike Napoli yet again—this time for the most fungible of baseball assets: a right-handed relief pitcher.
A dead-on average one, at that.
It's really hard to stress how odd this move is from the Jays' standpoint. They've just traded a 28-year-old power-hitting catcher with three years of team control remaining for Frank Fransisco, a middle-reliever who will be a free agent at seasons end.
Even better—he probably won't even net the Jays a draft pick unless he becomes the best closer in the league.
Now, that's not to say Fransisco isn't without value; it's just that there isn't much there.
Over the past three seasons, Fransisco has averaged only 55 innings per year, accompanied with a relatively unimpressive 3.54 ERA. It doesn't stop there—if you include the rest of his career, his ERA skips up to 3.75.
For contextual purposes, the cumulative ERA of all American League relievers was 3.89.
When Napoli's offensive value is brought into the equation, the deal becomes even more lopsided. Napoli's .831 career OPS is more than 150 points higher than the average OPS for catchers in 2010—but his defensive deficiencies put a damper on his overall contribution to a ball club.
It doesn't even make sense monetarily, seeing as Napoli and Fransisco will have salaries within $1 million of each other, once all is said and done with arbitration hearings.
Okay, so it doesn't make sense conventionally—that's apparent. Nor does it fiscally; it's a wash. How about using the dark magics that SABR provides? Let's see what WAR has to say about the matter:
Napoli: 11.4 career WAR, 2.6 WAR per annum.
Fransisco: 3.8 career WAR, 0.8 WAR on a by-season basis.
The Texas Rangers, the other side of this transaction, really benefit greatly. They gain a legitimate starting catcher—one other than Yorvit Torrealba—and they ditch a non-impact reliever who was going to get fairly expensive fairly soon.
Maybe we were all a little quick to crown Mr. Anthopolous as some sort of miracle worker for trading Vernon Wells. The only way this is can become a net positive for the Jays is if Fransisco is flipped for a younger, better piece in the future.
Based on how this past week has gone, he'll probably manage to trade Juan Rivera for the son of God himself.