Toronto Blue Jays: Should They Have Kept Mike Napoli over Juan Rivera?

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Toronto Blue Jays: Should They Have Kept Mike Napoli over Juan Rivera?
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Bye bye Juan

As much as I respected Vernon Wells professionalism and contributions to the Blue Jays, I wasn’t exactly sad to see him and the 80-plus million left on his contract go.

What the Jays got in return was secondary to the amount that the team saved for shipping the inconsistent veteran to the Angels. So while Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera aren’t exactly All-Stars, they sure cost a lot less.

Napoli never even saw action as a Jay, and the completed trade that sent Rivera to the Dodgers ends the brief time that the Angel’s outcast spent in Toronto. Frank Francisco, the relief pitcher that the Jays flipped Napoli for, could very well be sent away as well, proving that the money saved was just about the only positive thing that came from the Wells deal.

Since the Napoli deal was largely considered one to save costs, one has to wonder: Should the Jays have flipped Rivera instead of Napoli?

There are a few factors in play here. Salary, productions, and trade value need to be considered. In my opinion, Napoli beats Rivera on two of the three fronts.

The salary difference between the two is a mere $550,000. Napoli’s $5.8 million contract is slightly higher than Rivera’s $5.25 million salary.

With limited roster space and a formidable roster compromised of a mix of veterans and rookies, Toronto really couldn’t have kept both without banishing recently re-signed Edwin Encarnacion (I still think they should have). But if the money were equal I would take Napoli because of…

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Production!

Despite never having a .500 at bat season, Napoli has very respectable power numbers. His average has been all over the place, but he and Rivera were both coming off disappointing 2010 seasons.

Rivera’s 2009 season might be better than any season that Napoli has, but I think it’s unfair to hold that against Napoli, who hasn’t had the benefit of ever being a full-time starter, sharing the backstop with Jeff Mathis and only occasionally receiving starts at first base. Napoli could very well be a dangerous hitter if a team ever gave him the regular at bats required to achieve consistency.

Defense is also something that should be taken into consideration. Both can play first base, and Rivera can be an outfielder, while Napoli can catch. Rivera’s defense is also a lot better than Napoli, even though he hasn’t exactly been stellar out there as of late.

Napoli was also not likely to see any time behind the plate as J.P. Arencibia and Jose Molina are far superior catchers, though, he would have provided valuable insurance if one of them got injured.

But what’s important is what Toronto needed out of these guys. Toronto needed a DH after Encarnacion was put back at third base. If we’re looking at this from a backup first baseman/DH standpoint, which both of these guys are capable of doing, the edge must go to Napoli.

He’s got more power and might have actually given Jose Bautista some legitimate protection in the four slot while Adam Lind was injured. Toronto still doesn’t have a solution to the DH spot, and Napoli could’ve been that guy.

Which is why Napoli was more tradeable. Sure, Frank Francisco hasn’t exactly been a phenom; he was supposed to be the closer. But Toronto had plenty of bullpen options; one has to think that the trade was just done to get rid of a position player.

At the end of the day, neither one of these guys were going to carry the Jays on their back to October. They are also both free agents at the end of the year. But one has to wonder what Napoli would have been capable of as a DH. 

I bet we’d be seeing a few more victories in the win column.

It’s not as though the bullpen would be in any worse shape without Francisco either. 

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