Photo Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
So… yeah. Not a whole lot going on here at the tail end of this week, what with it being American Thanksgiving and baseball mostly shutting down — other than the Diamondbacks and Mariners, who couldn’t keep last night’s trade in their pants until Monday. But Jon Heyman’s latest for FanRag Sports, as well as a piece he wrote last week, did offer us enough of something to squeeze a post out of, I think.
First up, today’s piece, in which he lists the Jays among the suitors for Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli.
Heyman says that the Yankees have called Napoli, and that interest has been shown in him by Cleveland, the Mariners, Orioles, Jays, “and others.” Such robust interest might make him a little too expensive for the Jays’ plans, but it’s not difficult to see how he’d fit. Napoli at the very least can be the lefty-mashing side of a first base platoon with Justin Smoak (and perhaps sooner-than-later Rowdy Tellez), but there’s also the chance he takes away plate appearances against right-handers from Smoak as well. In 2015 the right-handed hitter had a miserable time against same-sided pitching, but in 2016 and 2014, as well as through most of the rest of his career, he’s been an above average hitter against them. His 108 wRC+ in the split in 2014, and his 111 wRC+ in 2016, look a whole lot like Smoak’s best case Ontario.
Until 2016, Napoli’s defence at first base was well-regarded by the metrics. He even played some innings in the outfield in 2015, though… that sounds like a truly terrible idea — yet maybe not even as bad as Ross Atkins’ suggestion (which was hopefully more gamesmanship than honesty) that Kendrys Morales could see some time there.
His days as a catcher are almost certainly too far behind him (he hasn’t been behind the plate since 2012) that I don’t think he’d be a fit to also serve as the club’s backup catcher, unfortunately. But with the input Cleveland takes from its catchers — as shown in Craig Edwards’ outstanding FanGraphs piece on their playoff game-planning — maybe the fact that he’s had to think the game from behind the plate is a point in his favour.
Still, I dunno about this one. In the other Heyman piece I linked above, which is full of his free agent predictions, he pegs Napoli for two years and $26 million. Those kinds of numbers won’t exactly break the bank, but aren’t exactly great for a guy whose floor you figure is as the lesser-used side of a first base platoon.
We shall see, I guess!
Speaking of that free agent piece, though, Heyman offered a little tidbit worth addressing in his capsule about Edwin Encarnacion.
He figures that the slugger will do better than the four years and “around” $80 million offered to him by the Jays, predicting a $92 million deal with his next club. And it does indeed seem as though Heyman thinks Edwin will have a next club, rather than sticking with his current one — at least based on the following aside:
“Though the Jays like Encarnacion,” he wrights, “new Jays honcho Mark Shapiro never favored the mega deal, anyway.”
Uh… past tense?
Best not to read too much into that, I think. But it’s certainly interesting that it’s being suggested the Jays were making offers Shapiro wasn’t in favor — er… favour — of. Was Atkins willing to go against his boss’s wishes on such a major proposal? Was Rogers pushing for it the name of fan service?
Were they never really keen on paying Edwin that much for that long anyway, but making sure it got out there that they at least offered (so that bloody morons couldn’t run with the utter non-story and dumbly hold it up as some example of incompetence they way they did last year with David Price)?
Or maybe Heyman is just wrong here. Still: hmmmmm…