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20/20 Hindsight: Revisiting the Frank Francisco-Mike Napoli Trade

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two lingering storylines have dominated Rangers spring training this month.

    There's the question of what role Neftali Feliz will play on the pitching staff and there's Michael Young's continuing unhappiness with a largely undefined bench role after years as a crucial part of the Rangers lineup. Those two things have nothing to do with each other, yet they intersect thanks to a trade the Rangers made in January.

    When the Rangers dealt Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for Mike Napoli, the rationale was easy to understand. Francisco had lost his closer's job to Feliz and struggled to stay healthy while Napoli was a righty power bat who could help replace the departed Vladimir Guerrero without adding much to the payroll. Things look a bit different right now, though.

    Napoli is a man without a defined role. He can catch, but doesn't figure to see much time behind the plate because he is weaker defensively than Yorvit Torrealba and Matt Treanor. He can play first, but Mitch Moreland seems to have that job totally nailed down. That leaves designated hitter, where he and Young are both righty swingers and fighting for the same at-bats while lefty Chris Davis, who might be a better hitter than either of them, is headed back to Triple-A.

    In short, Napoli is a nice player but he doesn't really fill a need for the Rangers unless they deal Young. One imagines that was always part of the equation when Napoli was acquired, but until the Rangers get more realistic about Young's abilities there isn't going to be any movement on that front.

    On the pitching front, meanwhile, Francisco would do a lot to quiet concerns about the shabby performance of the bullpen this spring. We won't go so far as to say his presence would make it easier to move Feliz to the rotation because, frankly, the decision should only be based on what's best for Feliz. It would give the team more cover to make the move, however, because a deeper bullpen is almost certainly a better bullpen.

    So, if the Rangers could press reset, would they? Should they?

    The answer is no. Right now things are a bit messy on the Rangers roster, but it is a long season and it is always better to have too much talent than too little talent. Francisco is hurt and will miss the start of the season, a pretty good reminder of why the Rangers sent him packing in the first place. The lineup issues will sort themselves out one way or another and the bullpen won't be as bad as everyone fears right now. 

    Still, it's funny to see how different things look in just two months without playing a single game that counts.