Tag:Mike Napoli
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:27 pm
 

Without Feliz, Rangers have closer question

Rangers

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rangers headed into the 2011 season fully invested in Neftali Feliz as their closer, trading Frank Francisco in the offseason and moving Alexi Ogando into the rotation to start the spring.

That left a team formerly flush with potential closers in a bind when Feliz was put on the disabled list on Saturday.

In Saturday's save situation, Ron Washington turned to veteran lefty Darren Oliver (above, middle) to get the last three outs against the Royals.

"We've got no bona fide closer right now," Washington said on Saturday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It's that simple."

Feliz was. WIth a 1.08 ERA in nine outings with six strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, Feliz was a prefect 5 for 5 in save situations this season.

Now, Washington could go with Oliver, Darren O'Day or Arthur Rhodes to close out games. Of the trio, Rhodes has the most closing experience with 32 career saves, the last coming with the Marlins in 2008. The most he's had in one season is nine with Oakland in 2004. 

The right-handed O'Day (above, left) had two saves for the Rangers in 2009, the only two of his career.

Oliver's save on Saturday was the fourth of his career. He had one last season and two as a rookie for the Rangers in 1994. He also set a record on Saturday, becoming the oldest Ranger to record a save. Goose Gossage had one at 40 years, 18 days in 1991. Oliver is 40 years, 199 days. But that record may not last long, Rhodes is 41.

"I figured if you're 40 years old, you're probably going to be in a lot of history books," Oliver told Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This is probably just one of them. Just think if Arthur saves it tomorrow, he'll be the oldest one."

Ogando, 27, looked like a closer in waiting last season, pitching 44 games out of the bullpen. He had a 1.30 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings pitch. While the Rangers' toying with Feliz in the rotation drew many of the headlines in the spring, Ogando quietly won the fifth starter's spot and has been excellent. In four starts this season, he's 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA, picking up the victory against the Royals on Saturday.

Francisco saved 25 games for the Rangers in 2009 and two last season before being supplanted by Feliz. The Rangers sent him to Toronto in exchange for Mike Napoli, who is trying to help fill the offensive void left by Josh Hamilton. Since Hamilton was injured on April 12, Napoli has started five games, with hits in his last three, including a homer on Saturday. He's caught twice, played first twice and served as the DH on Saturday.

Either Francisco or Ogando would have given the Rangers something the trio of Rhodes, O'Day and Oliver do not -- a no-doubt, go-to guy in the ninth inning. 

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Posted on: April 16, 2011 10:59 pm
 

Angels' Conger making most of opportunity

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Hank CongerAngels rookie catcher Hank Conger wasn't the only person surprised on Saturday when he walked into U.S. Cellular Field and saw his name in the lineup for the third day in a row and sixth time in 14 games. Veteran Jeff Mathis noticed as well, and he reportedly had a closed-door meeting with manager Mike Scioscia before the Angels' 7-2 victory over the White Sox.

Mathis then refused to talk to reporters after the meeting.

Conger, though, continued to show why he's in the lineup, going 2 for 4 with a three-run homer and a double in the win. So far this season, he's hitting .286/.375/.619 with two homers in 21 at-bats.

"[Playing time] has been a little bit of a surprise," Conger told the Orange County Register's Bill Plunkett. "As long as I'm here, I just want to make the most out of my opportunities and make sure I'm prepared to play every day."

Out of spring training, Conger was one of three catchers the team kept along with Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Conger, 23, said he expected to be sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake after right-hander Joel Pineiro was eligible to come off the disabled list. Instead, the team kept the switch-hitting Conger.

Scioscia said Conger hasn't won the No. 1 catching spot yet.

"No. Getting a look," Scioscia said. "We're looking for solutions to what was really a rough offensive year for us last year."

The team did trade away a good-hitting catcher in Mike Napoli (26 home runs last season) during the offseason, but Scioscia was not a fan of Napoli behind the plate. So far, he's been impressed with Conger's catching. Conger hit .300/.385/.463 at Triple-A Salt Lake last season. Mathis, 28, is hitting .192/.185/.423 with a home run in 27 at-bats. Wilson, 28, has a single in seven at-bats in his two starts.

Scioscia said the team may keep three catchers for a while, even with shortstop Erick Aybar eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday.

"Right now, it still feels like nothing's really established," Conger said. "You have to perform whenever you get an opportunity. I'm definitely thinking that way, especially after [relievers Kevin Jepsen and Micahel Kohn] going down [to Triple-A].

"Nothing is set in stone. Ever."

Mathis is figuring that out himself.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Wanted: Experienced closer, likes Texas heat

Neftali Feliz

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If Neftali Feliz is starting for the Rangers, it doesn't appear the close is in camp with the defending American League champions.

"I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts," manager Ron Washington told reporters, including ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon on Tuesday. "If that's the case, I'm 100 percent sure they'll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us."

If that's the case, the Rangers will be looking for their seventh different closer in the last seven seasons (defining "closer" as "dude with the most saves."). The last Ranger to lead the team in saves in back-to-back years was Francisco Cordero in 2004-05. Cordero has since been an All-Star for two different teams.

Alexi OgondoThe Rangers' internal candidates appear to be Mark Lowe and Alexi Ogando (right). Or the team could go with a closer-by-committee until the trade deadline, also using veteran lefties Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver along with Lowe and Ogando. Prospect Tanner Scheppers is another (remote) possibility. The Rangers traded Frank Francisco, their closer in 2009, to the Blue Jays in exchange for Mike Napoli in the offseason.

As for trade candidates, the team could go out now, or wait until the trade deadline when more candidates would be available.

Among those available could be the Padres Heath Bell, the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez and the Orioles' Michael Gonzalez. The Blue Jays have several experienced closers on their roster, including Francisco, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch.

If the team waits until the trade deadline, if the Mariners David Aardsma could be available, as well as Cordero, who could be supplanted by Aroldis Chapman (or Nick Masset). Others that could be available include Kevin Gregg, J.J. Putz and Brandon Lyon.

However, Washington did tell reporters in the same sitting that he felt confident enough with the rotation as it is and Feliz in the bullpen. It also appears, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jeff Wilson writes, that Washington would prefer to keep Feliz in the bullpen unless Daniels can get another closer.

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Posted on: March 3, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: March 3, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Pepper: Perez's last chance?

Posted by C. Trent Rosecrans
Oliver Perez

For most established big leaguers, it's beyond idiotic to put much stock in many spring training results -- nobody's a star or scrub based solely on a game in the first week of March -- but Oliver Perez isn't the typical case.

The Mets pitcher has been hanging on to his roster spot by a three-year, $36-million thread for a while. In the last year of his ridiculous contract, the left-hander may be released if he "does not show significant improvement over Sunday's two-inning, four-run disappointment" today against the Cardinals, the New York Daily News' Andy Martino writes, citing two "major league sources familiar with the Mets' thinking."

Sunday, Perez was throwing an 84 mph fastball and struggled with his command. He was initially slated as a reliever for today's game, but he will instead start.

Manager Terry Collins said, "I'm quite sure he'll have another try after [Thursday]." But Martino says that may not be the case.

Since signing his big deal (any guess who his agent is?), Perez has gone 3-9 with a 6.81 ERA in 31 games. He made 14 starts in 2009 and seven last season before being put in the bullpen. He didn't pitch at all in June, and pitched just two games in August -- on the first day of the month and the next-to-last day of the month, and just one day in September.

There was talk the Mets would release him after the season, but they gave him one last try -- and that very last try could come today.

SPEAKING OF ALBATROSS CONTRACTS: Bruce Bochy told reporters Wednesday that Barry Zito's spot in the Giants' rotation is secure, despite a San Francisco Chronicle column citing a "source close to the team" as saying his job isn't safe.

General manager Brian Sabean also denied the story was a plant.

"Absolutely, unequivocally not," Sabean told Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. "We have too much respect for players, and more so, I have a great relationship with Barry Zito. If things had gotten to that point, I would have talked to him directly, firsthand."

Zito walked five of the 13 batters he faced in his spring opener on Monday.

A.J. Burnett DOESN'T SUCK? So says, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.

In fact, Rosenthal points out the much-maligned Yankees' career numbers are pretty darn close to those of Boston's Josh Beckett, another former Marlin. The numbers Rosenthal uses are indeed close -- Burnett is 110-100 with a 3.99 ERA and an opponents' OPS of .701 in his career, while Beckett is 112-74, with a 3.96 ERA and .708 opponents' OPS.

The secret for Burnett to be successful, Rosenthal writes, is for Burnett to believe he can be successful. The Yankees certainly hope that's true.

WHO ISN'T? Speaking of disappointing Red Sox pitchers… John Lackey is "just tired" of talking about his 2010 season, he tells WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.

If I got $18 million to put up a 4.40 ERA. In his first season since coming over from the Angels, Lackey made 33 starts and put up a 14-11 record.

IT'S THE MONEY, STUPID: It's going to be difficult for either Dustin Ackley or Michael Pineda break camp with the Mariners, even if they earn a spot in spring, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes, because of the possible Super 2 status.

The Mariners may have to guess when to bring up their talented rookies in hope of not allowing them to reach arbitration eligibility early. To be safe, now most teams wait until June to bring up a heralded prospect. Remember Buster Posey? He was called up to stay last year on May 29.

Recently teams have guessed on when the Super 2 cutoff date would occur and lost on Tim Lincecum (2007) and Jay Bruce (2008) falling before the cutoff date. Teams worried about payroll, like the Mariners, are unlikely to take a gamble.

Ramon HernandezCITIZEN CATCHER: Congratulations to Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez, who took a couple of days off from Cincinnati's camp to go to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to take his United State citizenship test. Hernandez passed the test on Tuesday and will be sworn in at a later date.

"I already live here and I have my life here," Hernandez, a native of Venezuela, told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "My kids are U.S. citizens and my wife is a U.S. citizen. I'm the only one left. I feel like I've got to do it because I live here."

Hernandez celebrated with a double against the White Sox on Wednesday.

A PITCHER'S BEST FRIEND: A physicist writes an article on Baseball Prospectus stating that if the Diamondbacks used a humidor at Chase Field, they'd see a 37 percent drop in home runs. (Hat tip to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic)

THOSE AREN'T PILLOWS: The Planes, Trains and Automobiles worthy story of Mike Napoli's journey from the Angels to the Blue Jays to the Rangers from the Orange County Register's Bill Plunkett

SOMEONE IS INTERESTED IN THE METS: A group that includes Rays minority owner Randy Frankel and Entourage creator Doug Ellin, is interested in buying a share of the Mets, the New York Times reports.

Frankel would have to sell his share of the Rays, if approved.

THE DOCTOR IS AN IN-PATIENT: While the NFL seems to have someone on every Dancing With the Stars incarnation, MLB will be represented on Celebrity Rehab by former Mets ace Dwight Gooden.

Gooden, 46, will join Lindsay Lohan's dad and the kid from Baywatch on Dr. Drew's show, TMZ.com reports.

MMMM… GRAVY: A flow chart telling you which Major League Baseball team you should root for.

ANIMAL STYLE: For those non-Californians heading out to spring training in Arizona, here's a little help when it comes to the culinary hotspot that is In-N-Out. You've heard of the secret menu? Here's a look at every "secret" item on the menu.

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Posted on: January 29, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2011 5:17 pm
 

Napoli, Francisco sign with new teams

Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli exchanged arbitration numbers with the Angels just 11 days ago. Two teams later, he's avoided going to arbitration with the Rangers by agreeing on a $5.8 million deal, as first reported by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.

The catcher/first baseman was traded to the Blue Jays in the Vernon Wells deal on January 21, then four days later moved to Texas for Frank Francisco. When an arbitration-eligible player is traded at this stage in the year, the team arbitration figure goes with him, meaning the Rangers were tied to the $5.3 million the Angels submitted. Today's agreement leans more toward the $6.1 million Napoli was seeking.

Napoli, 29, batted .238 with 26 homers for the Angels last season. In Texas, he'll be a super-utility player, catching on occasion, acting as designated hitter when Michael Young is in the field and playing first base against some left-handers in place of Mitch Moreland.

UPDATE: Hey, look at that. Minutes after news of Napoli's deal broke, the Blue Jays tweeted that they reached agreement with Francisco on a $4 million deal to avoid arbitration. Francisco had asked for $4.875 million while the Rangers set the team number at $3.5 million.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: January 27, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: January 27, 2011 3:54 pm
 

Young, Moreland still to start with Napoli added

YoungNow that the Rangers are suddenly deep in position players, you could excuse Michael Young for wondering just how he's going to get his 600 at-bats.

Never fear, as manager Ron Washington put those problems to rest, saying Young (pictured) is the starting DH while Mitch Moreland remains the starter at first.

"It's not going to be a problem," Washington told the Fort Worth Star Telegram"Michael's going to get his at-bats. He's still going to be my primary DH. He's going to get some chances to play first. He's going to get some chances to play second. He's going to get some chances to play third."

Washington plans to rest his veterans more this season, especially in the late summer, and the acquisition of both starting third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli will help there.

"We're a better team now," Washington said. "I don't plan on playing Adrian Beltre in 162 games. I don't plan on playing Ian Kinsler in 162 either. We've got pieces that we can move around now."

Young will DH around 80 percent of the time according to president Nolan Ryan via the Telegram, but is expected to be the primary backup infielder and will sub for players in the field who receive days off. That will open up the DH spot for Mike Napoli, who is also expected to play first base against tough left-handers and serve as the club's No. 3 catcher. But don't expect him to play full time.

"He's not going to get 600 at-bats unless something happens to one of our veterans," Washington said of Napoli. "He's going to play an integral part in our season. All I have now is more choices."

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: January 22, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Angels trade for Vernon Wells baffling

Wells"If you want to continue to perform at the highest level, you have to keep building the business," Angels owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times back in October. "And that's what I intend to do."

Moreno, who was very upset about the team's play en route to an 80-82 record, went on to pledge that he would spend what was necessary to return the team to the playoffs.

Well, $70 million is certainly a nice chunk of change, but the Angels continued one of the most baffling offseasons ever by handing all that money to Vernon Wells instead of Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre. Yes, Wells bounced back from years of struggles to bash 31 home runs en route to a .273/.331/.515 line in 646 plate appearances, but Wells was the proud owner of one of the worst contracts in the game that rendered him all but untradeable and has four years left on it as he enters the decline phase of his career.

Except to the Angels, apparently. In a confounding deal pulled off Friday, the Angels acquired Wells in exchange for catcher Mike Napoli and left-fielder Juan Rivera. It's pretty hard to call this an upgrade for the Angels, but is par for the course in a regime that has made more bizarre decisions than any other team since GM Tony Reagins took over. And that might be on the owner.

"We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market," Moreno said in October. "It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning."

Moreno cited an outfielder who can hit, plus boosting offense at catcher and third base as offseason priorities. Except to hear him later tell it to the Times, the club never made an offer on Carl Crawford, and that's baffling for an owner who came into the game willing to spend and did just that by grabbing Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar in the 2003-04 offseason.

"There were rumors out there, but we never made an official offer, and no parameters were discussed," Moreno noted of the talks with Crawford.

"It's crazy. I paid [$183 million] for the team [in 2003], and now we're talking $142 million for one player? Seven years on a player is a huge risk financially. [Crawford's] greatest asset is speed, and he's a very skilled athlete who would have fit perfectly in left field for us. But we didn't look at him as a power hitter in our stadium."

Except that the only times Wells has outproduced Crawford in Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs version) were in 2003 -- Crawford's first season -- and 2006, where Crawford only finished 1.1 behind Wells. Is Crawford's seven years and $142 million that much worse than Wells' four years and $81 million on the deal (the Jays kicked in $5 million)? 

Sure, that total outlay is around $70 million once you delete Napoli and Rivera's contracts, but Crawford would have only been an extra three years and $56 million more than Wells. Still a pricey tag? How about Adrian Beltre, then, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal that can increase to six years and $96 million with Texas? Yep, you read that right: the Angels chose a subpar defensive outfielder with just as checkered an offensive history for four years and $81 million over a premier defender who would have cost one less million for an extra year. And meanwhile, the Angels balked at any offer over $77 million for five years. Even if you have to add on that team option for the sixth year, Beltre is still the better buy.

Smooth, Arte.

Oh, and about upgrading offense behind the dish? The Angels traded away their answer there in order to stick with Jeff Mathis, whom is fantastic defensively but hit .195/.219/.278 in 218 PA for the Angels in 2010.

Meanwhile, Napoli had five less home runs than Wells in 136 less trips to the plate in 2010 and Rivera had an eerily similar line to Wells back in 2009 when he hit .287/.332/.478 with 25 homers in 572 PA. And between Rivera and Wells, their OPS' (.771) and OPS+ (105) are exactly the same over the last two years. And yet, the Angels chose to acquire the center fielder.

Except Wells isn't exactly a center fielder. Those three Gold Gloves from 2004-06 are nice, but not worth the metal that was sculpted. Wells has been a lousy center fielder for three years running now and would be better served in a corner. Torii Hunter may have fallen off in his fielding as well, but he's better than Wells. If Peter Bourjos remains in center (or the team signs Scott Podsednik for that role) and Wells shifts to left, that does help the outfield defense but actually would be negligible in boosting Wells' value as he would suddenly be compared to other left fielders, not center fielders. In Fangraphs' adjustments for positional value, center fielders get +2.5 wins credit, but -7.5 for left and right field -- so Wells' bat has to be that much better to make up for it.

Oh, and did we mention how Toronto waived Vernon Wells in August? All the Angels would have had to do was place a claim and he would have been theirs. Instead, they trade for him in the offseason and give up Napoli and Rivera for that right.

Sam Miller of the Orange County Register nailed the trade by saying "It's the rare trade that makes a team older, more expensive and worse."

And that's exactly what the Angels just did.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: January 22, 2011 2:59 pm
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