The other shoe has dropped on the still-smoldering Vernon Wells trade, and it involves the Rangers in a trade that probably -- although not certainly -- makes them better in 2011 with minimal financial impact, but adds a little shake and wobble to a bullpen that is a little more dependent on good fortune than it was at the beginning of the day.
Per multiple sources (including FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who first broke the story on Twitter this afternoon), Texas has acquired catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander Frank Francisco and a sum of cash reported to be less than $1 million. Given that Napoli will likely be due something between $5.5 million and $6 million in arbitration, and that Francisco will net what I think will be a little more than $4 million, the Rangers are incurring a total payroll hit of $2.5 million, or thereabouts -- less than what they offered Jim Thome, and probably comparable to what they may or may not have offered Manny Ramirez. Texas no longer requires a free-agent slugger in that vein, so this can be viewed as money the Rangers were already willing to spend to upgrade their offense/depth.
In exchange for that payroll hit and the relinquishment of Francisco's services, the Rangers get a multi-positional piece with two remaining years of club control (though he may only be a one-year player here, depending on his performance and projected role going into the 2011-12 off-season), solid power, and some on-base utility -- one who you would think would constitute one-half of a platoon set-up at first base with Mitch Moreland, receive some scattered plate appearances at DH, and get a little playing time at catcher, perhaps amounting to 300-350 plate appearances at the very least and more if he furnishes the offensive punch that he's capable of providing. On this team, that's a very useful piece.
[For those curious on Napoli's 2011 offensive projections, ZiPS has Napoli pegged at .251/.336/.489 next season, FANS has him down at .258/.340/.463, and Bill James -- arguably the most dubious projection set of the three -- has him forecasted at .246/.336/.479.]
Granted, this trade doesn't come without its own set of consequences. Losing Francisco, a very capable eighth- and ninth-inning man over the last three seasons, undermines the overall strength/reliability of the bullpen and heightens the necessity of Tanner Scheppers, Japanese import Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Lowe, and/or Pedro Strop emerging as quality relief options this season, as Texas is now left with Neftali Feliz (who very likely won't be moving to the rotation now that Francisco is out of the mix), Alexi Ogando, and Darren O'Day as their only assured right-handed relievers in the Opening Day bullpen. If one of those guys doesn't step up in Francisco's absence, and the resultant impact is several high-profile late-inning collapses early in the season, this trade isn't going to look quite so bright and sunny as it does right now.
That will be then, though, and this is now, and right now the Rangers have converted a good late-inning reliever into a nice-fitting power bat that all but finalizes the position-player side of the Rangers' Opening Day roster. You can see this trade not working out, but it's easier to view the more positive side of this deal, and sitting here right now it's easier to argue that the benefits imparted by Napoli exceed the costs than vice versa.