The problem with Mike Napoli, as Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com puts it, is that he "is a 'tweener,' too inconsistent strictly as a hitter, not reliable enough as a catcher." The Angels might not want to give such a "tweener" an arbitration raise above the $3.6MM that Napoli earned this season, which is why there have been rumors that Los Angeles will try to move Napoli over the winter.
Given the dearth of power-hitting catchers, many teams would be willing to overlook Napoli's defensive shortcomings for a catcher who has 92 homers in 1778 career plate appearances and a career .839 OPS. As an everyday player, however, Napoli has his limitations, many of which were on display this season. Napoli has received a career-high 484 plate appearances thanks to his taking over the lion's share of time at first base after Kendry Morales was lost for the season in May.
His power notwithstanding, Napoli has an underwhelming .247/.332/.488 slash line entering Friday's action. These numbers are largely due to the fact that the right-handed hitting Napoli struggles against right-handed pitching; he has a .704 OPS vs. righties this year, as opposed to a whopping 1.082 OPS against southpaws. (Napoli's career OPS splits are .798 against righties and .962 versus lefties.) If put back into his comfort zone of facing primarily left-handed pitching, Napoli can be a force. If a team has a left-handed hitting, defensive-minded platoon partner at catcher, Napoli is an ideal complement.
The catching market is always tough to predict in advance, but here are a few potential trade partners for the Halos…
* Florida. The Marlins are known to be looking for catchers, though Napoli may be too expensive for their liking.
* Chicago. As with the Mets, the White Sox will have a youngster (Tyler Flowers) taking over the starting job. This is presuming the Sox won't bring back A.J. Pierzynski, though Chicago could also maybe have a hole at first depending on if Paul Konerko signs elsewhere or retires.
* Texas. Napoli could finally give the Rangers some stability behind the plate, though it's hard to see L.A. making a deal with their division rivals.
* Baltimore. Speaking of Martinez, Napoli could be the Orioles' catcher/first base/DH backup plan should the team's pursuit of Martinez fall short.
If Napoli was dealt, Los Angeles would be left with Jeff Mathis and rookie Hank Conger behind the plate. Conger, LAA's first-round pick in the 2006 draft, has an .825 OPS in 1705 minor league plate appearances and was rated the 84th overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America's preseason rankings. Mathis is entering his second arbitration year after earning $1.3MM in 2010, but has had an overall poor season (as outlined by Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times). The Angels could go into 2011 with a totally overhauled catching corps should they trade Napoli, non-tender Mathis and acquire a new veteran backstop to play alongside Conger.