Vlad still out there…Rapada inked to Minors deal

The Blue Jays just dealt catcher Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco, a move that should matter to Orioles fans because it changes the market for Vladimir Guerrero.

First, it takes Texas out of the running to resign the slugger. With Napoli’s bat, the Rangers will use him as a third catcher and to fill-in at first base, meaning Vlad wouldn’t get any at bats. While he still wouldn’t have been assured a full-time role prior to this swap, now Texas simply doesn’t have the room at all.

It’s unknown if the Orioles will intensify any talks with Guerrero or if he will opt to take a part-time role and return to Anaheim, where he is still beloved by the Angels fanbase.

The Blue Jays –who traded Vernon Wells and his salary to the Angels last week — could take a look at Vlad as well. Money isn’t as big of an issue for Toronto, who is shedding payroll at an impressive clip. Meanwhile you’ve heard the Orioles are low on funds, which is true. They were pretty maxed out after signing Derrek Lee to be honest with you and now have to prepare to go to arbitration with Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Scott, as well as to sign a starting pitcher, (although by all indications that signing won’t break the bank.)

They need Vlad to be a bargain and they need a plan to use him. Do they trade Nolan Reimold or Felix Pie? Do they dangle Luke Scott and see what he nets them? President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is very deliberate and has also proven to be pretty shrewd at trades. It will be interesting to see how this plays out given that most agents will try to get this done before Feb. 1.

*Also, the team has signed LHP Clay Rapada to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. Rapada was part of the Rangers World Series team last season and should compete for a spot in the O’s pen, possibly as their situational lefty. The O’s should have a bunch of these types of signings made official in the next few days as they continue to fill out their Spring Training invitees and fill their last two voids: a lefty reliever and a veteran starter.

Rapada has bounced around, but the 29-year-old has had considerably success against left-handed hitters. While the O’s are reportedly saving their last spot on the 40-man roster for a starting pitcher, there is still considerable roster flexibility that would make adding Rapada –or another lefty — out of camp not a big deal. Basically, the O’s are looking for last year’s Will Ohman.   

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