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What does the Vernon Wells trade mean for Jose Bautista?

Jan 21, 2011, 8:00 PM EST

Jose Bautista swinging

That’s what many Blue Jays fans are wondering right now.

We’ve heard conflicting reports about whether the Blue Jays are picking up any of the $86 million remaining on Vernon Wells‘ contract. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com hears that they will, Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press hears that they won’t. Angels general manager Tony Reagins can’t possibly be that clueless, let’s just go with the assumption that they will.

As for the players the Blue Jays are getting in return, Juan Rivera is owed $5.25 million in 2011 and Mike Napoli just requested $6.1 million in arbitration from the Angels this week. That’s a total of $11.35 million. Neither player is cheap in the short-term, but dealing Wells should still give the Blue Jays quite a bit of payroll flexibility moving forward.

Anytime you can deal an albatross contract like the one Wells has, you have to do it, but one of the potential side benefits is that the Blue Jays will have some extra cash if they are interested in working out a multi-year contract with the arbitration-eligible Jose Bautista. The surprise home run king filed for $10.5 million and was offered $7.6 million from the Blue Jays when arbitration figures were exchanged on Tuesday.

As mentioned earlier this week, the Blue Jays have a policy under general manager Alex Anthopoulos that they do not negotiate one-year deals once the arbitration deadline has passed. Anthopoulos certainly deserves praise here, but we probably can’t judge this trade in full context until the Bautista situation is settled.

  1. baseballstars - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    I wouldn’t break the bank on a player who had an outlier of a career year. The Jays are just in one of those “damned if they do/don’t” scenarios with Bautista. There’s a higher probability that he’ll end up like Hill and Lind did coming off of career seasons.

    But if they convinced the Angels to take on Wells’ salary, the GM truly is a genius. I know everyone will focus on Napoli, but Rivera is a solid hitter.

    • D.J. Short - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:13 PM

      Don’t disagree, but multi-year doesn’t mean seven-year extension. Could just be a two-year deal, buying out his first year of free agency. If they could get him to give a little on the annual salary, that might not be so bad. It’s a tough call, though.

      • baseballstars - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:26 PM

        Yeah, I agree. If they could get Bautista for a reasonable price, then it would be worth the gamble. Unfortunately the Jays play in the strongest division in baseball, so they will probably have to take a chance on Bautista and hope he’s the real deal. Right now is the time for the Jays to make their move, with the Yankees and Rays being vulnerable.

  2. proudlycanadian - Jan 21, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Very interesting. Rivera will become a free agent in 2012 and Napoli can be released after the 2011 season if he does not perform. They would be under no obligation to offer him a contract in 2012 even if he would be eligible for arbitration. Napoli can become a free agent in 2013. The Jays will have a lot more flexibility going forward.

    • Old Gator - Jan 22, 2011 at 12:30 AM

      PC, I was thinking of you listening to the local sports talk station on the drive home from my favorite folk-blues cafe tonight. I figured when this broke, you must’ve fallen face down in your beaver of the week. It’s hard to imagine a GM so desperate that he would give up a fine young player like Napoli to tie an anvil like Wells’ contract around his neck and then go jump in the Marianas Trench while the Rangers laugh their asses off. Damn.

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