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What they’re saying about the Vernon Wells trade

Jan 22, 2011, 9:25 AM EDT

Vernon Wells ap

If you woke up this morning confused and disoriented, you aren’t alone. Angels general manager Tony Reagins has felt that way all winter long.

The Angels and Blue Jays announced a blockbuster trade last night that sends Vernon Wells to Los Angeles for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. It’s an absolutely stunning deal that frees the Blue Jays of one of the most obscene contracts in the game.

Let’s take a quick spin around the interwebs to assess the fallout of this mega-deal, starting with the two general managers:

* Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos (as quoted by “The biggest component, I think it goes without saying, was the financial implications. Beyond 2011, the financial flexibility it gives our organization in 2012 and beyond, with where we’re going and as we build this organization, made a lot of sense for us.”

*Angels general manager Tony Reagins (as quoted by “We look at Vernon’s commitment as a four-year commitment that was tolerable for us.”

* Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles: “The most stunning aspect of Friday’s trade was that the Angels got no cash back from Toronto to help pay for what was considered one of the worst contracts in the sport. In the Kazmir trade in August 2009, the Angels got nothing back from Tampa Bay. They’ll owe the left-hander $25.5 million over the next two seasons and he’s coming off a season in which he had a 5.94 ERA.”

* Dustin Parkes of Getting Blanked: “Alex Anthopoulos is probably very busy right now writing thank you cards to Carl Crawford for signing with the Boston Red Sox and Adrian Beltre for signing with the Texas Rangers and Angels fans for putting so much pressure on Tony Reagins to make a move this offseason.”

* David Golebiewski of FanGraphs: “Even if you think Wells will perform considerably better through his age 32-35 seasons that he did in his late twenties and early thirties, and that inflation will be more than five percent per year, it’s near impossible to envision a scenario in which he’s worth his contract. It’s like the Angels paid for a mansion on the beach and got a one-bedroom ranch house in the Rust Belt instead.”

* Lyle Spencer of “Here’s what I like about the Angels’ big deal with Toronto: everything.”

* Cliff Corcoran of “If the Angels use Wells and Torii Hunter in the outfield corners with Bobby Abreu as their designated hitter and rookie Peter Bourjos in center, they’ll have an outstanding defensive outfield to play behind a solid starting rotation, but a problematic lineup that will depend heavily on Morales’ successful return and those three former All-Stars whose best days are behind them.”

* Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register:” It is a heavy price and a contract that the Angels won’t be able to move easily when Wells declines. But it makes them more legitimate contenders in the A.L. West than they were Thursday.”

* Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star: “The decision to dump Wells points towards a long-term deal for Bautista, now that Wells’ Delgado-like albatross of a deal is gone from the scene.”

* Ken Rosenthal of “Most teams try to get younger, cheaper and better. The Angels got older, more expensive and possibly worse.”

  1. Mark - Jan 22, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    “If the Angels use Wells and Torii Hunter in the outfield corners with Bobby Abreu as their designated hitter and rookie Peter Bourjos in center, they’ll have an outstanding defensive outfield”

    I tried saying that out loud but I couldn’t finish because I ended up laughing everytime.

    • cjvirnig - Jan 22, 2011 at 2:59 PM

      Torri Hunter and Vernon Wells are both above average outfielders. In fact, both of them are still good enough to play center field; particularly Hunter. Thus, having them play the corner outfield positions with Bourjos in center, the Angels outfield WILL be one of the very best in the game.

      The question is their lineup. Wells is a pretty good hitter with some pop, and it certainly helps that the Rangers no longer have Cliff Lee. There’s no guarantee CJ Wilson or Tommy Hunter will be as good in 2011 as they were in 2010. The Rangers are still the better overall team, but the Angels won’t be too bad.

      • Mark - Jan 22, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        Calling Hunter or Vernon good enough to play CF is a bit of a stretch, no? Hunter hasn’t been a positive defender in CF since 2005, and Wells since 2007. Hunter’s also gonna be 35, so you have to expect that his defense is going to slow down a bit.

        Bourjos is great in CF, but I wouldn’t expect Wells or Hunter to be much more than average on the corners.

        The Angels lineup is terrible. Let’s not kid ourselves. They’re relying on Mathis who is going to be the worst everyday player in the majors (yes, worse than Yuneski). They’re probably relying on Izturis/Callaspo at third which is brutal, and despite Bourjos D he hasn’t shown he can hit in the majors. Abreu as a DH isn’t anything special, especially since his bat is in decline.

        Right now the Angels are the third best team. There’s just no way they match up with the Rangers or Oakland right now.

  2. dodger88 - Jan 22, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Reagins referring to the final gours years of Wells’ contract as “tolerable for us” – talk about pumping up the fans.

  3. xpensivewinos - Jan 22, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Napoli is brutal defensively (just ask his former manager Mike Scioscia………….what position did he play?) and it’s not like his batting average was setting the world on fire. He’s a decent fantasy catcher because he hits home runs. In real life, he’s just a guy and with Morales coming back to play first and with Abreu (and perhaps a return of Vlad), Napoli was useless.

    Oh yeah, and Juan Rivera is awful.

    The Angels traded two worthless stiffs and got a solid player in return. If the Angles aren’t concerned about his contract, why is anyone else? People seem hung up on Wells relative worth or value to his contract. The only thing that matters is Wells worth or value relative to the players he got traded for and the Angels are better today than they were yesterday.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Napoli has been a better hitter than Wells by wOBA three of the last four years. He’s tied or beat him in WAR three of the last four years. Sure, he’s a poor defensive catcher, but Wells is an at-best average defensive LF. You’d much rather have a guy who can hit better but is below average defensively at the hardest position to find a hitter at than a guy who hits worse and is average defensively at one of the easiest positions to find a hitter at.

      Not sure that they’re better today than they were yesterday. And of course the contract matters; the Angels have a payroll, and most anyone would rather they have slightly overpaid for Crawford or Beltre than massively overpaid for Wells. Or even saved the money and slightly overpaid for whoever comes next year. Having $20 million a year extra to spend in the next few years would have made a huge difference.

      With that $20 million a year, the Jays now have a shot at signing a premium player (or two!) in the next couple offseasons.

    • tomemos - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Mike Scioscia should be glad his team got absolutely buried by the Rangers, because if the Angels came up just short, his reluctance to use Napoli could have been legitimately blamed for their failure to make the playoffs. Have you considered the stats of Jeff Mathis, the guy Scioscia prefers to play catcher? In the last five seasons he’s batted above the Mendoza line once (hitting .211) and OBPed above .300, uh, never. Even if he were Johnny Bench back there, that would still be a lineup disaster.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Mathis is one of the worst everyday players in baseball. He’s below replacement level.

        Having played a position does not make you an expert in assessing value at that position. If anything, Scioscia’s catching background is making him too biased towards defense.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        P.S. Thanks for reminding me how to spell Scioscia. It still looks wrong though.

    • Mark - Jan 22, 2011 at 11:42 AM

      The funny thing is, Mathis might actually be worse than Napoli as a defensive C. Keep in mind they both played between 525-555 innings at catcher.

  4. CivilADR - Jan 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Wells is all class. His contract is the problem. I’ll miss seeing him here in Toronto; but I’m excited to see what the extra cash will bring in. I’m sure Napoli and Rivera are good, but honestly, I could care less about what the Jays received in return.

  5. apbaguy - Jan 22, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    This is all great news for Oakland. Hearing that Angels have hung an albatross around their necks for the next 4 years is welcome news.

    Look, no matter how you slice it, an outfield of Wells, Hunter and Abreu is going to produce a lot of highlights for the other team: lots of gap extra-base hits, lots of “so close” misses at the fence, all the paraphernalia of outfielders past their prime. Therefore, one of them will DH, possibly in rotation.

    Will their DH numbers be as good as Napoli’s were? No.
    Will Jeff Mathis have the worst offensive numbers of any player in MLB? Yes.

    The Angels got worse. That’s good news for the A’s and Rangers.

  6. fribnit - Jan 23, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Did the Jays GM roll over and light a smoke when this was done?

  7. marinermousse - Jan 23, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Scioscia’s treatment of Napoli always led me to think that perhaps he had come home one night and found Napoli in bed with (your choice) his wife, daughter, son. Everyone proclaims how bad a catcher he is….well, he is not the best, but FAR from the worst (of course, my perspective as a Mariners fan watching Rob Johnson would make any other catcher look better.) He threw out 19 out of 52 steal attempts, looked pretty decent blocking balls in the dirt and is one of the top 5 hitting catchers in baseball. His batting average would probably be higher if he hadn’t been jerked around so badly by Scioscia.

    All of the above is my opinion, of course, but I think Scioscia’s managing, and Reagins’ stewardship these past two years has been subpar.

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