The 86 Million Dollar Man
In a move that will almost certainly be dissected, panned and universally mocked by writers more intelligent than I, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Toronto Blue Jays for Vernon Wells.
Wells—who is owed $86 million through 2014—has already waived his no-trade clause and passed a physical in Anaheim.
One must question the line of thought employed here by Angels GM Tony Reagins—has he just lost his mind, or was it already gone? Sending anything more than a lottery ticket would have been fair value, but to send two quality major leaguers? It's indefensible.
Now, don't get me wrong here—Vernon Wells was a productive player in 2010. His .847 OPS was good for a 127 OPS+ and playing 157 is valuable in and of itself. However, when his defensive capabilities and plate discipline are taken into consideration, Wells becomes a much less appealing player.
Wells, who was never a really amazing defender, has gotten considerably worse with age. His minus-31 TotalZone runs make him one of the worst defenders to play center field . On top of that, he's one of the more prolific hackers in the majors. Wells only saw 3.24 pitches per plate appearance, "good" for fourth worst in the league, which resulted in a .331 OBP.
Who was behind him? Yuniesky Betancourt, AJ Pierzynski and Vladimir Guerrero. Out of the four, Guerrero was the only player to have an OBP above .340. Vlad, non-coincidentally, has superhuman contact skills and has value outside of drawing walks.
Even if the Jays send significant cash LA's way (e.g. more than $40 million), they've come out ahead. They've acquired Mike Napoli—a catcher/first baseman with moderate power, with middling defense and a similar inability to take a walk—and Juan Rivera, who at this point in his career is a dead-average fourth outfielder. Just getting rid of that tremendous albatross of a contract is amazing enough.
Oh, and by the way: Napoli has been worth 7.2 Wins Above Replacement. As for Wells? Just 5.7.
A tremendous trade—tremendously funny for everyone not receiving Vernon Wells, and what must be tremendously excruciating for Halo fans everywhere.
With the completion of this transaction, the Angels could have upward of $50 million tied up in three outfielders: Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and the immortal Gary Matthews Jr.