Los Angeles Angels Trade Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJanuary 22, 2011

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Vernon Wells #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits against the New York Yankees during a MLB game at the Rogers Centre September 29, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

While I was making dinner (grilled chicken with some garlic mashed potatoes), I had the MLB Network’s Hot Stove Live on in the background. Just as I was about to mash my potatoes (homemade, baby! Not the artificial stuff in my household), I heard Tom Verducci mention something about the big acquisition of Vernon Wells by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

I really thought I misheard things, so I scurried to my living room and rewound the segment. It turned out my ears didn’t deceive me, the Angels really did acquire Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Then I saw that Wells was in the trade that sent Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays and I thought, ummm okay. Then it was revealed that the Angels also sent Juan Rivera to the Jays and picked up all but $5 million of the remaining $86 million on Wells’ contract and then I thought, to quote Larry David when he was talking to Mr. Heineman’s daughter on the ski lift,

“What are you, f%^king nuts?”

And how on Earth did GM’s Alex Anthopoulos and Tony Reagins decide on the $5 million? I picture a Frank Drebin on the pier scenario in the Naked Gun where they both exchange the same $20 bill back and forth until it went back to Drebin.

What possessed Reagins to pull the trigger on this trade? I am trying to find a good reason for it myself, and I just can’t.

Let’s at least try to make sense out of all this.

Why the Blue Jays Made This Trade

Wells' contract, which has four more years and $86 million remaining on it, is one of the worst contracts in baseball. To have the opportunity to get rid of this contract, Anthopoulos must have pulled the trigger on this trade in about 10 seconds.

Yes, Wells was the defacto face of the Blue Jays’ franchise, but he is not an elite player and at over $20 million a year, he was an extreme albatross on the Toronto organization. Getting rid of that contract already made Anthopoulos the Executive of the Year in Major League Baseball.

Not only did the Blue Jays rid themselves of Wells’ contract, but they got two serviceable players back in return.

Napoli played in a career high 140 games last season and responded by hitting a career high 26 HR. Overall, Napoli had a .238/.316/.468 slash line with the Angels in 2010. His low average can attributed to his .279 BABIP, which is about 25 points lower than his career average.

Unless new manager John Farrell wants to put Napoli behind the plate just to get some work in, he won’t be seeing much time at catcher for the Jays in 2011. That job will be held by Jose Molina and J.P. Arencibia.

Napoli will share time at DH and at first base for the Jays. Look for him to get the majority of starts at either of those positions against left-handed pitching as Napoli crushed lefties to the tune of a .305/.399/.567 slash line.

The Jays also received Rivera in the deal and while he is at the back end of his career, he still could be good for 15 to 20 home runs in 2011. Last year, Rivera hit .252/.312/.409 with 15 HR in just 124 games for the Angels.

Here is an early look at the projected Jays lineup come Opening Day…

1. Rajai Davis, CF
2. Yunel Escobar, SS
3. Jose Bautista, 3B
4. Adam Lind, 1B/DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B/DH
6. Aaron Hill, 2B
7. Juan Rivera, LF
8. Travis Snider, RF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

A lot of this lineup’s success is dependent on whether or not Lind and Hill can bounce back from down seasons in 2010, but if they can, this lineup should have no problem scoring runs in 2011. It is very good and very deep.

On my Twitter page, I tweeted that I thought the Blue Jays had a chance to be a sleeper team with the acquisition of Napoli. That was before I found out this deal included Wells.

Despite that, my opinion still hasn’t changed. I think the Blue Jays can be a serious sleeper team in 2011. And now that they have some payroll flexibility moving forward, they should be contenders for years to come.

Why the Angels Made This Trade

I have not a clue. I am serious. I have no idea why the Angels would take on Wells and his contract. My only guess is that after losing out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this winter, Reagins felt the pressure to do something.

Wells is coming off a season where he did hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 HR in 157 games. His 31 home runs were the most he's hit since 2006 (32). While that might be great, Wells is 32 years old and had only a .708 OPS away from home in 2010.

Look for Wells to shift to left, Peter Bourjos to remain in center and Torii Hunter will play right for the Angels this season. Bobby Abreu will be their primary DH, which means that Vladimir Guerrero is no longer an option for the Halos.

All in all, this is a trade the Angels will regret having made in years to come. That $86 million is a lot of boxes of ziti for a corner outfielder on the downside of his career.

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