Alex Anthopoulos Pulls Off Mission Impossible, Trades Vernon Wells

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Shock and awe, that’s my take on this deal. Everyone’s opinion on the subject of the contract owed to aging CF Vernon Wells, a total of $86 million through 2014, seemed to believe that it was Mission Impossible to move such a massive deal. Well, we’re learning very quickly to never count Alex Anthopoulos out of any possibility, as he has made the impossible happen by reportedly dealing Wells to the Angels in return for a player the Rays were said to be chasing full tilt, C/1B/DH Mike Napoli, as well as OF Juan Rivera. If there are other players included in the deal, they have yet to be announced.The Jays are taking on the $5.25 million owed to Rivera in 2011, and will have to come to terms with Napoli who is in his 3rd year of arbitration eligibility. Napoli will be eligible to arbitration for the last time in 2012, and is thus controllable through that season. Assuming he gets the amount he asked forwhen exchanging numbers with the Angels, $6,100,000, Napoli will cost the Jays $16,900,000 less than Vernon Wells would have in 2011. Subtract the amount owed to Rivera, listed above, and the Jays wind up with $11,650,000 in salaries saved.Not only does this save the Jays $11,650,000 in 2011, but they will also save $63,000,000 over the next 3 years. When interesting free agents to be include the likes of Prince Fielder, and possibly Albert Pujolsif Cardinals management lose their minds, it makes for incredibly vast possibilities for Alex Anthopoulos and his staff to consider next off season. The total savings, assuming Napoli will cost the Jays another $8 to 9 million in 2012, is approximately $66,000,000.However, there reportedly could be (unconfirmed) some money being sent from the Jays to the Angels, so we’ll wait to receive word on what that amount is before placing a full judgment on that part of the exchange. Still, unless it’s a significant amount, it won’t mean that much.What does each team get?

The Angels get Vernon Wells – 32 years old- CF (not anymore!)

  • Had a rebound year in 2010, hitting 31 HRs, driving in 88 runs, and keeping a respectable line of .273/.331/.515. It was the first time he had played up to his offensive talents since the 2006 season.
  • His dWAR was a negative for the second straight season  in 2010 at -1.0, but he didn’t make one error all season long. The majority of the negative D numbers coming from Wells are due to the space he covers in the OF, which will continue to get worse as he ages. His Rtot was -10 on the season in 2010, after an even worse -12 in 2009.
  • With Peter Bourjos manning CF, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells will likely be the corner outfielders in Anaheim. With his offensive output likely to get lower as he ages, does Wells really profile as a RF or LF worth $21 million per season (2012-14)? Remember that even Carl Crawfordwon’t make that much until the last year of the deal he just signed with the Red Sox. Is 32 year old Vernon Wells really worth more than 29 year old Carl Crawford?
  • He’s a veteran leader who is easy to get along with and will work out great in the Angels clubhouse.

The Jays get 1 – Mike Napoli – 28 years old – C/1B/DH

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  • Mike hit more than 20 HRs for the 3rd straight season with 26 in 2010, despite getting fewer ABs than most regular players get all 3 seasons. He kept a below average .238/.316/.458 line for the season, but has a more tolerable .251/.346/.485 line over his career in the majors.
  • He played 70 games at 1B in 2010, making 6 errors for a .989 fielding percentage. He also caught 66 games, making 6 errors there as well for a .986 fielding percentage. His total dWAR rating was -0.4, but his Rtot was a good +1 at 1B as opposed to -5 as a catcher. Adam Lind, just to compare, had a +2 Rtot rating at 1B in 2010.
  • The big help from Napoli will come when he spells Adam Lindat 1B against LHP, because Adam hit a meager .117/.159/.182 against them in 2010. Meanwhile, Mike hit .305/.399/.567 against LHP in 2010 and clobbered 10 HRs in only 141 ABs against them. Talk about an upgrade!
  • Having Napoli on board also provides insurance for the Jays should J. P. Arencibia struggle behind the plate or while hitting.

The Jays get 2 – Juan Rivera – 32 years old – LF/DH

image courtesy of zimbio.com

  • Juan had a line of .252/.312/.409 in 2010 to go along with 15 HRs and 52 RBI in 416 ABs.
  • Although his 2010 performance was underwhelming, Juan had his best season to date in 2009 when he hit 25 HRs, drove in 88 runs, and hit .287/.332/.478. Only being a year off from those totals can provide some hope that he’ll land somewhere in between 2009 and 2010 this season with 20 HRs and a decent overall line. Compared to what’s left on the FA market, the Jays could do a lot worse.
  • He can play both corner OF spots when needed and actually had a positive dWAR at 0.1. He had 8 outfield assists in 2010, 3 coming from limited time in RF, and 5 coming from LF.
  • Although he is a RHB, he had better numbers vs LHP in 2010, hitting .264/.327/.419 against southpaws. Meanwhile, Travis Snider has struggled some against LHP, so having Juan on board provides the Jays with flexibility in the lineup in terms of LF.
  • Want to hear something funny? Until the Jays come to terms with Jose Bautista and Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera will be the highest paid Blue Jays player. Talk about a crazy thought!

Trade Analysis

  • As much as I am a supporter of Vernon Wellsand cheered for him a ton when everyone was down on him, I have to admit that this is BY-FAR the coup of the short-career Alex Anthopoulos has had thus far at the helm of the Jays. To unload a contract the size of what Vernon Wellswas owed and still acquire anything is simply put – outstanding. Remember the “huge” contract the Jays had to walk away from when they let the White Sox take Alexis Riosfor nothing? Well, how good does this deal look in comparison? It does make you wonder how Alex Anthopoulos would have handled that deal if he were at the helm, despite the fact that he likely would never have signed him to such a huge contract to begin with.
  • I’m just in total shock about the value the Jays were able to nab in return for Vernon at his age and with that much cash owed. On top of this, they get a still young and controllable C/1B/DH who hits with more power than Vernon does, as well as a corner outfielder who is a good complement to what they have on board and can knock out 20 HRs of his own on any given season. Incredible, just simply incredible.

What does it mean for the Jays OF?

  • Decisions, decisions, decisions. For now, the best bet would be an OF of LF Juan Rivera, CF Rajai Davis, and RF Travis Snider. However, what this also does is allow the Jays to have flexibility in the roster and on the bench. I would not be surprised in the least to see the Jays add Scott Podsednik as a complement – and motivator – to Rajai Davis in CF. He can also man all 3 OF positions.
  • There is still a possibility that the Jays will decide to flip Juan Rivera elsewhere. His contract is not outrageous and he can give any team some nice pop off the bench if they’re making a playoff run.
  • Finally, youngsters like Eric Thames and Darin Mastroianni may now have a viable chance to get a look at some point in 2011. Either one could make a good impact on the squad, although I think we all know that CF is being kept open for the eventual arrival of Anthony Gose who should arrive at some point in 2012 if all works out as planned for him.

What does it mean for the Jays bench?

What does it mean for the Jays Offense?

  • Last season, the Jays had absolutely no consistent hitter with  power coming off the bench. This year, with these 2 additions, they should be guaranteed 2 if J. P. Arencibia hits as he should. It will be a very flexible lineup, as all Jays players can play multiple positions, a luxury that can’t be understated in a very long baseball season.
  • The Jays actually added power to their lineup and have also added the ability to place these 2 new hitters in situations that play to their strengths. This is due to the flexibility just mentioned, as well as the already accepted role these players have as “not so every day” guys. The Jays should be better off as a result, assuming they do use them as such.
  • If my prediction of a decline of Vernon Wells in terms of offensive output by 2013 is correct, the Jays will be much better off by having unloaded his contract and lack of ideal position (Johnny Damon style) before the 2011 season starter.

Lastly, to make space for Rivera on the 40-man roster, the Jays have designated LHP Rommie Lewis for assignment.

I will make the contention, having described all that I have above, that Vernon Wells could very well be the best center-fielder ever to put on a Jays uniform. So, I want to make sure that fans who read this know that I completely respect his skills, that many Jays fans will miss seeing him in the lineup and on the field, and that he’ll be remembered fondly by all. I would also like to applaud him for agreeing to wave his no-trade clause, something that could have stopped the Jays from dealing him to any team. His contributions and charitable efforts in the community have been numerous and consistent, and he was a great person to all on and off the field. Therefore, he will definitely be missed dearly and we wish him all the best in Anaheim.

Now that I have cleared the air on that part, I have to continue my rant that I am in complete awe of this deal. It could be that it’s due to the TGIF factor or the fact that I am a big Mike Napoli fan, but I just can’t think of anyone not liking the fact that the Jays got 2 players with MLB experience and who are affordable in return for a player who was unfortunately handed an outrageous contract. I have to wonder out loud here, how much better off would the Jays have been to hand that contract to Roy Halladay instead and still be able to keep Vernon Wells on board with a smaller contract?

If things keep going the way they are and the Jays system churns out the MLB players they expect it will, the Jays will have NO problem adding the players they want and need in free agency or by taking on a player another team cannot afford. With the contract of Vernon Wells now off the books, they simply have no excuse to not chase the very best from here on out.

It’s a wonderful time to be a Jays fan, isn’t it?

- MG

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Tags: Adam Lind Juan Rivera Mike Napoli Vernon Wells

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