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

image courtesy of latimesblogs.latimescom

  • 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

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  • 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

  • Stump

    My prayers have been answered! This trade to me will be viewed as one of the best trades in the history of the Blue Jays organization. Not so much for the short term, but outstanding for the long term.

    I am in complete awe of AA and his ability to stay on message, but still get the job done and move the team ever closer to a true contender.

    I agree that there are very likely to be more straws to fall before this drink is completely stirred, but as far as I am concerned, going into spring training there will be a collective positive buzz in the Blue Jays camp, with a collective view of a giant leap forward for the team in 2011, and a really optimistic view that 2012 is the year of contention.

    My take is that this will surely allow the Jays to sign Bautista to a 3 or 4 year contract at a respectable rate and still allow the Jays to add the extra parts to assemble a “complete” 25 man roster for 2012. Bautista will surely see that the Jays are for real with AA at the helm and with the feeder system in such fantastic shape, why would he want to go anywhere else?

    Go Blue Jays on 2012 – World Series contenders!!

  • chris

    so whos playing the other corner outfield spot???? davis, snider……whooo? thames? mastroianni?

  • Mat Germain

    It’s funny, I just read the newest edition of the Baseball America Magazine and it had a great piece on just how much potential Darin Mastroianni has. His 2010 season in AA was record setting with 158 hits, 101 runs, and 46 SBs for the Fishercats. His OBP was close to .400 at .390, and he finished that up with a .365/.449/.460 line in Venezuela. He attributes his progression at the plate to the fact that he can now say that the following: “I understand more about my swing this year”. Whatever he means by that, it’s working!

    I’m a massive fan of his, always have been, and he’s my favorite for the CF job if he gets a fair shake. However, if you’ll recall, he was used as trade bait (reportedly) when the Jays were looking for Alex Gordon or Zack Greinke from the Royals. If that is a fact, then it’s more likely that the Jays will bring on Scott Podsednik and use him in tandem with Rajai Davis.

    Either way, the Jays now have the cash to sign Bautista and will still have very good options at CF which will include the appropriate SB skills for the position.

    • Steve

      I think you mean the Uggla trade…

      According to AA the Greinke/Gordon trade didn’t even get to the point of exchanging names, as Greinke said from the get go he wouldn’t come to Toronto there was no point in beginning negotiations.

  • Brian

    Classy blog. (Note: the word is complement, not compliment).

    • Mat Germain

      Got it, thanks!

  • Mylegacy

    Our only APPALLING weakness has been hitting lefties – along came Napoli!

    Our only (other) APPALLING weakness has been the 800 pound, $86 MILLION dollar, gorilla contract tied around the Jay’s finances – along came AA!

    As an atheist I do not say this lightly – AA IS GOD!

  • Jared Macdonald

    Shock and awe is in fact the only way to describe this deal.

    Alex Anthopoulos never ceases to amaze me. It’s one thing to find a realistic taker for this contract (few teams would qualify), and then ACTUALLY move it. Getting back Juan Rivera, who could definitely bounce back in 2011, and a useful MLB piece in Mike Napoli (who I am also a big fan of), is just flabbergasting.

    Mylegacy beat me to the punch by pointing out Napoli being unbelievable against LHP, just take a look:

    Vernon vs. LHP:
    2009 – .206/.279/.323 in 155 AB
    2010 – .195/.289/.354 in 113 AB

    Napoli vs. LHP:
    2009 – .337/.422/.611 in 95 AB
    2010 – .305/.399/.567 in 141 AB

    Barring any moves, and with AA it’s fair to say you never really know what he’s brewing, it seems as though Napoli will move into the C/1B/DH setup along with EE, Lind, and JPA.

    When there’s a lefty on the hill, it’s virtually guaranteed EE and Napoli will be in the lineup, and one of either Lind or JPA. The insurance Napoli provides at C/1B is quite valuable, with 2011 being an experimental year really at both positions regarding the players.

    I really hope this trade opens up the chance for Mastroianni to get a shot as well.

    As if there weren’t already hundreds of reasons why it’s exciting to be a Jays fan and to be excited for the 2011 season, this trade is a BIG one!

  • Daniel

    I’ve been on cloud 9 since reports of the trade broke, I still can’t believe it. I must admit I was slightly nervous how the wells situation would have effected the jays towards the end of his contract. Nevermind the money, I think Wells declining skills defensive would’ve handcuffed the jays in 2012 and beyond if he continued to play cf [I think his defense has already become sub par- too many balls dropping at his feet and he doesn't make the amazingly quick reads that made him so effective early on in his career]. In my opinion that would’ve been the biggest obstacle to being a consistent contender. Trading Wells now gives us the flexibility to sign bautista without as much of the risk. If we sign bautista for 30-50 mil, we can afford to shoulder the cost if he doesn’t pan out now. With Wells also on the payroll I don;t think AA would have been as willing to dish out that kind of money.
    Also what do you guys think about Mastroianni? I know he hasn’t been higher than double A but I think with a good spring training he could make the team as our 4th of. He provides the necessary relief for davis in cf and also could gives us a viable lead off option- at least he has better obp skills than davis.
    I know he hasn’t been to AAA yet but I feel like the PCL isn’t going to help him anyways, since the EL is known to be much tougher on hitters than the PCL [at least in terms of power output].

  • Keith

    This trade helps the Jays in the long run….provided that the money is invested back into signing key pieces we need. I’m still not sure it will be….but I will trust in what AA says.

    In the short term I now think this trade does help the team. starting with the throw in: Rivera has been shopped for some time by the Angels with no takers. He is a poor defensive OF with low OB skills. From an outfielder perspective give me Wells any day over Rivera.
    Hopefully we will sign Chavez or Lawrie will be able to make the transition to 3B quicker. As if these things come to pass, we can move Jose back to RF and Rivera becomes our 4th OF.

    Napoli on the other hand is a fairly valuable commodity as a DH/1B/C. I hope we don’t see him at C more than once or twice a week as his defensive catching skills are questionable at best and definitely not any sort of defensive upgrade over JPA.
    What Napster really provides the Jays is piece of mind for 2011. He can step up if Lind is a disaster at 1B and he can catch if JPA doesn’t focus on getting his pitchers ready for game day (This I think is the Jays biggest concern with JPA). His presence will also ensure EE actually hustles on every play.

    Combined with EE, they also gives us a potentially better line up against LHP’s. Our largest weakness in 2010. Prior to last year, Napoli has also had excellent OB skills. With the smaller confines of the SkyDome, he could hit 30+ hrs with 550 AB. So his production should mostly offset what we lost in Wells.

    It feels like there are still several unknowns:
    1 – will the Jays and Bautista reach a 3 – 4 year deal? We almost need him more than now than before the trade
    2 – Will we sign Chavez/ trade for another 3B/ will Lawrie be ready this year? Then we won’t have to see Rivera’s butchery all season long in LF. We can move Bautista to RF, Snider to LF with Davis in CF.

    I would see the 2011 line up like this:
    1 – Davis (CF)
    2 – Escobar (SS)
    3 – Lind (1B)
    4 – Bautista (RF)
    5 – Napoli (DH)
    6 – Snider (LF)
    7 – Hill (2B)
    8 – Arencibia (C)
    9 – Lawrie (3B)

    In this configuration, your 3 – 8 hitters all have 30+hr potential

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