Albatross Flies West

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.

Before Jays fans delve further into celebration over Vernon Wells and his terrible contract being traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, we should probably go over a couple things.

First of all, the celebratory nature that’s being exhibited by the majority of Blue Jays supporters isn’t meant as a slap in the face to the team’s former centre fielder.  We all appreciated his efforts in Toronto, both on the field and off, perhaps a little more in 2003, 2006 and 2010 than in 2007, 2008 and 2009.  Blue Jays fans aren’t happy to be rid of Vernon Wells nearly as much as we’re delighted to be rid of the enormous albatross of a contract that was attached to Wells.

Now, I know that many would suggest that baseball is about cheering for the players on the field not the front office saving money.  Who cares about what’s being spent as long as the team is winning, right?

Well, that’s a ridiculously narrow way of looking at things.

In this day and age of instant access and everyone having a voiced opinion, fans cheer for the entire organization.  And while I agree that Rogers Communications is often overlooked by baseball fans to the south of us despite being the richest owner in Major League Baseball, it should be remembered that they didn’t become such a wealthy corporation by giving professional sports team carte blanche to spend.  While the front office wants you to know that the owners of the ballclub are committed to building a winner, they’re also committed to being profitable, and part of that will be setting budgets.

The Vernon Wells trade gives the team, not wiggling room, but jump around like it’s a bouncy castle room, when that budget gets set.  That means that the Toronto Blue Jays will be able to acquire the type of players they need to build that consistently sustained winner that the front office has been promising.

The way in which Alex Anthopoulos has swung this deal is dangerous in two ways.  First of all, he’s taken advantage of Tony Reagins and the Angels desperation to make an offseason move.  General managers around the league aren’t going to forget about this the next time they’re negotiating something with Toronto.  Secondly, Anthopoulos has now given himself no excuses for failure.  If he was unable to shape this organization the way that he promised he would, prior to last night, he always had Vernon Wells and his enormous contract as a scapegoat.

Not so anymore.  The greatest hinderance to the future success of the organization is off the books, and now the real general managing begins.

I also noticed that a lot of people are suggesting that the deal is better than we even realized because the Vernon Wells contract was back loaded.  Slow your roll, pilgrim.  Let’s not forget that in the first three years of the contract in which Wells was making $500,000, $1.5 million, and $12.5 million, he was also receiving $8.5 million up front at the beginning of each season, as part of his signing bonus.  So, of the $126 million contract that he signed with Toronto, the Jays ended up paying $40 million, leaving the LAnaheim Angels an $80 million tab to pick up.

As for the actual trade itself, the players that Toronto got in return don’t really matter much at all, because four months ago, the Blue Jays would’ve been happy to let Vernon Wells get scooped up off revocable waivers for nothing in return.  Juan Rivera may actually be less than nothing, but getting Mike Napoli, even if he wins his $6.1 million arbitration filing, more than makes up for the $5.25 million that the Jays will have to pay Rivera before his contract expires.

As I said when the deal was initially reported, Mike Napoli is a very useful player to the Blue Jays, who need coverage at catcher, first base and designated hitter, three positions that Napoli has handled throughout his career.  Napoli also adds an ability to hit left handed pitching (career .928 OPS), something that the Jays sorely lacked last season.

Assuming that Napoli is used at all three positions next year, it offers an excellent opportunity for J.P. Arencibia to be eased into the starting catcher’s role as opposed to being plunked into it, as would’ve been the case before the trade occurred.  Napoli’s addition shouldn’t steal nearly as many at bats away from Arencibia as it does from Edwin Encarnacion, who let’s face it, probably goes from being a below average everyday player to an above average bench player.

The Jays outfield remains a bit of a mess.  Judging by Anthopoulos’ comments at the press conference last night, Rajai Davis will be the team’s centre fielder.  After that, Travis Snider will be an every day corner outfielder, with Juan Rivera spending time in the other corner spot being spelled by Jose Bautista when he’s not playing third base.

For the Angels, the move occurred in an obvious moment of desperation.  My guess is that GM Tony Reagins was given $75 million to spend this offseason on any players other than Carl Crawford whom he could break the bank for.  After being spurned by the new Red Sox left fielder, he offered that amount to Adrian Beltre and was turned down.

As the pressure mounted from fans and the media for Reagins to make a move, that figure must have loomed large.  By taking on Wells’ $86 million, minus the contracts to Napoli and Rivera, the Angels will increase their payroll over the next four years by almost exactly $75 million.  I’d be surprised if that’s a coincidence.

Comments (58)

  1. I’m just curious, has anyone found anything written that is positive from the Angels’ perspective?

  2. That might be the worst photoshop I have ever seem, good piece though. I’m shocked and a little concerned about the amount of fans thinking this frees money to lock up Bautista long term, most of whom would overpay the man, how quickly they forget the lessons of the VW contract.

  3. There was one blogger . . . completely out to lunch . . . who liked it. Clearly didn’t think of salary ramifications at all.

  4. Anthopoulos looks exhausted in that video

  5. Whats a worse move by the angels:

    Trading for Vernon Wells 4/86 or signing Gary Matthews Jr to 5/50..

    I gotta go with Matthews… He had 1 bad season, 2 terrible seasons, and then was released… Basically the Angels got no value out of that contract…

    Wells will probably give the Angels at least a couple of very good seasons…

    Either way, both moves are puzzling…

  6. I could givesa rats ass about V.W. getting traded.

    Now piss off Parkes and start writing something we all want to read like Beer prices for the 2011 season!

    Sincerly,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  7. It’s a good question. But I’m going with Vernon Wells. He may offer superior value to Matthews, but that’s just far too much money for someone who I’d figure to bring around eight WAR over the next four years of $86 million baseball.

  8. A true fan speaks. I was watching the Ken Burns baseball documentary, and the narrator was talking about the 1900s and saying that baseball was plagued by bad food and overpriced drinks at the stadium. Nothing changes.

  9. Get on that Parkes and leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived.
    Lobby the Blue Jays as well as MLB to lower the beer prices.
    Explain the low margian high volume concept (Costco style) of business oppossed to the low volume , f’n ridiculuos high margin program in place now! How is an ex ball player like me supposed to afford a good buzz at the ball park!

    Get on it Parkes!

    Sincerly,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  10. Loved the photoshop. The ramifications of this trade are kinda exciting, to say the least.

  11. A friend of mine who is a Tigers’ fan told me after the trade that he was completely confused about the Jays’ offseason and he thought they’d done a terrible job; the Wells trade was just more evidence.

    Then he told me the Tigers had a great offseason. I puked on his face.

  12. After checking out Canadian media and all of them rightfully praising AA I went to MLB.com and they apperently love the Angels new player From small market Toronto

  13. Hahaha. Really. Link?

  14. I watched that too. I’m looking for the link.

  15. http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=13093741&topic_id=7417714

    Here it is…this is actually awful. Listen to them talk as if Crawford and Wells are equitable.

  16. Sometimes baseball analysts make me cringe…if these guys can get jobs doing it…

  17. … is it wrong that this kind of gives me the same warm feeling I got after Leeman for Gilmour? You don’t see robbery like this very often.

    The Angels are going to be paying 2/3rds of the overall contract for 1/2 the service. That’s insane just to begin with.

    My only gripe is that they’ll likely play Bautista at 3rd now, where I’d rather he be hidden in left.

    • I think of him as a better option at third than anywhere in the outfield. He’d offer same poor paths to the ball in left, and couldn’t utilize his hose of an arm as much as he would in right.

  18. “First of all, he’s taken advantage of Tony Reagins and the Angels desperation to make an offseason move. General managers around the league aren’t going to forget about this the next time they’re negotiating something with Toronto.”

    Dustin, can you explain further? I assume that you mean other GMs will view Alex as a predator or vulture or something?

    I’m looking forward to that video link.

  19. How the hell did Larry Bowa get an analyst job on MLB Network?

  20. well said .

    of the posted link, hate to see idiots talk; it was like kipper and waters baseball version. that being said i do agree with one statement made and that is vernon is going to carry on the way he ended the 2010 season.

  21. anyhow if you can lobby the jays to reduce beer prices would be much appreciated.

    On a side note: who all out there will be making the trip to cooperstown this year? and if you have been before any suggestions on how to maximize the day?

    be nice to see a banner out there: bbwaa – stop frikin being cheeky and give tom his due!

  22. That video is insane. “Between Wells and Hunter, who would you choose as your centre fielder?” Pretty sure the correct answer is Peter Bourjos.

  23. Re: your comment about the deal being dangerous for AA — didn’t he get Escobar for a spare part having a good year — didn’t he get a sandwich pick for buying $500Gs of Miguel Olivo, didn’t he get Morrow for Frikkin League. And how’s that Taylor kid doing we swapped off the Halladay deal (who is now Gose, mving up quickly in the system). I’ll bet Lawrie makes him look smart in the long run too (and Cito look criminal for putting all those innings on Marcum’s rebuilt elbow). Any GM who doesn’t already know that Anthopolous is smart will probably stay stupid.

  24. I think the headline from Halo’s Heaven sums this up perfectly: “Angels Release Mike Napoli, Sign Juan Rivera to Four-Year, $86 Million Extension”: http://www.halosheaven.com/2011/1/21/1949321/angels-release-mike-napoli-sign-juan-rivera-to-four-year-86-million

    I do hope Wells excels in LA though. Who knows, maybe if they move him to LF as has been suggested, the reduced workload in the field will give him a chance to be better offensively.

  25. Right now it seems like the options are start Rivera in right, Jose at third or Jose in right and E5 at third. Which one is better? I don’t like the defensive ramifications of Edwin at third, but I think he’s a much better hitter than Rivera. Especially the Rivera of last year.

  26. By the way, the Rays were reportedly trying to trade for Napoli before the Wells deal hit; anybody think the Jays might be able to match up with them for a trade?

    Just a crazy thought, but after the Manny and Damon signings, the Rays don’t have anywhere to play Desmond Jennings. There’s no way they’d ever trade Jennings, but what about the guy who’s blocking his path to the majors, BJ Upton? If the Jays trade Napoli for Upton then they could put him in CF with Davis and Snider playing the corners, Bautista at 3B, Lind at 1B, Arencibia at C, Hill/Escobar up the middle, and EE/whoever else at DH.

    I’m not even sure I like Upton all that much, but he fits the “speed/athleticism” prototype AA has said he wants to build around.

  27. Yeah, I also just noticed that Wilner said “It’s expected the Jays will try to sign Napoli to a multi-year contract,” which would make a lot of sense. I wonder what this means for Molina though… he’s kind of redundant with Arencibia and Napoli around. At this point who’s on the bench? McDonald, Rivera, whichever of the 1B/C/DH guys is sitting that day, and Molina?

  28. Wow, I can’t believe that the Angels did this.
    I was a bit concerned about the bench, but I always forget that Mike McCoy is still kicking around. Does anyone know Farrell’s thoughts on moving parts in and out of the line-up, as in being an anti-Cito?

  29. I must be a fucking lunatic cuz I like the deal for LAA. They have Morales back and Scioscia is a former C who hates letting Napoli play there, so Napoli & Rivera carried very little value for them. They wanted to sign Carl Crawford for at least 7/140. Instead, they clear 10m off the books for this year, improve their OF, and are only locked in for 3/63 instead of another 6 years for Crawford. With Wells in a corner OF spot it’s not a stretch to say he’s just as valuable.

    • I appreciate the idea of being a contrarian, but come on. They don’t clear $10 million off their books, they add $12 million, before being locked into another 3/$63. It’s also laughable to suggest that Wells is as valuable as Crawford when Wells is playing years 32, 33, 34 and 35 vs. Crawford playing 29, 30, 31, etc. Look at their career trajectories and WAR to date. It’s not even close.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1326&playerid3=1201&playerid4=&playerid5=

      Scioscia, the former catcher, also likes playing Jeff Mathis there, so I don’t think that argument holds much merit either. Even if he’s a brutal catcher, I think he’s very valuable against LHP as a DH/1B for Jays. And even if, neither carried much value, saddling your payroll with an additional $86 million for a player who had his best season in years and still only got on base 33% of the time isn’t the way I’d like to go.

      Another way to look at it is this: If Wells were a free agent this sesason, would he get anywhere close to those numbers on the open market?

  30. Its a huge stretch to say he’s just as valuable as Crawford. Crawford is a 4-6 WAR player, which he has a chance to maintain for a while since he’s 29. Well’s is a 2-4 WAR player (I’m being generous) which will be even more difficult for him to maintain since he’s 32. The trade off to an easier position is considered in the WAR calculations and it won’t boost Vernon’s WAR even if he plays above average defense in a corner outfield spot.

  31. nevermind… Parkes just wrote exactly what I meant… but clearer and better, with links to WAR graphs!

  32. Any update on beer prices Parkes?

    Do your F’n job Rocky!!!

    Haha

    Almost PBR time

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  33. Am i crazy for thinking that the Rays are planning to use Damon and Manny in a DH platoon, as well as giving limited innings in left to Damon?

    It would make sense because it allows you to ease Jennings into the role; the Rays have shown in the past that they don’t throw young players directly to the wolves, that they like to ease players in to make sure they develop properly.

    And there’s no way Vernon would get 4 years and $86-million on the open market from anyone right now, not to mention that the Angels also had to give up a player of Napoli’s caliber.

    I find it hard to see any angle from which this deal makes sense for the Angels.

  34. Fuk the baseball salary talks and things out of your control which you have absolutely NO POWER to do Jack about any of it!
    Focus on the BEER PRICES PARKES and make a contribution to society before it is to late!

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  35. Start a grassroots campaign yourself, Cliff!!! We’ll be on board. Jehesus.

  36. Travis, perhaps you and Parkes can put your heads together and come up with a fancy slogan for me to launch my “astrotroots” campaign?

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  37. if only I had the time, and this isn’t my fight, I live in Windsor.

  38. Come on Travis.

    We could make it a Jay’s / Tigers initiative and eventually it would sweep the league.
    fans would be drunk and Obnoxious from first pitch and carry it right through to extra innings if required. NO shutting down the beer sales until the crowd decides. Hell maybe each team could employ strippers for after the games on special promo nights and really give us some “BANG FOR OUR BUCK”!

    I am sure Parkes and yourself will come up with something creative.

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  39. Dustin,

    Give me an idea of what you think the 1-9 line-up will look like on opening day, if your feeling frisky i’ll take the rotation and pen as well.

    Thanks for Blanked, and DJF.

  40. Ty:
    I think this trade counts Encarnacion out of that 1B role. Just too many players there right now. I see Lind, Napoli and Arencibia playing pretty well every day, with Molina filling in when one of them needs a break. Napoli’s ability to play first base if needed gives you that flexibily.

    I think Encarnacion is needed more as a backup 3B at this point rather than 1B.

  41. Molina will catch Morrow I’d bet, and not much more.

    I think the best lineup has E5 playing third and DHing once in a while. He’s episodically horrible, but I’d rather have him there and Bautista’s arm in right. You platoon Patterson and Davis in centrefield, leave Snider in left until he shows he’s good enough to play right and dump Rivera on someone before April 1 or just release him and eat the money.

    And have Lind on a short leash at first. Does anyone know: can Napoli actually play first? I have this feeling we’re going to miss Lyle more than Vernon in the end.

  42. @Kevin:

    Man, I forgot about Patterson. The splits aren’t dramatic, but providing he makes the team out of Spring (he’s on a minor-league deal) that might make a nice platoon. I still think Davis is the better overall player there though.

    As for Napoli, he held his own very nicely at first base. He’s not Lyle Overbay, but he’s okay; certainly has a better shot of being reliable defensively there than Lind.

  43. Southpaw had a smart Patterson split and more before I did. Just repeating the info. Nice to think Napoli’s not useless defensively (I actually think E5 isn’t either, despite the episodes). I’m afraid Lind’s got to go too, though it’s a lousy time to sell someone I feel is a really good hitter after a bad year.

  44. Fuk the baseball salary talks and things out of your control which you have absolutely NO POWER to do Jack about any of it!

    Focus on the BEER PRICES PARKES and make a contribution to society before it is to late!

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  45. Fuk the baseball salary talks and things out of your control which you have absolutely NO POWER to do Jack about any of it!
    Focus on the BEER PRICES PARKES and make a contribution to society before it is to late!

    Sincerely,

    Clifford Johnson (Heathcliff)

  46. I don’t get it.

  47. Cliff: stop drinking beer altogether. You’ll be richer and healthier.

  48. I highly doubt this trade will have a negative impact in future dealings with other GMs. It’s a business and I’m sure any other GM wouldn’t hesitate to unload a bad contract on a desperate team. I’ve heard this a couple times that GMs are going to stop dealing with AA because he makes great trades, and it seems ridiculous to me.
    I’d also say they got more than nothing in return. Napoli’s a real solid addition who can spell Lind, JPA and be a good DH and is controllable for two more years I think.
    Rivera’s nothing special but he’s got a decent enough bat and if I’m not mistaken could be a type B free agent after 2011.

  49. I think the trade is being lauded just a bit too much. Obviously, moving the contract is a huge thing. But let’s take a moment and dwell on the positives of Wells. If he didn’t have the contract he probably would have had a better 2008 and 2009. He felt he had to play everyday with the contract, which led to him not rehabbing his wrist properly. I’ve seen him make some amazing catches, as recently as 2010 (during the Brandon Morrow almost no hitter). He hit 30 HRs this past year. It’s not like the Angels are just getting some bit part. Plus, take into account that Wells will presumably have some protection in the lineup, and will now be facing the AL West instead of the AL East. The trade could be good for the Angels.

    Which doesn’t make it any less good for the Jays. Obviously they needed to get out from under that contract, which they did. They get Napoli, who wasn’t liked by Scoscia, but who will be able to spell Arencibia, Lind, or Encarnacion. A real four player platoon.I just think the trade is good for both sides, not a total steal for the Jays.

    Lineup:

    1. Davis – CF
    2. Escobar – SS
    3. Snider – LF
    4. Bautista – RF
    5. Lind – 1B
    6. Encarnacion/Napoli – DH
    7. Arencibia – C
    8. 3B
    9. Hill – 2B

    I could be wrong on RF, but I think we’ll find a 3B and release Rivera. I don’t see him with the team for long.

  50. HA! Dustin, I think you sent a lot of traffic to HalosHeaven because the option I actually like the deal (an option for our Canadian guests). of their poll on the deal has 58% of the vote.

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