Part of the reason it’s so difficult to remember a more universally panned trade than Vernon Wells being sent by the Blue Jays to the Angels in exchange for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, is that it probably hasn’t happened. Pretty much all of the experts, insiders, pundits, and all of the other terms I feel uncomfortable using to describe people who are close to the game, have been shocked over the Angels willingness to pick up the entirety of the money owed to Vernon Wells.
Educated opinions be damned, the Chuckle Brothers at the MLB Network focus their attention on how Vernon Wells helps the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim while barely mentioning the fact that he’s more expensive than the GDP of a small Caribbean island, or what the deal might possibly mean to the Toronto Blue Jays.
After speaking with Ken Rosenthal, who first broke word of the trade, host Matt Vasgersion blows through the most important part of any analysis around this deal by comparing the Vernon Wells contract to a “600 pound gorilla in small market Toronto” before handing off the baton to handsome Tom Verducci.
Ignoring population sizes, average household incomes and the wealth of the team’s ownership, it’s easy to understand exactly where Vasgersion is coming from. However, when you take into account that:
- Only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have larger populations among MLB cities;
- In addition to its local population, Toronto also counts on support from the rest of the country as Canada’s only MLB team;
- Toronto has a higher median household income than any other city in the MLB;
- The Blue Jays have the richest ownership group in MLB.
maybe not so much?
Verducci takes the reins from Vasgersion by saying he has no doubt that Wells is going to help the Angels and that this is a move that Los Angeles had to make after they were spurned by free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.
First of all, spending money for the sake of spending money has never proven itself to be a good strategy for assembling a team in baseball, or in any aspect of life. If you were preparing to buy an engagement ring for your special someone and you budgeted $5,000 for the ring that she really wanted, would you buy a lesser ring at that same price just because the one that you were willing to pay $5,000 for was sold out?
Secondly, I’m not so sure that this trade helps the Angels a great deal, even in the short term. Let’s do the whole Player A vs. Player B thing, where I list a bunch of numbers and then reveal who the two players are and we all become surprised to learn that something that we previously held to be true, in fact, isn’t. Sound like fun?
Over the last two seasons:
Player A: 0.58 BB/K, .266 AVG, .321 OBP, .456 SLG, .777 OPS, .337 wOBA, 4.0 WAR.
Player B: 0.60 BB/K, .272 AVG, .323 OBP, .448 SLG, .771 OPS, .333 wOBA, 3.8 WAR.
Player A would be Vernon Wells and Player B is Juan Rivera.
By giving up on Mike Napoli, the Angels also open themselves up to even more at bats for Jeff Mathis, who has the worst OPS in baseball over the past three seasons.
The trade is hardly an open and shut case for making the team better. Even moreso when you consider that Vernon Wells was available on revocable waivers in September to any team that wanted him . . . at absolutely no cost other than having to pay him the rest of his contract. Not surprisingly there were no takers.
After some incoherent ramblings from Larry Bowa about Scott Podsednik that completely ignores Peter Bourjos’ value, Dan Plesac enters the fray by suggesting:
This could be the move that lights a fire under Vernon Wells. His one huge criticism has been that he plays ho-hum. Playing in a city known for hockey and winter sports, you can play for the Blue Jays and not really draw a lot of attention. Mike Scoscia might be the guy to really light a fire under Wells because if you look at his skill set, he can hit for power, hit for average, he’s an above average runner . . . there’s some upside. If the Angels light a fire under him, they could get some production.
It’s every bit as reasonable to suggest that I might be the guy to really light a fire under Plesac because if you look at his skill set he can really say stupid stuff, can really do a terrible job of explaining his point of view, can really not provide any evidence to support his statement. There’s some upside. If I can light a fire under him, I might get an interesting analysis.
For years baseball fans in Canada have bemoaned Rogers Communications for refusing to broadcast the MLB Network North of the Border until the cable company received some equity in it. If this is the type of content the channel provides, I think we’d all do better to stay tuned to the Women’s Olympic hockey replay currently airing on Sportsnet One.