It might be a bit much to describe the Vernon Wells trade as a “where were you moment,” but for Toronto Blue Jays fans who were of the belief that the team would be saddled with an $86 million debt over the next four years, it’s a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.

I was having some post-work Friday drinks at the watering hole in the basement of The Score Towers with the esteemed Andrew Stoeten.  He had just purchased a box of Donruss baseball cards from 1988, and we were opening up packs and comparing the count of mustached players to clean shaven in each.  He had to get back to work and I had to go home, so we went out separate ways.

As I was exiting the bar, I checked my phone to see that I had several missed text and email messages, but before I could read them, Stoeten had already come back downstairs and was yelling, “Holy [Getting Blanked]ing [Getting Blanked]!  Have you seen it yet?”  Seconds later we were both upstairs in The Score’s newsroom typing furiously.

It was an exciting moment, not only as a Blue Jays fan, but also as a blogger who was relaying and collecting information in a way that wasn’t being done elsewhere.

Weeks later, I’m still questioning the Angels motivation for making the trade and their willingness to take on $86 million for Vernon Wells.  This questioning went from professional curiosity to general concern over Angels GM Tony Reagins’ mental health after reading Joel Sherman’s column in the New York Post today.

The way I hear it the Mets and Angels did actually discuss Beltran. But the Angels ultimately saw Wells as the better choice despite the much larger financial investment. The Angels liked that there were no doubts about Wells’ health as compared to Beltran, whose knees are a serious wonder. And despite the sense that Wells’ defensive game has regressed some, the Angels believed that he was definitely capable of playing center field. They did not believe that about Beltran.

Well, if there was ever a reason to compare Carlos Beltran and Vernon Wells, this would have to be it.

Let’s start with their age and contracts.

Vernon Wells: 32 years old, owed $86 million over 4 years.
Carlos Beltran: 34 years old, owed $18.5 million over 1 year.

Now, let’s take a look at their offensive production last season.

Vernon Wells: 646 PA, .331 OBP, .515 SLG, .362 wOBA, 7.7 BB%, 14.2 K%, .242 ISO, .272 BABIP.
Carlos Beltran: 255 PA, .341 OBP, .427 SLG, .332 wOBA, 11.8 BB%, 17.7 K%, .173 ISO, .275 BABIP.

And now, their offensive production over the last three seasons.

Vernon Wells: 1796 PA, .327 OBP, .466 SLG, .342 wOBA, 7.1 BB%, 13.1 K%, .191 ISO, .280 BABIP.
Carlos Beltran: 1318 PA, .380 OBP, .486 SLG, .376 wOBA, 12.8 BB%, 15.7 K%, .197 ISO, .308 BABIP.

Vernon Wells’ 2010 season was the second best of his career and came four years after his best. Comparing both of their careers, an average healthy season from Beltran has been better than every year of Wells’ career except for his best. Over the last three seasons, the only thing that Wells has on Beltran is that he strikes out less and has been able to play in more games.

But that comes with a caveat. He’s played in more games, but it’s believed that he played through an injury. How valuable is it to your team to dress for every game while playing injured. In Wells’ case, it wasn’t valuable at all as his 0.0 WAR over 158 games in 2009 will attest.

What I’m suggesting is that both players have suffered through injury problems in their past. The only difference is that Wells played through the pain, while Beltran was kind enough to put himself on the Disabled List. Even considering that Beltran is two years older and has lingering knee problems, Wells has cemented a better reputation with injuries than Beltran by going out everyday and offering no value at all to his team while injured.

As for defensive abilities in center field, for what it’s worth, available defensive metrics very much dispute the alleged opinion of the Angels that Wells remains a better option than Beltran in center. Honestly though, I find it hard to understand why this is an issue at all considering that the Angels have Peter Bourjos on their roster. Even if the young defensive whiz can’t cut it at the plate, Torii Hunter’s defensive numbers may be declining, but not nearly as badly as Wells’.

The only reason there wasn’t more talk of Wells moving over to a corner outfield spot was that the Jays simply didn’t have another option who would be any better in center field. If Alex Rios were still on the team, there would probably be little dispute over where Wells would be playing.

While there aren’t exactly a lot of free agent prizes at center field in 2012, taking Beltran at a lower annual price for one year seems like a no brainer. You’re getting a better player for less money. And, if Reagins’ heart is truly set on Wells, he’s probably not going anywhere anyway. I’m sure Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos would be just as open to trading Wells for whatever the Angels wanted to rid themselves of in 2012 just as they were in 2011.

As a Blue Jays fan, I would like to thank Mr. Reagins for overlooking all of this and seeking Wells.  I propose that the team replace the giant poster of our beloved V-Dub with one of the Angels GM so that we can always remember his good will and benevolence in taking the sins of the team’s previous front office on his shoulders.  Forget about the Anthopoulos Christ comparisons, Reagins is the Blue Jays true saviour.

Comments (18)

  1. I still have this feeling that if I start questioning the trade, someone, somewhere, will turn around, go, “What?!”, and undo the whole thing on grounds of incalculable stupidity.

    This only adds to that feeling.

  2. It still blows my mind that no one has confirmed that money exchanged hands. No one has even said anything about Heyman’s claim of $5 million. It all seems like such craziness.

  3. I agree with your thesis as a whole, Dustin, but wasn’t 2010 the third best of Wells’ career after his monster 2003 and the 2006 season that got him the contract in the first place?

  4. I was going by FanGraphs WAR, which ranked his 2010 as slightly better than his 2003 (thanks in large part to a poor defensive ranking).

  5. Ahh….baseball cards. When does Topps 2011 set come out?

  6. Actually, I think I take that back. Fangraphs says that Wells had a better wOBA in 2003 than in 2010, but his defense was so poor in 2003 that his WAR was lower that he was indeed better in 2010. With that said, I think our ways of measuring offense are a lot more reliable than defense so when two seasons/players/whatever we’re comparing are close I tend to side with the better offense.

    It’s nit picking either way.

  7. “If Alex Rios were still on the team, there would probably be little dispute over where Wells would be playing.”

    Right – he’d still be in CF, like he was when Rios WAS on the team and was a better defensive CF.

    “No one has even said anything about Heyman’s claim of $5 million”

    Beeston was asked about it more than once on 590 and flatly denied it, saying the trade was as announced.

  8. Regardless if 5 million went to the Angels or not – and I wouldn’t go by Beeston’s word as he can bull[getting blanked] with the best of them – it is still an absolute win for the Blue Jays.

    I think the biggest aspect of the Wells deal is it gives AA a margin of error to work with. His contact was tying up funds so much that everything else had to go perfectly in order to build a winner. For instance, maybe it is more likely now that the Jays will pick up Hill’s options as they have some financial leeway to work with. If you look at the Red Sox, which are pretty much the best run organization in baseball, they have drafted well, traded well, and signed premier free agents, but one of their biggest advantages is financial – they can afford to make financial mistakes that the Jays cannot.

  9. Totally agree. I wrote earlier about how the Wells deal allows the Jays to sit and wait on Bautista this year too. It frees up the team in so many ways.

  10. Poor Carlos Beltran. He could be one of the more underrated players of his era.

  11. @Wagman: I think it just came out. I’m going to check as soon as the damn roads aren’t covered in snow

  12. Vernon Wells was traded??!?!?!? What the hell?

  13. Just back from 3 weeks in the Mac, was shitfaced in a bar full of hookers anytime I wasn’t working on the rig.

  14. “Beeston was asked about it more than once on 590 and flatly denied it, saying the trade was as announced.”

    That’s not true. I heard that interview, and Beeston said he wouldn’t discuss it.

    Big difference.

  15. Yep smallcapsteve. He basically confirmed it by not denying it. I bet it’s more, and the deal included a handshake agreement not to embarass anyone, esp. Vdub.

  16. That playoffs Beltran had with Houston 2004 was absolutely insane.

  17. Um, Beltran has played in less than half a season’s worth of games over the last two years. Also, knee injuries generally slow a player down, so it’s likely that while Beltran could play CF before his injury he may be a step slower this season. Furthermore, the quotation you refer to doesn’t mention anything about differences in price. You are assuming that Napoli+Rivera would have landed Beltran, but I think the Mets would have wanted more in return. Admitting that Beltran is a better play on a better contract isn’t obvious to conclude that the prices for the two players were different? Plus, if the Jays did send $5million then Wells’ contract this year is less than Beltran’s.

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