I wasn’t privy to the negotiations between Los Angeles Angels general manager Tony Reagins and Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos that sent Vernon Wells and the $86 million he was owed to California in exchange for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli being sent to Ontario. However, I feel it’s safe to assume they went something like this:
Reagins: We’re interested in Vernon . . .
Anthopoulos: We’ll take anything you want to get rid of.
It was, and is, an awful trade for the Angels. In addition to setting themselves up to pay Wells a ton of money to perform at a level that’s below what a typical replacement player performs at, the trade also sent more than five wins above replacement (most of which come from Napoli’s performance this season) away from the team.
Making matters even worse for Los Angeles is that the Toronto Blue Jays turned around and traded Napoli to the Angels’ division rival Texas Rangers. Napoli, who Los Angeles considered to be an overpriced arbitration option that only ever hit left handed pitching, has had a career year in 2011, accumulating a .430 wOBA, getting on base more than 40% of the time and slugging .606. His splits have also been more even than in any previous season, taking 126 plate appearances vs. left handed pitching, 254 plate appearances vs. right handed pitching, and accumulating a 1.000+ OPS against both.
Looking at the standings in the American League West and the three game difference between the division leading Rangers and second place Angels, we can now confidently refer to this margin as The Napoli Effect. Or perhaps more accurately, The Reagins Difference.
If Reagins doesn’t pull the trigger on the Vernon Wells trade, his team is very likely in first place in the AL West with 14 games to go in the season.