Sunday, January 23, 2011

A more reasoned (but still giddy) reaction to the Vernon Wells trade

The Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli/Juan Rivera trade is a tough trade to grade from a baseball perspective. If the Vernon Wells from 2010 shows up and the Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera from 2009 shows up, the trade is a win for the Blue Jays. If only one of Napoli or Rivera shows up, then the deal is a wash. If the Rivera and Napoli from 2010 show up, then the Angels win the deal. With that said, if the Wells from 2009 shows up, then it doesn't matter - the Jays will win the trade.

Another factor in the evaluation is defense. After being a good centerfielder in his younger years, Wells is now a liability defensively. If he moves to leftfield, he'd likely turn into an average defensive fielder, putting most of his value in his offense. Napoli is considered to be a weak defensive catcher, though how much of that is due to the Angels' reluctance to play him (instead choosing to play offensive sink hole Jeff Mathis) is not know. Rivera is an average left fielder. From a Jays' perspective, Rajai Davis takes over as the centerfielder, improving their defense if simply by subtraction. From the Angels', it will depend on where they play Wells. If they play him in left or right field, defense should not be an issue.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Vernon Wells' contract. Wells is owed $84 million over the next 4 years, which is still a ridiculous overpayment for his contributions to a team, even assuming that he produces at his 2010 levels. His contract was such that most people assumed that it would be unmovable unless the Jays picked up a significant portion of it. Instead, the Angels seem to not only want Vernon Wells, but also think he's properly valued. How they can do this, I have no idea. But if you approach the trade from this point of view, it at least makes a bit of sense. Whether they're right to approach it like this will be proven this year.

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