To really drive home the point of how shocking this news was that Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was able to find a taker for Vernon Wells and his massive $126 million dollar contract I want to share a funny story. Tonight I was at a bar with my wife and when the news flashed across the screen that Wells had in fact been moved to the Los Angeles Angels even she said “Wow, doesn’t he make a lot of money?”.
Wells will earn a whopping $23 million in 2011 alone and the final three seasons will pay him $21 million annually so I would have to think the Jays are picking up a portion of that salary. In return the Blue Jays receive OF Juan Rivera who will make $5.25 million and becomes a free agent after this season as well as C/DH/1B Mike Napoli who will earn around $5.8 million this year (he asked for 6.1 in arbitration, the Angels offered 5.3 million) and is in his arbitration phase before becoming an outright free agent in 2013.
Depending on how much cash they are sending the Angels this deal is an absolute stroke of genius for the Toronto Blue Jays. Besides the huge savings on a horrible JP Ricciardi given contract [to Vernon Wells] I actually like that the Jays added the one-dimensional but dangerous bat of Mike Napoli. He can play catcher in a pinch if need be and is a masher and lefty-killer to boot, and is only turning 30 years old in 2011.
In 140 games last season Napoli hit 26 homeruns and will fit right in with the Blue Jays all or nothing approach with the bat. His slash line of 238/316/468 isn’t impressive on the surface but a .230 ISO is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a guy who can “play” catcher. Bill James projects about the same in 2011 (246/336/479 – .350 wOBA, .233 ISO) and who knows what the move to the Jays might possibly do to improve his overall numbers.
What will really help is Napoli’s tendency to destroy left-handed pitching, something the Jays surprisingly struggled with last season – a surprise in the sense that they possess a lot of solid right handed bats. Last year versus southpaws Napoli slashed 305/399/568 in 163 PAs and in 484 career PAs he has an impressive 287/391/537 (.397 wOBA) line.
Juan Rivera is turning 34 years old and Bill James projects a pedestrian .334 wOBA for 2011 but he will provide a few quality ABs as a fourth outfield type and strengthen the bench, if he is even still with the team when camp breaks. This move will likely mean that Jose Bautista takes over full time 3B and Juan Rivera might even start in left field with Rajai Davis in centre and Travis Snider in right.
Vernon Wells is one of the best players the Blue Jays have ever produced and was classy to the end, and always provided a good sound bite or two. He was a polarizing figure amongst Jays fans since he signed his big contract in 2006 but he has seen his game decline both offensively and defensively over the past few seasons.
There was never a chance he could have lived up to that massive contract and thanks to our boy wonder GM we won’t have to witness what might be one of the most overpaid and underperforming athletes in all of sports. I am still shocked and am anticipating some sort of snag in the “physicals” or contract language, or something. Michael Jordan might catch wind of this trade and have it reneged, I don’t know, something.