By “they”, I mean the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yesterday, the Angels finally made a move to strengthen their lineup. The Angels sent (C/1B) Mike Napoli and (OF) Juan Rivera to Toronto in exchange for (OF) Vernon Wells. I don’t like this deal for the Angels in terms of talent exchanged, and when you look at the financial side of the deal I really had to scratch my head.
Napoli is eligible for arbitration for the first time and was asking for 6.1 million while the Angels were only willing to go 5.3. Usually when sides are off by this little a middle ground is reached and life goes on. Napoli has hit 20+ homers per season over last 3 years which is a rarity for catchers now a days. The Angels are chalk full with catchers in the minors and must feel comfortable with current catcher Jeff Mathis who’s a whiz with the glove. I will point out Mathis is a huge liability at the plate seeing how his best stat line in a single season is .211/.287/.308 coming in 2009. Juan Rivera has been nothing spectacular in recent years and his defense has been a liability. While he did have a solid 2009 I can understand why the Angels were ready for an upgrade in the outfield. Rivera is due just under 5 million in his final year of a 3 year contract in 2011. Vernon Wells on the other hand signed a mega deal in Toronto back in 2006 (7 yrs/126mill), which has 86 million over 4 years left on the contract. His contract was considered to be the most unmovable in baseball, and the fact the Jays got his hefty salary off the books is truly amazing. Last year he did appear to be back to his old all star self (.273/331/515/31HR). He was nothing short of a disappointment in the 3 years prior.
The most eye-opening thing about this deal is the money the Jays save. When I first saw the headline I wondered how much of the Wells contract the Jays would eat in order to make this move happen. When I read they were only sending 5 million the Angels way to help pay for the rest of the 86 million he is owed, I was astonished. Which leads me to the question of what were the Angels thinking? I’m obviously not a GM, but this deal makes absolutely no sense. The Angels pretty much said sure Toronto we’ll help you take a sizeable debt off your hands so you can finally compete in the east. It has also been said the Angels will be heavy suitors for Prince Fielder’s/or Albert Pujols’ (if he is not extended) services next offseason, so wouldn’t a move like this hamstring them quite a bit? The silver lining I take from this must be the Angels are betting Wells will play at a much higher level then Rivera and it will give them the opportunity to let their young prospects get a chance at some playing time. In the end, I think the Angels got desperate after watching their AL West counterparts make major moves to improve their respective teams this offseason and the Angels felt something had to be done to keep up. I know the local media and fans of Anaheim were disappointed after missing out on the likes of free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre after being said to be the favorites on landing them, but I’m not sure this was the right move. Only time will tell.
Toronto, I commend you on this trade rape, and I hope Napoli and Rivera combine for over 50 HR’s next season. That’s my two cents.