Monday, October 03, 2011

The Vernon Wells Trade

It’s not often that one transaction is said to cost a general manager his job but in the case of Angels GM Tony Reagins it is said that this is exactly the case. Reagins thought the Angels were one good outfielder away from making the playoffs and in the off-season, he came together with two other teams to acquire exactly that in Vernon Wells. The outfielder was once a 5th overall pick in 1997 and had manned centre field for the Toronto Blue Jays since 2002. In 2003, he finished 8th in MVP voting and won a silver slugger. The next season he won his first of 3 straight Gold Gloves, however he had not given the Jays above replacement level defense in 3 years according to the dWar stat. He was coming off an All-Star season of 30 home runs and an OPS of .847 but even though there was no clear replacement at his position the Jays were willing to deal him because of the 4 years left on his contract at $21 million or more per season (of which the Jays paid $5 million for the first season).

In the end, Reagins traded two players catcher Mike Napoli (flipped for Frank Francisco making this a 3 way trade) and outfielder Juan Rivera. The Jays essentially dumped his contract, receiving about Replacement Level performance from the combination of Rivera and Francisco (however they may keep Francisco or add a compensatory draft pick after this season).

In sports and in the bedroom, it is always important in a three-way to make sure that all parties end up satisfied with the outcome. In this case, it is pretty obvious that the Angels did not end up being satisfied. Looking at the short term, they shipped out two players making $11 million and received $5 million in cash from the Blue Jays, therefore Vernon Wells’ salary difference was of only $7 million for the 2011 season. Just like renting a movie starring Jennifer Aniston instead of seeing it in theatres, It was still an overpayment…Vernon Wells, spent the majority of his time in LF, a defensive position with less value than his usual home of CF, had an OBP of .248, a SLG of .412 (An OPS of .660 for those scoring at home) and a batter VORP 4.0 (tied for 306th in the league). He still had 25 home runs, a category in which he ranked 2nd for the Angels. Juan Rivera, dumped in favour of Wells, actually had a higher OPS during his time with the Jays (before being again dumped, this time to the Dodgers), .666, and had a VORP of 4.7. When looking at Wins Above Replacement, Rivera made the Jays 1.2 wins worse during the 2011 season while Wells only made the Angels -0.3 wins worse. Was it worth the $7 million to add the .9 wins to their lineup? Well, was the switch worth the 5 dollars you spent at Blockbuster….errr…the local video store?

But wait! The Rangers also gave up another player in this trade…Mike Napoli! He was seen by the Angels as a sub-par defensive catcher (negative dWar value in three straight years) however the Rangers still had him start 57 games there along with 45 games between first base and designated hitter. Napoli rewarded them by hitting 30 home runs (the type of power that Wells was expected to bring to the Angels lineup) and showing increased patience at the plate for an OBP of .414. His OPS was of 1.046 which would have placed him second in the American League if he had enough at bats to qualify and he added over 5 wins to the Rangers lineup. The defensively sound Jeff Mathis had the majority of at bats at catcher for Anaheim and had an OPS of .484…which makes Wells look like a stud in comparison. If you’re looking for him on the VORP leaderboard, scroll down…lower…lower…did you get to Adam Dunn yet? Yes? Ok just a bit higher…there he is resting at 1154 of 1173 with a VORP of negative 7.6…his Wins Above Replacement showed with a decent value of only costing the Angels 0.3 games The rookie Hank Conger who was seen as the reason Napoli was no longer needed was not much better with an OPS of .638 and VORP of 5.6 and a WAR of 0.3. Bobby Wilson also took at bats at catcher for the Angels, and was equally unimpressive with a WAR of 0.1.

Why did Tony Reagins “resign”? Well in this trade, he gave up almost 5 wins while adding $7 million in salary for the 2011 season. He also added $69 million in future salaries…however it is important to note that his team did finish 10 wins above .500 and 2nd in their division. The Rangers ended up the big winner with a player who added over 5 wins to their lineup above replacement level while the Jays essentially gave up Wells in exchange for freeing themselves of over $76 million in player commitment. Some of that saved money went into a long-term contract for Jose Bautista but the Jays will have to hope for a better performance in centre field from Colby Rasmus or a newcomer if they hope to contend and forget about their long-time centre fielder. In the end, this was seen as the trade of the year by one general manager, Alex Anthopoulous, and he wasn’t even the one who added the most wins in 2011 in this transaction.

1 comment:

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