I was working under the hood much of the day so I was listening to A LOT of AM sports talk shows, XM-Sirius radio, and a little internet radio (love the IHeartRadio app).
As you can tell browsing this site (and questioning friends and fans I know), the recent Wells trade is almost universally disliked or at least highly questioned. The same can be said for the national opinion based on what I've heard and read today. Ok, the trade is done. There is nothing more we can do other than evaluate it further as time goes on.
But in listening today, many other questions were being asked.
As the old adage goes, winning cures everything. No one questions anything because you can't argue with success.
However, we found a team last season that was only consistent in being inconsistent in all aspects of play (minus a few high moments at times) despite a healthy payroll. The last two offseasons have been...well...I think I saw some new letterhead here that best sums it up.
So it's only normal that Angel fans start questioning things and it seems, so is the national media and baseball analysts.
Here is a summary of the areas I heard being questioned today and I really don't know what the answers are.
1) What is the primary reason/motivation behind this trade?
On the surface, we all want to say "to make the team better." The commentary I heard questioned why Arte would be willing to spend $24M year one and $21M for the next three seasons on a player worse than one he said it was crazy to spend $20M a year on (Crawford)? I suppose the only answer is years (7 versus 4), but it doesn't seem to sit well with most people.
Could it be lagging ticket sales and a realization that they needed to do something as they might be experiencing a larger drop-off than expected? They are advertising on a couple radio stations that they have not normally advertised ticket plans on, so this theory might have some legs.
Others have said desperation is the reason, but what did the team desperately solve, especially at the cost of now making Wells the highest paid Angel in history? One could argue there are areas that require a greater need such as 3rd base. Yes, Rivera has not turned out to be the player we had all hoped but we all know the historically low point that Wood has reached as well.
2) Why couldn't the Angels have just done Toronto a favor by offering to take Wells off their hands by taking on his full contract?
As has been mentioned here and elsewhere, Wells has a contract that was thought to be the most unloadable contract in all of sports, not just MLB. But somehow, Toronto found a way to not only unload it but also get two players in return!
The popular opinion seems to be that if you asked anyone before this deal was made how AA and Toronto would respond if a team offered to unload Wells and abosrb his entire contract, we all know what the answer would be. Especially in light of that team reorganizing, trying to lower payroll, and pushing towards a youth movement (albeit mostly because it's cheaper).
So why did it also take Naps and Rivera to make it happen? The Angels sure could have traded those two to another team and get help elsewhere.
Did Reagins offer them initially? I don't know the answer, but I can't see Toronto saying "Well, we'd like to give you Wells and his full contract but we _must_ get Naps and Rivera also." We don't even know if either will be starting for them, and they are certainly not a critical need for them. Of course, they sure don't hurt to have.
3) What happened to the younger, athletic-oriented movement that the Angels started to create which became part of their identity during the "small ball" era?
I don't know if that era is completely gone, and I do think a teams identity is formed based on the talent available at any given time. But it has become clear that Soth loves it (and seemed good at managing it), so you'd think he would try and force the acquisition of talent that best suits his play/management style. The fans certainly loved watching it.
Thankfully this offseason didn't include any East coast retreads.
I don't know the answer to any of these. If the team puts up a winning season and makes it to the playoffs, no one will care (or not very much).
But right now we have nothing else to do but mull things over until ST starts.
Do you think these are valid questions to ask or is the media just pouncing on the Angels because the offseason and this trade makes it easy to do so? If they are valid, what is your opinion of possible answers?
P.S. I saw this and while minor, it was also brought up more than once. Wells has played a total of around 1,395 games in Toronto and has never played a single playoff game. We know that some of the greatest players never had success in the postseason so hopefully if the team is lucky enough to make it, he won't require the playoff 'experience' to add great value. I think it was mentioned that only Adam Dunn exceeds this among active players.