Recently, I have noticed that those who believe this deal is the worst in Angels (if not baseball) history have stated that no sensible reasoning/justification has been provided for trading Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto for Wells. This isn't intended to re-hash the same arguments, but I want to make sure that the rationale I subscribe to is on record. It's often difficult to explain something like this in posts so I think its important that we have something on the record in favor of the trade. It's easy for emotion to cloud the ability to see past screens so maybe a singular locale for such a summary is warranted. The most important aspects to evaluating this deal, in my opinion, is:
First, this trade has to be put into context. I wholeheartedly concede that the front office had some major disappointments prior to this trade. I also concede that it wasn't their PLAN A. But it's important to understand where the team was on the day of the trade. They were in a different reality than they were before Crawford went to Boston and Beltre went to Texas. I think there is a great deal of truth to Sam Miller's "collusion of one" description. What i mean is, I don't think the Angels had any idea what they were getting themselves into when they proclaimed themselves players for this offseason, given the other players. Sure, we have money, but the Red Sox and Yankees? These guys enjoy winning the bid as much as they do the games. Arte's comments show that Werth's contract hit him like a ton of bricks. Organizationally, it seems fair to assume they colluded to not "roll like that". Unable to digest the realities that Boston could easily swallow, Crawford was gone by the time Tony arrived to winter meetings. Unlike Crawford and the table set by Werth's deal, the Angels were able to boast having made a substantial offer to Beltre coming after Oakland's modest offer. I don't know how to find threads and post their links yet, but while we were all waiting I remember contributing that if it came down to a war between small-timers (OAK-LAA), a big timer could come in and say "Well shit, I'll give him 90 million even though I'm not desperate". I specifically suggested Texas could be that team. As it turns out we didn't want to offer the extra year the Rangers were willing to offer so we lost him. Where I think the "collusion of one" is relevant is that I believe the organization was surprised that they had a real competitor for Beltre with deep pockets, were surprised at the length requested, and were surprised that the fans were as disappointed as we were, myself included. I believe(d) third base was too important of a need to play protest against the market.
NAPOLI AND THE LEADERSHIP FACTOR, IN CONTEXT
We must remember the jolt the team chemistry and leadership must have taken with Vlad, Lackey, Figgins, and Oliver leaving the team in a swoop. It's become pretty clear that someone (I assume Soscia) felt that Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera were not only not the answers to the leadership needs, but were actually cancerous in that department. Napoli's tendency for partying is well documented, even if mostly in legend, so it's reasonable to assume that since he was a leader by virtue of the position he played, his offensive statistics, and his tenure that he probably didn't inspire the best collective team work ethic. Even grown men set up cliques and if you have alot of young guys on your roster they can be crucial in deciding which way the team goes. It's also known that the organization was unimpressed with Napoli's improvement in the catcher's position in all that it entails, despite the fact that he was an offensive slugger who led the team in home runs.
I don't know what else to say about Rivera that hasn't been said except that he is a decent left fielder. I will say that I was excited he was on the team when he arrived. I actually think he got worse riding the pine those initial years, as he was a consistent .300 hitter before he arrived, though his defense is forgettable. But, like Napoli, he couldn't assist in filling the leadership role and may simply have been a bad role model on a team with emerging young talent.
A proven hitter who hit 31 home runs, over 110 rbi, and 44 doubles, Wells is a 32 year old leader known for having a sick work ethic, track record for community involvement, and being a positive clubhouse presence. We have broken down his numbers offensively and defensively, so we won't do it again here. The biggest assumption that I think is very widespread and very erroneous is the one that assumes that Toronto was going to allow the face of their franchise, their second best player, go to another team for nothing. He was placed on waivers, but that doesn't mean he was free. I am using 2010 numbers because I think they played a more significant role in the immediate decision making than his injury seasons.
So, on the day of the trade you have failed to land a "big splash", though you sincerely thought you were in a position to have done so by now. You have now learned that your market assessment has failed, that this failure is upsetting the fans and may be giving you a bad name amongst players and agents. You have two players that you are determined to get rid of and now have to protect your young talent because third base has not been resolved and you haven't improved your leadoff situation. You talked to Texas and they want Napoli in discussions about Young. You talked to Toronto and they don't want much in exchange for the salary assumption of $81m/4 years. They'll take Juan Rivera and a reliever. In a decision between Young and Wells, you decide Wells is the better player and you're not interested in parting with a reliever. You'd rather try your luck in a platoon 3rd base than to assume the salary on a non-fit whose no defensive gem. So, now you assess what you're giving up and what you're getting: You're giving up a .238/.316/.468 over 510 PA guy who had a career high 26 home runs and a decent outfielder who are both cancerous to your team, hurt the ability to coach, lack the leadership qualities, and are showing no growth in their defensive abilities. You're getting a .273/.331/.515 family man with a knack for hitting opportune doubles (44) and has great clubhouse leadership. He can play the field and he can DH if need be. Without question, you've improved your outfield offensively. Should you decide to go with Bourjos in center, you need offensive insurance out there. Now, there's the money. With four years at 81 million, you're taking in approx. 20 million per year for 4 years. With Napoli and Rivera's salaries you're shedding 11.3 million this year. In the short term, you got Wells for about 9 million this year if you include savings from those players. If you only count this year, that comes to 4 years/68 million or $17 million annum. Certainly when you are deciding whether or not to do this trade, you have to consider that you might have to keep Napoli for those four years. If he hits the 35 home runs Sam Miller predicts in 2011, he will be making a minimum of $2o million in the not-so-far future. If he simply stayed with the Angels (instead of Wells coming) he would at minimum have to assume arbitration would get him the same $5.8 this year and me may get a raise the next 3 if he matched his 26 HR inn Anaheim. At minimum (very minimum), you'll be paying Napoli roughly 24 million over 4 years, and someone to replace Rivera. It makes no sense to evaluate the trade of the three players over four years and not calculate four years for Rivera and Napoli.
Thus, the decision calculous, given the context, asks is it worth it to pay 17 million per year for all that Wells brings and simultaneously get rid of Napoli, Rivera, and all that they bring. If Vernon Wells was a free agent in an offseason after his 2010 season, given Werths, Crawford's, and Beltre's contracts this might seem like a discount, if not about right. You're basically getting him for about what Beltre was offered by Oakland. Finally, the years MATTER. A commitment of, say, 142 million over 7 years is monstrous compared to 86 million over 4 years. In business, they are not even remotely the same even if they average out. One is a near decade long weight that you carry over the course of a constantly evolving league and economy. Rare should be the player who warrants a seven year deal.
After being naive and mishandling the early offseason, the Angels adjusted to the market realities that $20 million had become a new reality in MLB, realized they couldn't start the season without a full-time offensive improvement and that they had a separate goal of ridding bad seeds, combined the two objectives in an unofficial three-team deal for $17 million annually real money. Feeling that didn't hurt their financial flexibility they may have also considered that having a better team, team chemistry and success were bigger factors in re-signing Morales, Weaver, and attracting free agents. The front office claims that besides this contract they are still shopping and looking and have started to negotiate with Weaver. If they improved the club and are able to afford to maintain their core, then we may be in better shape than previously imagined.
It makes sense to me. In context, that is.