Friday, January 21, 2011
If you can see Alex Anthopoulos, he can see you. If you can't see Alexi, you may be only moments from a surprise blockbuster deal.
Is it too late to get our NinjaGM in the 2011 Hall of Fame class?
Yes, you know by now: Vernon Wells was traded to the Angels for C/1B Mike Napoli and OF Juan Rivera, what you may not have known is - that's it! No prospects included, no "cash considerations," no nothing. The Jays just shaved anywhere from $11.65 to $12.45 mil million off this year's payroll and $21 million apiece off each of the next three (Rivera is a free agent after 2011, and Napoli will be arbitration eligible for one more season before free agency after the 2012 season). That puts the current pay projection at a low of $60.966 (per my previous estimations) and a high of $61.766. There may well yet be a signing (Eric Chavez?) but the big money free agents are gone now.
(Damon and Ramirez both went to the Rays tonight as well - that leaves Vlad Guerrero as possibly the most expensive guy left and he wouldn't be more than $2-3 mil)
That's not to say this is our roster, there are other considerations.
For starters, at first blush Mike Napoli has the potential to make Edwin Encarnacion superfluous. It's true that the jays could, in theory, let Napoli (who CRUSHES LHP) platoon with Lind at 1B (which would be about 25% of games) and start a time or two a week behind the plate and DH a bit but that would still only get him to about 2/3 of the Jays games and that seems a waste. But closer examination reveals that Napoli struggled greatly against RHP in 2010. Over the course of the last three years his production against righties has steadily declined. So perhaps the Jays see him as playing that platoon role here. But if they see him as a full time hitter, then Encarnacion would be the big loser.
In theory, either player might now be flipped in another deal.
Rivera, too, while he has a more clearly defined role, could potentially be flipped. Also worth considering here is that he stands to be worth a draft pick if the Jays offer (and he declines) after the coming season.
It goes without saying that Raji Davis now becomes the starting CF and lead-off man. Jose Bautista is much more likely to start in RF (though if the Jays do come up dry on a 3B, Rivera isn't a completely uninteresting option on an OF corner).
I'm still assuming Chavez is likely to be signed soon. And most people feel it's more likely the Jays extend Bautista now but I still don't think it makes them willing to go beyond 3 years or Bautista any more inclined to settle for only three.
And if you want every last detail, Rommie Lewis was DFA'd to make room on the 40 man roster. I know you're crushed.
One bit of trivia - from the date the jays signed that unfortunate contract until today, the Toronto Blue Jays paid Vernon Wells $45.6 million for 4 seasons, for an average of $11.4 mil per season.
All the foregoing said, there's two points that need making: For years the consensus opinion, near universal, was that this deal was "untradeable." You would think people would learn not to speak in such absolutes. Now many of the same people are saying there is "no way" Vernon will opt out. Perhaps the crow isn't so bad and they are willing to risk another helping? To be clear, I think it is still unlikely he will but since this is mostly my last need to analyze it let me explain.
If Wells and/or his agent think that he can get a longer deal than three years, at a high enough AAV that the total is more than $63 million, then they might see the profit in it. it's not necessary that they be RIGHT about that, only that they THINK it's possible. That almost surely takes a five year deal and yes, you have to be pretty confident to assume you can land one of those at 33. But players have been known to make such mistakes before. Another facotr here is that the emotional bond between Wells and the jays is no longer a part of the equation.
A second possible source of such a choice is a potential desire to return to Texas. Would Wells give up, say, 10-13 million in order to spend the last five years of his career with the hometown team (and playing alongside his best friend in baseball)? If he thinks the rangers would give him, say, $12.5 a year for 4 years, or $11 a year for 5, he just might. don't believe it? Ask Cliff Lee. Ask Roy Halladay. Ask Gil Meache.
The other thing I wanted to say is this: Wells gets a lot of grief for things that are largely out of his control. The deal isn't his fault, and the injuries aren't his fault. Could he have, I dunno, popped up less? Sure, whatever. but he was one of the best human beings in the game, a constant ambassador for the Jays and for the sport, and in the front ranks of charitable contributions. The jays do lose something in this deal - they lose the example that Wells could have provided day in and day out about the sort of role model a professional athlete should be. That deserves our respect and our appreciation.