While the Rays were busy securing their offense, the Toronto Blue Jays were busy freeing budgetary shackles. On Friday night, the Jays sent outfielder Vernon Wells and $5 million in cash to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. In the process, Toronto changed their outlook in a way that does not favor the Rays.
Wells’ contract is legendarily bad. The Angels will pay him $81 million over the next four seasons, with the Jays’ $5 million covering the rest. Paying a four-to-five win player those wages is acceptable, albeit market value, but paying a player with 5.5 wins over the last three seasons (and 7 over the last four seasons) is nothing shy of wasteful. Wells is already on the wrong side of 30 and the Angels actually gave up value too.
Lest everyone forget that Alex Anthopolous landed two useful players. It’s not too outlandish to describe Napoli as the best hitter in the deal and Rivera as (offensively at least) a poor man’s Wells. Check the lines over the last three seasons before shaking the superlatives off:
Remember, Toronto is a hitters park and a Canadian point of OBP is worth like half of an American point. So Rivera’s on-base percentage fits right in while Napoli’s is looking Bondsian. Not to mention that it pushes Adam Lind, Travis Snider, and the catching tandem (J.P. Arenciba and Jose Molina) to positions of lesser importance on their ball club, thereby improving the starting lineup and bench alike.
Anthopoulos spent most of his offseason refreshing the Rays’ page on MLB Trade Rumors to learn of his next move and snatching up free agent compensation picks. Naturally, the Napoli move came hours after reports broke linking the Rays to the former Angels’ backstop. That Anthopoulos wound up moving the Wells’ deal without paying 99% of the remaining value is a win within itself, that he also recovered two players of value is just icing on the cake.
To review: Anthopoulos has done well to take away potentially undervalued players on the free agent market who fit the Rays’ price range while also throwing a soul-crushing contract onto the Angels, adding draft picks, and relieving his future budgets in the process. As such, it may be time to introduce a new TPR series: Dracula or Anthopoulos? That’s an impressive front office up in Toronto, because of them, the idea of a Rays-Jays ALCS might be overzealous, but less so than it used to be.