The AL East Is Just Ridiculous

Mike Napoli was worth almost 3 wins in each of the past three seasons, and if he could get 130+ games at catcher in Toronto (LAA notoriously kept him out of the lineup in favor of Jeff Mathis), he could easily be worth 4. If the Blue Jays move him to first, his All-Star bat becomes below-average while also being bad defensively, and while his defense behind the plate isn’t good, his bat is so much more valuable relative to the others at his position that it doesn’t even get close to mattering. Juan Rivera isn’t much, but he should give the Blue Jays 1.5-2 wins next season. If he sees his offense jump while moving to the Rogers Centre, he could be trade bait by July. Actually, both players are likely to be trade bait, and even if they fail, the Blue Jays saved $6-7 million dollars for the opportunity. Hell, with the money saved, could they be in on Albert Pujols? Napoli potentially blocks JP Arencibia, but given the Blue Jays position on the competition cycle, they should keep Arencibia in AAA a little longer and gain another year of control. In the outfield, the Jays could use a corner outfielder, and this means Rajai Davis moves to CF, where he should do much better than his UZR suggested last season. Extraordinary move for the Jays.

The Angels got jobbed. It’s not that Vernon Wells is a bad player. He was worth 4 wins last season, but he probably won’t repeat his power surge due to regression and a move to a pitcher’s park. More likely, he’s a 3-win player if he stays in CF, but if he moves to a corner, he’s worth less. Strictly looking at the exchange in talent, the Angels probably lost at least 2 wins in the exchange, but that isn’t the worst part. The worst part is the inexcusable disregard for the team’s payroll. Napoli and Rivera are free-agents next season, but Wells puts the team on the hook for $86 million dollars over the next four seasons and they lost production. Making this worse, the Angels will give the catching job to Jeff Mathis (yes, Hank Conger is a nice prospect, but if the Angels refused to play Napoli, Conger isn’t going to play as the two are essentially mirror images) who has cost the team wins in 3 of the past five seasons. He’s awful offensively, and he might be worse than Napoli defensively. In addition (yes, there’s more), the Angels might put Torii Hunter or Wells in CF instead of glove extraordinaire Peter Bourjos, but if the Angels move Wells and Hunter to the corners and Bobby Abreu to DH, it makes me feel marginally better. All this trade did was add a big name (who is a big name because of his albatross of a contract, not his talent), and it wasn’t a good one. If Reagins hoped this would satisfy the fanbase, he was sorely mistaken. And unfortunately, that’s the only reason this deal approaches a negligible iota of sense.

Tampa Bay Signs Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez

Another good move by an AL East rival. Manny Ramirez is a headache and can’t play defense anymore (if he ever could), but he can still rake. A .298/.408/.460 line helped Manny add 1.6 wins to the Dodgers total in 90 games, and stationed at DH, he should be able to play 40+ more games, more than off-setting the 5 runs lost in the positional adjustment. At $2 million, Ramirez should be a steal, bringing in $10-15 million worth of production. About the headache thing, he could be a nuisance, but as long as the Rays play him and are in contention (which should happen), Manny won’t have too much of a reason to complain. If he does, the Rays can dump him with only $2 million on their conscience.

I’m not as enthused about Johnny Damon. He should only be used at DH, and by no means should he take away ABs from Manny, which would bring up the above problem. The common belief is that he’ll be in LF come April, but Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings need to be manning the corners, especially defensively for the sanity of the rotation and bullpen. Last season, Damon was worth about 2 wins while playing LF in 33 games, and I wouldn’t expect more even if he hobbled out there for 130. His bat is only barely above average (.340 wOBA), and I don’t know that he could make it in the OF. Instead, the Rays should move him to first, which would save his legs, and DH him when there’s a tough RHP on the mound, which would give Manny a break. They can throw Damon in the outfield if one of the younger guys need a day off.


Both AL East rivals made excellent moves last night. The Blue Jays rid themselves of an awful contract while adding talent and possible trade bait to gain even more cheap labor. The Rays added 3-5 wins for half the price. The collective intelligence of AL East GMs is just amazing, and last night was further evidence of such. As for the Angels and Reagins, it was another step in an off-season that has gone horribly wrong, and instead of simply riding it out, they made a reaction move that did what reaction moves do best–make things worse. Unfortunately as horrible reaction moves go, this one was one of the worst. And to think they were finally getting rid of Gary Matthews Jr.’s contract after the season.

25 thoughts on “The AL East Is Just Ridiculous

  1. You're right. There's no way to describe how epically bad this trade is for the Angels. Still, I think you might be a little high on Vernon Wells's value. Yes, Wells was worth 4 WAR last season, but he was worth a combined total of 3.0 in the three seasons prior–including a spectacular 0.0 WAR in 2009. I see him regressing back to the 1.5 WAR player we saw in 2007 and 2008 even with a position change. He's just not that good of a player. He doesn't hit for average, get on base, or play average defense. The only thing he does well is hit for power, and that was a function of the homer happy environment at Rogers Centre, which you mentioned. This has Gary Matthews, Jr. times three written all over it.

    • I was trying not to be completely pessimistic. You're probably right about the value. But it doesn't matter if he's worth 1 win or 3. This deal just doesn't make sense unless he's worth 5-6, and no one could do the mental gymnastics to make him so.

      • No doubt. Sky Kalkman posted on Twitter that Wells would have to accumulate 17 WAR over the next four seasons (assuming the average cost of a win remains static at $5M) in order to provide enough value to be worthwhile to the Angels. Dave Cameron replied to him saying that there were 23 position players that have produced 17 WAR over the past four seasons–the worst of which is Curtis Granderson. So yeah, it doesn't look good.

      • Damon still had OBP value last year and was zapped of his power by comerica park. He should be better than a .340 wOBA he posted last year.

  2. 4 years, 86 million left on the Wells deal? It's amazing that Alex Anthopoulos was able to move that deal.

    Also remember that the Jays were able to move the huge Rios' contract a couple years ago as well, that's really amazing.

    • At least Rios is a 3.5-4 win player. He had a devastating 2009, but he's been pretty darn good otherwise. Wells is half the player being paid double his superior. Blue Jays didn't get anything for Rios who had some worth, but they got two decent players for Wells. This continues to make no sense.

      • Well yah, clearly this deal was even better. But what I was trying to hunt at was how the Jays have been able to m ove two huge contracts in the span of what, two years now?

        Rios may have been a "3.5-4" win player, but at the price he was being paid he was clearly not in the Jays future plans of getting younger and cheaper. Two great moves in my opinion, even if the Rios deal didn't bring anything back in return.

        • "even if the Rios deal didn't bring anything back in return"

          Anything in return? Besides GOBS of payroll flexibility that can be used towards the draft AND the major league roster, you mean, right? Because that's the BEST thing the Jays could ask for.

          The Jays are becoming the Rays, Part II

          • I meant players. Clearly the upside of having payroll flexibility is worth just giving away a player with Rios' talent to a franchise like the Jays.

          • If they had waited a little, they could have gotten the flexibility and some prospects. $12 MM per for the next 4 seasons isn't that bad. TOR freaked a little too early there, and there were definitely indications that he'd bounce back. It wasn't an awful deal because they didn't necessarily know he was going to bounce back, but it wasn't a great deal, though probably closer to great than awful.

            And yes, Rays Part Deux. Scary good AL East.

          • Whether you think they pulled the trigger a little too soon on the Rios deal, the fact remains that they have been able to dump 2 huge contracts giving them payroll flexibility and on the whole have gotten younger in general the last several years.

            Remember about 3-4 years ago when the Jays made several FA acquisitions and ESPN hyped that they would finally compete with the Yanks and Sox atop the AL East? Well obviously that formula didn't work amazingly. But in the last several years they have been able to dump a bunch of big contracts and have got a lot younger and in my opinion a lot scarier. Just like you said, a similar formula to what the Rays have done, especially in the Jays pitching staff which I think should be getting better and better over the next several years.

  3. This was a good point that I saw elsewhere — either Fangraphs or HH — that slotting Abreu for DH time is potentially a bad move in general because it gives him a better, almost guaranteed, chance to reach the 443 PA necessary to have his overpaying option for next year vest. Just packs on the "this is a hilariously bad move" angle.

    • Eh, he's been extremely durable throughout his career (no fewer than 151 games since 1997), and there was a good chance he would have done so anyway. True, it does make it easier for him, but I also think they may have moved him to DH anyway given Bourjos, Hunter, and Rivera in the outfield. But yeah, another thing to add on. Geez, what a bad move.

  4. I still can't believe that Reagins took 100% of the Wells' contract AND actually sent two guys of *some* value back in return. Sure, Reagins probably looked at it as dumping some salary in return for taking on Wells, but lordy, this is terrible.

    During the Cliff Lee saga, I wrote how it only takes one, one maverick, crazy, stressed out GM/owner to make something bizarre happen. Not sure if this was Reagins or if his hand was pushed by Moreno, Steinbrenner/Cashman style (in Le Affair du Soriano).

    No matter what, crazy happens.

    • For Reagins' sake, I hope it owner-motivated. After a savvy Dan Haren trade, I find it hard to believe he would do something so stupid. Regardless, I would have loved to have been in the room when this went down (for both teams). In LA, someone had to realize this was catastrophically bad, and I can only wonder how they felt–powerless to stop the move. In TOR, they had to be doing cartwheels and praying that LA would continue their delusional states until the deal was official.

    • There was a report that the Angels were getting $5 million. Also, they are shedding $11 million with Napoli and Rivera, neither of whom figured into the Angels plan. Taking that into consideration, the cost of Wells is really $70 million over 4 years. That's still too much, but if Wells plays like he did last year (and 2006 and 2008), he could come close to make the deal palatable.

      I wouldn't call it a good deal, but it's really not a disaster for a team like the Angels that has money to spend and no alternatives.

      • Sure the Angels can handle it, but how is that a reason to make this deal? Should the Yankees have given Pavano $70 MM over 4 years just because they could? It wouldn't have been a good deal, but it wouldn't have been a disaster for a team like the Yankees that has the money to spend and no alternatives. I guess it's not a complete disaster, but there's really no way to make this deal even seem like it was a positive for the Angels. The idea of a trade is to exchange equal goods. The Angels gave away more talent and took on more money. Even worse, no other team would have even come close to making this deal. This deal was so far and away from any other offer imaginable that it's almost unfathomable. When making deals, you have to ensure that you're at least getting an equal return, and you also have to make sure you aren't overpaying given the current situation. The Angels failed miserably on both fronts. Just because it isn't the worst deal imaginable does not make it tolerable.

        • The Pavano comp is a red herring because of his injury history, past experience with the team and being a 35 year old pitcher.

          Back to Wells…the Angels can afford to a risk, and presumably what they are banking on is Wells being the 4 WAR/$16 million player he was in 2010 (and that includes a deduction for defense that Angels' scouts might contradict). In other words, the 2010 Wells is probably worth a 4-year/$70 million contract, and you can definitely make the argument that he is a safer risk than the longer-term deals given to Werth and Crawford.

          Who says the idea of a trade is to "exchange equal goods"? Even if true, that's a relative statement. Furthermore, Rivera and Napoli do not represent "more talent" by most objective analysis, so the argument doesn't even apply.

          Finally, what does it matter what other teams might do? What matters is what the Angels might do? Just because other teams either don't need a CF'er or can't afford an expensive risk doesn't mean the deal must be bad.

        • It seems like everyone has branded Wells an awful ballplayer because he once had an awful contract. Not only has Wells rebounded, but his contract is now no longer the worst in the game (especially when you consider the Angels discount). It's very EASY to see this deal working out for Anaheim if Wells plays like he has in even years since 2006. It's still a risk, and perhaps one with more downside than upside, but to suggest that the deal is miserable and the Angels making it unfathomable strikes me as exaggeration based on a past perception, and not supported by any objective analysis.

          • Strongly disagree. Wells has to go above and beyond because this trade also included giving the starting catching role to Jeff Mathis. It's not easy to see this working out for the Angels at all. It's really quite difficult given than Wells is on the downside of his career, and hasn't played well away from the hitting-friendly confines of Rogers Centre since the other side of 30.

          • Jeff Mathis simply wasn't going to play in Anaheim. Sciosca has never liked his defense behind the plate, Morales will be back and there is talk of shifting Abreu to DH. Whether that's right or wrong is another issue, but as things were the Angels were going to be paying Napoli $6mn to be a bench-type player. I am definitely not suggesting Wells is going to live up to the final four years, but in order to do so, all he has to do is play like he did last year? Likely? Probably not? Unfathomable? Defnitely not.

          • I'm pretty sure that I mentioned that Wells was, in fact, a decent ballplayer. I have nothing against him. And it depends on what you mean by rebound. He has been worth more than 1.5 WAR in only 1 of the last 4 seasons, and while that is partly because of an injury (2008) and some fluky BABiP (2007), he isn't really much more than a 2-3 win player. He had a good year last year because his ISO rebounded, but given that he's never sustained anything like that and is moving to a pitcher's park, he isn't likely to repeat last season's numbers. And if he moves to a corner, his position adjustment will further take away from his value.

            On the flip side, Napoli has been worth almost 3 wins in each of the last three seasons, and his playing time has always been held down because Scioscia never really liked him. If he plays catcher for 130 games, he should be better than Wells all by himself while being significantly cheaper.

            I appreciate you trying to defend Wells and the Angels. I really do because I know there are people who think Wells is awful. He's not, but he's not the 2006 version anymore, either.

            As for the team part of it, the idea behind a trade is to exchange equal value. They can be different kinds of value (established vets for prospects, for example), but the idea is to trade something you don't need for something you do. It needs to be equal because neither side is going to make a deal that's bad for them. They should negotiate until it's pretty much equal. As for the situation, the Angels could have simply offered to take Wells off the Blue Jays' hands, and I'm sure they would have done it. Heck, the Angels could have asked for something in addition to Wells (though nothing major) and simply given up a minor prospect (really minor). How does it make sense to completely overpay? Why pay more than you have to? Why pay $10 for milk when you could just pay $3?

          • As for trades, the goal is to make your team better, and that always doesn't involve equal value or getting rid of something you don't need. We really don't know what the Blue Jays and Angels discussed. Maybe the deal was initially Rivera for Wells, and the Angels offered Napoli for the $5 million? I don't know the details of the conversations, so I am not comfortable making confident assumptions.

            What I do know is the Angels' have committed to a net of $17 million over the next four years for a player that has a small chance of living up to that potential. Although that might not be a great risk, it isn't as bad as has been described, and if the money isn't a concern, may have been the best gamble available.

  5. As mentioned above, regardless of what we think of Napoli, he wasn't likely to play, so a GM can either force his manager's hand or make a trade. Napoli's playing time is a Sciosca issue, not a Reagins one. Also, WAR is king of tricky for catchers because the defensive component is much too unreliable. Another thing to consider is Napoli's offensive production dipped with everyday playing time, something not uncommon when platoon guys take on a larger role. Not only is Napoli questionable as an everyday catcher with the glove, but his hitting could suffer if forced to both face righties regularly and catch a full workload.