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.

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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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.