Vernon Wells Trade Shows That For Some Teams, It's 'Mo Money, Mo Problems'

  • Saturday, January 22, 2011 4:20 PM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon


To switch musical gears and quote The Beatles, money can't buy you love.

But a lot of it can buy you a mediocre, past-his-prime outfielder with four years left on his albatross contract.

Unlike an attempt to purchase "love," however, swapping a lot of currency for the services of a vastly overpaid player is not illegal. Angels fans probably wish it were, though.

On Friday, the Halos traded two useful pieces -- Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli -- to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells and the $86 million left on his contract. For Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, it was a brilliant move to get out from the under the mistakes of his predecessor. For Angels GM Tony Reagins, it was a deal that reeked of desperation after his team failed to sign free agents like Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.

Whatever the Angels' reasoning for the trade, it was an example of the downside of having a big budget. We've seen this in the past with the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs and other major market clubs that spent money because they could and with the discretion of a drunk.

The Yankees eventually figured out how to make it rain in a somewhat more sensible fashion and are the better for it. The Red Sox have become a power because they are as shrewd as they are rich.

A fool and his money are soon parted, but that's assuming said fool has money in the first place. If the Angels had the payroll of AL West rival Oakland, they wouldn't have acquired Wells because they couldn't have.

Minimal resources don't always engender creativity and brilliance -- just ask Pirates fans. But they can have that effect. We saw it with the A's when Billy Beane took over and we've been seeing it the past few years with the Rays. In fact, the same day the Angels saddled themselves with Wells, the Rays adroitly picked up Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon on one-year deals worth a combined $7.25 million.

Given the choice, I think any fans would prefer their team have as much money to spend as possible, and that's sensible. But fans also should hope their team's front office takes some other Beatles lyrics to heart.

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody ...

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3 Takes

I couldn't disagree more. Past his prime? Wells literally just turned 32 and will still be 35 when this contract is up. He is coming off an All_Star year where he hit 31HRs and 44 doubles, while playing Gold Glove caliber defense. His previous two down years he was playing injured, had wrist surgery, and is now healthy. As for Napoli and Rivera... Rivera has zero range in the outfield, very poor. His entire career has been a disappointment. Never runs out ground balls. Napoli can't hit the fastball and is an atrocious defender unable to throw out runners. He only hit 180 with runners in scoring position. Struck out out over 130 times. Hit 238 overall. The Angels dumped what will be over 11 million in their salaries. Bottom line is that the Angels are a better team with Wells, much better, and they are not through. They'll either add Podsednik or Vlad, making their lineup very deep.
Andrew Simon
I appreciate your opinion, Marty, but some counterpoints. 1. Studies have shown players peak around age 29, with a general prime of 26-32, so Wells at best is about at the end of his prime. 2. Wells was solid (but not great) with the bat in '10 and '08 but well below average in '09 and '07. If that's largely because of injuries, that's a bad sign for a 32-year-old outfielder. 3. Advanced defensive metrics show Wells has been a well below average OF the last three years. 4. Napoli has a higher career OPS than Wells. With him gone, the Angels have a hole at catcher. Jeff Mathis can't hit at all, and Hank Conger is unproven. 5. Overall Wells is a decent enough player, but his contract pays him like a superstar.
Ken L
Vlad had a banner year playing DH for the Rangers and he was 35. Vernon Wells will have a MVP 2011, that all the fans in the catbird seat will be eatin' crow!!!