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

  • Saturday, January 22, 2011 11:20 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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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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2010 Preview: Los Angeles Angels

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:20 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 97-65, 1st in AL West. Pythagorean record of 92-70.
Key Additions: SP Joel Pineiro, OF/DH Hideki Matsui, RP Fernando Rodney
Key Losses: SP John Lackey, OF/DH Vladimir Guerrero, 3B Chone Figgins, RP Darren Oliver, OF Gary Matthews Jr.
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 78-84, 4th in AL West. CHONE – 81-81, tied for 2nd. CAIRO – 80.7-81.3, 3rd.

Pitching: 2009 – 4.45 FIP (21st in MLB), 4.54 for starters, 4.27 for relievers
2010 – The Angels should be able to overcome the loss of Lackey. Piniero is unlikely to repeat his 2009 performance but still should be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter, and the team should get a boost if Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana provide full, healthy seasons. Brian Fuentes had 48 saves last season, but that doesn't make him a great closer.
Hitting: 2009 – .346 wOBA (3rd in MLB)
2010 – The big question is if Brandon Wood can fill the void left by Figgins, but the Angels also need Howie Kendrick to step up and Kendry Morales to maintain his new-found productivity. The Halos also must hope that the aging offensive core of Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Matsui holds up.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 13.3 (10th in MLB)
2010 – Hunter's defensive prowess is nowhere close to his reputation, and Abreu is a liability in right. Things look brighter in the infield, although losing Figgins hurts.

Reasons to Watch
1. Brandon Wood: It appears that the longtime top prospect will finally get a shot to hold down the everyday third base job this season. Wood, who will turn 25 in April, has struck out a third of the time in his 236 MLB plate appearances thus far, while putting up a line of .192/.222/.313. He does have tremendous power, however, as his slugging percentages of .595 and .557 the last two years in Triple-A indicate. This could be the year Wood puts things together, or it could be the year he takes a step closer to becoming the next Dallas McPherson.
2. Howie Kendrick: Kendrick has been a frustrating player to watch for Angels fans and fantasy owners alike. He has a career minor league line of .360/.403/.569, but in four big league seasons, he's been basically a league-average hitter. Injuries have certainly played a role, as last season's 400 plate appearances were a career-high. But Kendrick also just hasn't performed up to expectations, and it's possible his free-swinging style will prevent him from reaching his potential long-term. At 26, he should be about at his prime, so now is the time for Kendrick to bust out.
3. Joel Pineiro: What Pineiro accomplished last season is hard to overstate. Working with a completely revamped Dave Duncan-instilled approach, Pineiro led the majors in walks per nine innings and ground ball rate, while finishing fifth in home runs per nine innings. This was largely due to a new two-seam fastball, which got a ton of ground balls. 2009 was likely a perfect storm for Pineiro, but as long as he is able to maintain his new approach while detached from Duncan, he should continue to find success.

Paint By Numbers: On the other end of the spectrum from Pineiro, you have Jered Weaver, who finished just behind Ted Lilly for the major league lead in fly ball rate last season, at 50.4 percent. Not surprisingly, Weaver also gave up 26 home runs, but he still notched a solid 4.04 FIP. ... Catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis combined to strike out 176 times last season. But at least Napoli hit 20 homers and slugged .492. Mathis hit five long balls and slugged .308. ... To say last season was a breakout year for Kendry Morales would be putting it mildly. From 2006-08, Morales hit 13 home runs in 407 plate appearances. In 2009: 34 in 622.

Blog Jog: Angels catching prospect Hank Conger offers this Spring Training journal entry at Angelswin.com. ... Rob Neyer on Wood's potential starting job. ... Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles looks at the remaining roster questions. ... Orange County Register beat writer Bill Plunkett relays Torii Hunter's reaction to former teammate Joe Mauer's huge contract extension.

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4 Series to Mark on Your Calendar

  • Saturday, February 13, 2010 5:43 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Four more days until the first pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Therefore, it seems like a good time to look ahead to four potentially interesting series on the schedule for this season.

I didn’t include matchups between division rivals here, since those are pretty obvious and provide intrigue every year.

April 12, 14-15, Red Sox @ Twins – On the 12th, outdoor baseball will return to Minneapolis for the first time since 1981, the last year of old Metropolitan Stadium. Ever since, the Twins have been safely tucked away in the ugly but warm confines of the Metrodome. Until this season, that is. Target Field is opening its doors for this prime series against the Red Sox. These two teams figure to put on a good show, as long as they’re not frozen solid. The average temperature in Minneapolis in April is a high of 57 and a low of 36, with the record low being a balmy 2 degrees. At least all three games in this series are day games, with the first night contest taking place to start the following series against the Royals. For the sake of Twins fans, let’s hope Target Field has hot chocolate dispensers in the backs of every seat.

June 22-24, Cubs @ Mariners – This interleague series is certainly interesting on its own merits. These two teams figure to be playoff contenders, and the Cubs have visited Seattle only once before, in 2002. But these three games have another storyline as well: Milton Bradley’s first appearance against his last team. Bradley’s brief tenure in Chicago ended with him getting suspended late in the season. The veteran outfielder might have gotten some undeservedly rough treatment from fans and the media – his on-field performance wasn’t as bad as many perceived – but he never fit in a clubhouse that generally got along well. Even Ryan Dempster, a first-class act, said after Bradley’s suspension, “It became one of those things where you see him putting the blame on everybody else, and sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself and wanting to be there and wanting to play every day and wanting to have some fun. It didn't seem like he wanted to have very much fun, even from Spring Training.” There could be some serious tension here, assuming Bradley is still on the active roster at that point.

June 25-27, Yankees @ Dodgers – This will be the Bronx Bombers’ first trip to Chavez Ravine since 2004. These are two franchise with a ton of history between them, including 11 clashes in the World Series (four since the Dodgers left Brooklyn). And this series figures to come with both squads near or at the top of their respective divisions. A lot will be made of Joe Torre managing against his old club, but what’s really more interesting is what happens on the field, and this series could feature some exciting matchups. Personally I’m eager to see LA’s 22-year-old lefty strikeout machine Clayton Kershaw test his stuff against New York’s nightmare-inducing lineup, or closer Jonathan Broxton try to finish off a close game against A-Rod. Not to mention that Manny Ramirez against the Yankees tends to be entertaining.

Sept. 17-19, Angels @ Rays – Most of the series at the very end of the season are divisional matchups, as they should be, but this is one late-season interdivisional series that could have huge playoff implications. The Rays seem to be in position to stand up to the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East again, while the Angels likely will have their supremacy in the AL West challenged by at least two division competitors. Depending on how things shake out, this could even turn into a crucial battle for a wildcard berth. Plus, you have a showdown of the minds between Mike Scioscia and former bench coach Joe Maddon, now managing Tampa, and Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir potentially squaring off against his old team for the first time.

Tomorrow: 3 teams to keep an eye on