breaking news

All Vernon Wells

January 22nd, 2011 | by torontosportsmedia

Been a while since I had a sports story to cover… So here I go:

Leading off the pack is Richard Griffin:

“What a great deal this is for the Jays.

The late-Friday trade of centre fielder Vernon Wells to the Angels, pending an Anaheim physical, may end up being the best trade in sophomore GM Alex Anthopoulos’s short history.

Whatever amount the team may have to pay as Wells’ compensation will be worth it.”

Griffin went on Twitter last night and I am pretty sure proclaimed this one of the best trades in Toronto Sports history.

You read stuff like that from Griffin and you have to think that perhaps it is a little bit personal.

“While Wells is surely a wonderful human being — running a charitable foundation in Texas, and helping to build homes for needy families — he’s not exactly what the Jays need in terms of clubhouse presence.

His sincere style doesn’t fit with the team that the Jays want to be over the short term.

As the club looks to move forward, they couldn’t afford a supposed on-field leader who has issues with his own performance.”

Clearly it isn’t personal with Griffin. That’s good to see.

Robert Macleod covered the story for the Globe and Mail:

“For Anthopoulos to be able to move Wells and his hefty contract to another team for a player like Napoli, who will be a nice fit behind the plate until 25-year-old J.P. Arencibia has proven he can take over the role full-time, has to be considered a coup. ”

Macleod has some good quotes in a second story he wrote, catching up with some of the “players” in the deal:

“Vernon Wells is a very good player,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s a plus defender, 30-home run centrefielder, which is a very valuable player to have on a four-year contract.

“So it made a lot of sense on both sides.”

Jeremy Sandler covered the story for the National Post:

“Mixed emotions ruled the day for both player and team in the wake of Friday’s huge trade that saw Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos send outfielder Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels.

Toronto did not pick up any of the US$86-million owed to Wells over the next four seasons in the deal that brought catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays.

“First I’d like to thank Vernon Wells for all his years with the Toronto Blue Jays,” Anthopoulos said on a conference call to discuss the trade that he said began with the team approaching the player. “I know he was very sentimental when he spoke about this.”

Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun seems to the lone writer who doesn’t view this deal with sheer euphoria:

“Yes, the Jays are out from under a millstone of a contract that was going to hamper their attempts to re-build for years to come. Sending Wells to Anaheim was a salary dump, to be sure, and one that will allow Anthopoulos to spread wealth around the diamond instead of piling it up in centre field.”

It is funny how perspective changes from year to year. The Jays have said that they have all the money they need to compete. They unload a huge deal and few talk about the shedding of money as a salary dump. I am not saying Fidlin is right or wrong, but at the very least he appears to be calling the proverbial spade a spade.

“This is all good for the long-term outlook for the franchise, but it can’t be considered anything but an immediate step backward. Wells, for all the criticism he has borne since he signed that monster $126-million deal after the 2006 season, remained the face of the franchise and a class act in most every way.

A productive bat has been removed from the middle of the order and, as much as people have been picking at Wells’ defence, he was still good enough to make an all-star team in 2010, providing veteran leadership in the locker room. The contract was a mistake, a huge overpay as it turned out, but that can’t take away from the contributions he made on and off the field and in the community.”

Clearly the most “negative” tone on the deal I’ve seen. Again, that’s not to say it isn’t accurate.

Mike Rutsey, also of the Sun focused on Vernon’s previous admission that, perhaps he won the lottery a few years back:

“Everybody would say I’m not worth the money and I would totally agree that I’m not worth that contract,” Wells said last year.”

Rutsey also has an eye on the future:

“So is this team better with Wells gone?

We’d have to say ‘no’ until we can figure out who will play centre field. They have no sure fire candidate in the system ready to take over, but veterans Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson have been added in the off-season. Anthony Gose is the apple of general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ eye, but he’s viewed as a long-term project, another two to three years away.”

Mike DiGiovanna covered the story for the LA Times:

“The number of years was attractive,” Reagins said of Wells, who turned 32 on Dec. 8. “We’re getting him at a young 32. His contract expires when he’s 35.”

The deal was extremely attractive to the rebuilding Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos, who was looking to free up money to sign slugger Jose Bautista to a multiyear deal.

“The biggest component was the financial implications,” Anthopoulos said. “It made a lot of sense for us.”

BILL PLUNKETT covers the Angels for the Orange County Register:

“The fiscal restraint that led to the Angels being outbid for top free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre was tossed aside Friday with the team agreeing to a trade that brings three-time All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera.

The Angels resoundingly re-established their willingness to spend money with the deal for Wells, who is considered by many to be one of the most overpaid players in baseball. Whether it is money wisely spent depends on how the 32-year-old Wells performs in the next four years, during which he will make $86 million – making him the highest-paid player in Angels franchise history.”

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi broke the story, I believe on Foxsports.com:

” The Angels had been trying to move Napoli and Rivera, who will earn $5.25 million next season.

The Jays likely would use Napoli as a catcher, first baseman and DH. His arrival likely will preclude them from adding another free-agent hitter.”

Cliff Corcoran covered the angles for SI.com:

“Vernon Wells is the Angels’ problem now. On a pure talent level, the trade of long-time Blue Jays center fielder Wells to Los Angeles for outfielder Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli is a reasonably balanced swap: all three players are productive but flawed, and the 29-year-old Napoli is the youngest of the trio, but when you factor in the $86 million left on Wells’ contract over the next four years, it becomes a crucial step in the Blue Jays’ long-term efforts to climb back into contention in the powerful American League East and an acquisition that could very well prevent the Angels from being a factor in the AL West for the next two years if not more.

For second-year Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, unloading Wells and his contract is a major coup. Anthopoulos’ predecessor and former boss, J.P Ricciardi, signed Wells to a seven-year, $126 million extension after the 2006 season. That year Wells, then 27, hit .303/.357/.542 with 32 home runs, 106 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases, made his second All-Star team, won his third straight Gold Glove for his play in center field, and picked up some down-ballot MVP votes.”

Keith Law from ESPN adds his take:

“Vernon Wells isn’t a terrible player– he’s a solid player with a terrible contract, he is absolutely the wrong player right now for the Los Angeles Angels, who have made one the worst desperation moves I can remember.

The problem is that Wells is now well below-average in center and probably should be in a corner outfield position, where his bat is less valuable, and where he may not profile offensively by the time he’s a free agent after 2014. His power spike in 2010 coincided with a sudden shift in the Rogers Centre’s park factor and a teamwide rise in home runs. He’s a good fastball hitter who’s not very disciplined and tries to pull the ball on the outer half, resulting in a lot of frustrating rollovers to the shortstop.

The Angels have Peter Bourjos and his 70 (or better) glove to man center, and there’s no way Wells will be worth $18 million more than Bourjos this year. Turning Bobby Abreu, a once-great player now showing his age, into a platoon bat/pinch-hitter would make the best of a bad situation. It’s still a bad situation, though, and doesn’t make the Angels much better off even in 2011.”

Mike Wilner wrote about the story on Sportsnet The Fan 590 website:

“They said it couldn’t be done. Heck, I said it couldn’t be done. But it has been. Vernon Wells has been traded.

I can’t tell you how many times I went on the air this season and said that, even with a successful 2010 under his belt, Wells was untradeable without the Blue Jays picking up a massive amount of money, but there were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, looking to get something done after missing out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre, among others. The Halos will stick Vernon in centrefield, and in the middle of their line-up, as they try to regain what was their rightful place atop the A.L. West standings.

This is a deal that the Angels wanted to make a few years ago. Remember, the hottest rumour right before Wells signed his seven-year, $126 million contract was that J.P. Ricciardi had a terrific offer on the table from the Halos, but trading Wells would have been seen by the fans as another indicator that the Jays were becoming the New Expos, after they’d made a piddling offer to Carlos Delgado a year or two before.”

TSN and sportsnet.ca both carried a Canadian Press story:

“The stunning trade of all-star centre-fielder Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night was, like so many other moves by the Toronto Blue Jays of late, all about the future.

While catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera were the primary return in the deal, the key asset acquired by general manager Alex Anthopoulos was the removal from the team’s books of the US$86 million owed to Wells over the next four seasons.

How Anthopoulos uses that money will determine the wisdom of an unexpected move that seems to have been fairly well received judging by fan reaction on the Internet, although the impact of losing one of the best players in franchise history has yet to be measured.”

Sportsnet’s Scott Carson was equally stunned with news of the deal:

“Never thought we’d see Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos able to trade the untradeable Vernon Wells contract.

I have to be honest with you, faithful readers; I sure didn’t see this one coming. After finishing up the dishes, I flipped on the computer and this news jumped off the screen”


So, there you have it.

Here’s my take from a media standpoint. Very few of the folks I wanted to read this morning wrote. Where are Bob Elliott and Jeff Blair? Don’t you all think that if this were a Leafs trade in the middle of the summer of this magnitude all the big boys would find a way to write an article on an off day???? Personally, I feel like the papers have let us, their readers down. I would really liked to have read Bruce Arthur, Steve Simmons to name a few others. Sports trades are rare these days. Sports rumors equally as hard to find. So when a deal gets done I’d like to see those who’s opinion I really respect write.

TSM

@yyzsportsmed

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26 Comments

  1. Kevin A. says:

    My favourite comment on this came from The Orange County Register’s Sam Miller: “It’s the rare trade that makes a team older, more expensive and worse.”

  2. mike (in boston) says:

    Rogers has approximately one year to put their money where their mouth has been since Beeston took over. we’ve been fed the refrain of “the money will be there when the time is right”. now all the salary has been dumped from the major league level, no significant free agents have been signed, and no trades have been made to add salary.

    you can always get younger and cheaper but at some point you need to make moves solely aimed at moving you from 90 to 95 wins in a given season. if not in 2012, when?

  3. Sam says:

    I came to post what Mike (IB) said.

  4. Sam says:

    PS TSM, thanks for the rundown!

  5. Chris F. says:

    I agree totally with Mike (IB) as well. I do think the 2011 offseason will be huge in that the Jays will HAVE to at least make a run for a big name or people are going to sour on the whole “they’ll give us money if we ask for it” premise. Saying that though, I still have great confidence in what AA is doing for the club.

    I thought it was interesting how last night Mike Wilner didn’t wave off the idea that the Jays would go after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols next offseason. Perhaps that’s something to watch out for eh?

  6. Daniel says:

    Let’s be frank: this is probably in the top three of the worst contracts in baseball history. It was regularly referred to as an example of an unmovable contract.

    The fact that AA unloaded the whole thing is shocking. The fact that he did it for two half decent players without chipping in any money? Wow.

    Don’t forget, this contract is back loaded starting in 2011. 23 million a year for a guy we can expect to put up OK or decent numbers at best.

    The Blue Jays have virtually no bad or bloated contracts now. Rogers is going to have put it’s money where it’s mouth is, but the Jays could be in the market for some MAJOR additions going forward.

  7. Mike says:

    I don’t get what Ken Fidlin is upset about. Yes, technically its a salary dump but that in no ways means it was a bad thing. The Blue Jays had a horrific $86 million contract, which they dumped on the Anaheim GM like it was a Cleveland Steamer. Just be happy the roles weren’t reversed.

    I also don’t agree with his assessment that it’s a step backwards because Wells was “the face of the franchise”. No, Halladay was the face of the franchise and that was a step backward with the fans. Vernon, or to be more specific his contract, is better described as the lightning rod for criticism, especially after JP got canned. Remember, VW has been booed by the fans as much as he’s been cheered the last three years. My guess is even the most casual ones aren’t mad because they understand the logistics of this trade.

    I think Law has the best roundup out of them all.

  8. Pudge72 says:

    Awesome visual representation of the fan reaction to the trade:

    http://angels.ocregister.com/2011/01/22/trade-in-one-word-cash/71674/

    As for Wells, he appears to be a quality human being who happened to have the gall (sarcasm here) to accept someone throwing more money than he deserved (at the time or since) to put up solid, but not spectacular, numbers. His season to season production has been wildly inconsistent, with his good 2010 allowing the trade to even be considered in the first place.

    I’m not a JP Riccardi fan by any means, but various comments on other sites leads me to believe that JPR was basically forced to offer the contract to Wells by then-Jays president Paul Godfrey, partly because of the importance placed on locking up the “face of the franchise”.

  9. FMT says:

    The thing that got me is how nobody had a sniff of this happening.

    Also agree with MikeIB. Holiday last year, Wells this year. They are getting rid of a lot of high price talent. When is the push for the top level talent to have the team go over the top of the YankSox. Or are we just wait for nothing like the Leafs are when free agent day comes around and nobody signs or just re-ups with their original team?

  10. Pudge72 says:

    FMT & M (IB): Anthopolous (i.e. the Jedi Knight, the Silent Assassin, or Ninja GM, take your pick) has consistently stated that he is building the team to be able to have sustained success over the long term, not just for one or two years.

    He has put a greater emphasis on the farm system (was generally ranked in the bottom 5 in MLB following Riccardi’s tenure; now – sixteen months later – is considered to be in the top 5 in MLB), more international scouting/signings, and looks for players that are younger, with higher potential, and whose contracts are controlled by the club for more years going forward.

    From a W-L perspective, they will likely take a step back this year, with the trade-off being that they will further develop their younger players in order to identify where they need to make improvements.

    If the Jedi Knight is to be believed, Jays will likely be up there, just below Boston, in terms of payroll when the time is right. It seems to me that the Jays are likely 2 – 3 years from challenging for the division title. Think of the 2011 Jays as being similar to the 1982 or 1983 Jays in terms of their standing in the AL East, and overall organizational development. The goal is to become what the Jays turned into from 1985 to 1993.

  11. James says:

    You know what the most hilarious and satisfying of this is for a jays fan?

    Go read an Angels fan blog.

    And laugh as they try to justify this deal and say it’s a good thing….just laugh. Now I know what teams who trade the leafs feel like.

    This deal cements AA as the premier young GM inthe league. He has done the impossible. Anyone who wishes we still had Wells is either not a jays fan…OR knows absolutely nothing about baseball/

    Stop whining about spending every time he makes a deal. He knows more than all of you combined, evidently from his success.

    They aren’t going to go spend JUST to spend and make you happy. If there is a FA who is a good fit and worth it, and available they will, if the timing makes sense.

    If you thought adding one FA (trust me they weren’t getting a marquee this year–they choose where they go remember) was going to put them in contention you are dreaming.

    Lastly; I think TSM was a bit harsh on the MSM. Yea maybe a bit overboard, but they were pretty much dead on in analysis. Turning wells into a salary dump AND two players, is exaclty what they needed.

    Forgive the MSM for some exitement when this contract was the joke of the whole MLB, and it was literally untradeable and almost locked the jays OUT of contention.

  12. James says:

    It’s a bit of a stretch to say the TO MSM got personal when the American media (ie unbiased or even biased against jays) pretty much agreed 100% and in a lot of ways were WAY harsher.

    If ESPN and SI both agree and echo Griffin, I’d say he nailed it.

  13. Pudge72 says:

    RE: Toronto columnists like Blair –

    I am willing to wait for a write-up/review of the trade from writers like (insert baseball focussed writer’s name here), IF a delay in providing a write up is reflected in a high level of quality writing. We shall see…

  14. Pudge72 says:

    Ok, I have just read the “journalist-like” contributions from Bob Elliott and Steve Simmons re: the Wells trade… It would have been better had they not been written at all.

    Elliott’s “column” especially, is an atrocious piece of writing. It is, to be charitable, absolutely incoherent and pointless. It reads like he mistakenly hit ‘send’ on a point form outline of what he wanted to say. Is it just me, or has Elliott become the print version of Bill Watters? Extremely disappointing… :(

  15. mike (in boston) says:

    has Elliott become the print version of Bill Watters

    this is a pretty apt comparison. Elliott is so far behind the pack when it comes to the Jays. I don’t get the impression he tries very hard at his job anymore.

  16. Mike says:

    Just read Simmons, not very good as usual. How is this trade only for next year when it will save more than $20 million/year through to 2014? If AA was playing for next year this trade most likely would not have been done.

    He also claims that Vernon won’t play CF but all reports I’ve read say he will with Hunter/Abreu in the corners.

    Almost afraid to read Elliott after Pudge’s review.

  17. Pat MaGroin says:

    How do I put this correctly?
    Sober is not a word In Mr. Elliott’s vocabulary.

  18. Daniel says:

    Pat – haha..

    I know some hate him, but I think Wilner is an excellent baseball reporter. He updated his blog Friday night as the events unfolded:

    http://blog.rogersbroadcasting.com/mikewilner/2011/01/21/vernon-wells-to-the-angels-for-mike-napoli-and-juan-rivera/

  19. Daniel says:

    But yeah – what does it say about the MSM, that when the Wells trade was going down, I was constantly checking twitter and drunk jays fans. Didn’t even both to look at a mainstream outlet.

  20. Cam says:

    What struck me as interesting in all of this was once again a major story involving the Jays was broken by a US network. The coverage on the Fan was as interesting as who did not cover the transaction for the papers. With a major story breaking on a local team, the local sports radio station was stuck in a replay of PTS around the 6pm drive home slot.

    So in an over simplification, the team you own to drive content on your networks is ignored in its main market – both in terms of coverage by your own networks using the content and by the team acquired to drive content. I hope Pelley has a strong supply of Zantac.

  21. mike (in boston) says:

    With a major story breaking on a local team, the local sports radio station was stuck in a replay of PTS around the 6pm drive home slot

    great point Cam. i found it hard to believe that other than Wilner’s blog post, the FAN website has no audio reaction from anyone, no interview with AA, no commentary from Ashby or Howarth, no quotes from Farrell, nothing from VW or Napoli. (i may have missed some of these if they are on the FAN website … it’s a bit of a big red mess).

    if you’re going to be the voice of the team, shouldn’t you make it a priority to be the go-to destination for fans?

  22. Pudge72 says:

    Good points Cam and M (IB) about 590. Rogers is (especially with the SN1 fiasco) trying to create a Jays Network, similar to the Yankees YES Network.

    The big distinction between the two seems to be that while YES was created solely to promote and showcase the Yankees, SN1 is USING the Jays to promote the network. If Rogers was intent on highlighting/promoting the Jays in the manner of YES, they should be doing an hour-long show on the trade with:

    – Interviews with (if possible) all three players involved in the trade.
    – Bios of the newest Jays.
    – A retrospective of Wells as a player, and of his community work.
    – As mentioned by Mike (in Boston), interviews with AA, Farrell, Jerry and/or Alan.

    I can’t find any sign of this on the Fan website, and I am not able to listen to the station on a regular enough basis to try to catch this if it is aired at some point.

  23. Pudge72 says:

    I’m also with Daniel on this…I was following Drunk Jays Fans and the Orange County Register blog when I first heard about the trade. I didn’t check any MSM until I read this post by TSM.

  24. Mike says:

    Blair finally chimes in. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/baseball/why-the-wells-trade-makes-sense/article1880252/

    Interesting take RE: how other players have deferred to Vernon as the clubhouse leader and this trade allows them to make it their team.

  25. Mike says:

    Gotta agree with everyone else. I was on DJF more that all the mainstream sites combined Friday as they were the only ones who seemed to actually update as the story was developing and I knew they would link if anything interesting was said by someone else.

    But that’s what happens when the newspapers and television essentially give up on a huge story.

    The most egregious is obviously Rogers as they OWN the team. And it’s not like they had a built in excuse of a Raptors game that couldn’t be preempted: they aired taped freestyle skiing, EPL magazine show, skiing magazine show, taped alpine skiing from 7-10.

    Sportsnet has at times seemed to make an effort to build a complete Blue Jays experience but it is so inconsistent. Hopefully Pelley is taking steps to change that but there’s no sign of it yet.

  26. Pudge72 says:

    Mike – thanks for the Blair link…now that was EXACTLY the type of article that I was willing to wait for, especially the discussion of players deference to VW.

    Pat MaGroin – Agreed…unless Elliott’s “shortcomings with his mother tongue” are the result of a genuine medical issue (i.e. a stroke) that we don’t know about, I was thinking the same thing…especially in light of how he sounds during his FOB segments on PTS. Truly unfortunate either way as he has been one of the key supporters of Canadian baseball over the years…

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