Blue Jays Trade Wells To Angels For Napoli, Rivera

The Deal
Most trades, whether in-season or offseason, involve one team sending a veteran, often well-compensated, to another team for a young player or three. The Angels and Blue Jays bucked convention in their late-January exchange involving three major league veterans. Toronto shipped team leader Vernon Wells, the Jays’ everyday center fielder for the past nine years, to Anaheim for hard-hitting catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli and corner outfielder Juan Rivera.

That’s no exaggeration regarding Wells—he really does play every day. Since he became a regular in 2002, he leads all primary center fielders in games played, and by a comfortable margin. However, the Angels may opt to shift Wells to left field in order to let defensive whiz Peter Bourjos, a rookie in 2010, play center every day. Torii Hunter, like Wells a former Gold Glove winner in center, is signed through 2012 and will man right field. The Angels’ outfield picture could get complicated when top prospect Mike Trout, a 19-year-old center fielder, hits the scene, possibly as early as the second half of 2011.

Assuming the Blue Jays pay Napoli (who is arbitration-eligible) and Rivera a combined $11 million in 2011, the organization has cleared a tidy $75 million off the books by trading the final four years of Wells’ mega-deal, which will see him earn an average of $21.5 million per season. (Full contract details below.) While Wells figures to age better than Napoli or Rivera, the Angels will pay a steep price for what very well could be the decline phase of his career. Los Angeles seemed particularly driven to make a deal for an outfield bat after free agent Carl Crawford turned them down to sign with the Red Sox.

Napoli is the kind of all-or-nothing slugger who seemed out of place in the Angels’ contact-oriented lineup. Throw in a poor rate of catching opposing basestealers (24 percent for his career) and Napoli’s days in Anaheim appeared numbered. Los Angeles now figures to open the year with Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson behind the dish, while prospect Hank Conger improves his defensive technique in Triple-A. Napoli fits in the Blue Jays’ plans in that he can mentor top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia this spring—and keep the seat warm until he’s big league ready—while also serving as platoon partner for Adam Lind at first base/DH, as necessary.

 
Blue Jays Acquire
Mike Napoli, 1b/c

Age: 29. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011-12 ($3.6 million salary in ’10).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Los Angeles (AL) 2010 .238 140 453 60 108 24 1 26 68 42 137 4 .316 .468
3-Year Totals .258 332 1062 159 274 55 3 66 173 117 310 14 .341 .502
 
Juan Rivera, lf/rf/1b

Age: 32. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $5.25 million.

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Los Angeles (AL) 2010 .252 124 416 53 105 20 0 15 52 33 58 2 .312 .409
3-Year Totals .266 351 1201 156 320 57 1 52 185 85 148 3 .314 .445
 
Angels Acquire
Vernon Wells, cf

Age: 32. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: 4 years, $86 million.

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Toronto 2010 .273 157 590 79 161 44 3 31 88 50 84 4 .331 .515
3-Year Totals .275 423 1647 226 453 103 7 66 232 127 216 27 .327 .466

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