They say (whoever they are) that some contracts are untradeable. They maintain that the terms of the deal are so incendiary to the system of barter that they function as a de facto no-trade clause.They are sadly, painfully, undeniably wrong.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi are reporting that sources tell them the Angels have acquired Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Sportsnet Radio 590 has confirmed the deal is for the players involved. Wells is still owed $86 million over the next four seasons, an average annual value of $21.5 million. Rivera is owed $5.25 million this season, after which he will become a free agent. Napoli is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He did not come to terms with the Angels prior to Tuesday's deadline for teams and players to exchange figures and remains unsigned. It will be up to Toronto to negotiate a contract that covers this year, and any subsequent seasons.
The deal is a shocker on several levels. Biz of Baseball President Maury Brown tweeted a key reason why Angels fans should be concerned: "Wells (11 - $23M) (12-14 - $21M ea). Can opt out after '11. Full no-trade clause." Wells immediately becomes the highest paid player on the Angels roster. The Angels had courted both Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre in the offseason, and refused to guarantee them the average annual value that they could owe Wells. Rosenthal reported that the Blue Jays will send cash to the Angels, but no confirmation of the exact amount being sent has been reported, and Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press insists that no money is involved. For the Jays, Napoli is a surprising target, because one of the Blue Jays top prospects is a catcher. J.P. Arencibia broke in last year with Toronto at age 24 after hitting 83 career minor league home runs in four seasons.
Equally shocking is the suddenness with which the transaction was initially reported. A rumor that Napoli was possibly headed to the Rays caused a ripple of tweets, but no one mentioned the Jays until Rosenthal tweeted that sources told him that Napoli was on his way to them. The biggest beneficiary of the news is likely Jose Bautista, who belted 54 home runs last season and is in his final year of salary arbitration eligibility. Bautista requested $10.5 million, but Toronto has offered $7.6 million. THe club has been trying to free money to sign him to a long term contract.
Wells has followed good seasons with bad ones since 2006. Last year was an up year. He cracked the 30 home run mark and exceeded a .500 slugging percentage for the first time since 2006, when he was 27. Rosenthal and Morosi speculate he'll play center for the Angels, but with the impressive debut of Peter Bourjos and the steady decline of Wells' defensive ability since 2007, the Angels would be better served with Wells in left, Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right. The club desperately needs Wells to duplicate his .273/.331/.515 batting line from last season.
Napoli was never considered a primary catching option by Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Despite having one of the better bats on the Angels, Napoli would split time with Jeff Mathis, a better defensive receiver who was a anemic hitter. Napoli was the recipient of more playing time in 2010 because he was able to cover first base when Kendry Morales broke his leg in June. He had a career high 510 at bats, and in them he posted a .238/.316/.468 line with a career best 26 home runs. In arbitration he sought $6.1 million, while the Angels countered with $5.3 million.
Rivera signed a three year deal with the Angels after the 2008 season. The deal calls for him to receive $5.25 million in 2011. Last season Rivera .252/.312/.409 in 455 plate appearances. Rivera has been with the Angels for six years, playing mostly in left. He's expected to take over left for Toronto with newly acquired Rajai Davis taking over center for Wells.
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
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