Seriously, what’s not to like?

Predictably, the Angels’ acquisition of Vernon Wells at the expense of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera has the critics howling. They do that largely because that’s what they’re paid to do, and you can’t really fault a person for that. It’s the carping of fans that is somewhat baffling.

The Angels just landed a three-time All-Star at 32, with four years on his contract, for two players who might not have had starting jobs but will get shots to play every day in their new environment. You have to be reaching hard not to like that.
 
The big talking point is Wells’ huge contract, which wouldn’t have been an issue back in the day when it was the game that mattered, not economics. If I’m an Angels fan, I ignore this aspect of the deal. Arte Moreno gave it his OK. If he doesn’t have to raise ticket prices, the bottom line should be of no concern.

The statistical focus has been on a decline in Wells’ metrics defensively, his struggles against left-handed pitching in 2010, his home/road splits showing a significant preference for Toronto cooking, and his career-long struggles at Angel Stadium.

These can all be addressed with logic and good sense, if that counts for anything in these stressed, high-anxiety times.

Center field and artificial turf are a deadly combination. Because of the nature of their position, with the constant stopping and starting and ranging deep into gaps, centerfielders suffer more than anybody else on turf. The demands on the extremities are extremely stressful.

Over time, the body feels the effects, and the player’s performance usually reflects the deterioration. This applies to his offense as well as his defense. This is a difficult game to play when you’re healthy; when you’re banged up, it’s a bear.

From 2004 through 2006, Wells was one of the three American League Rawlings Gold Glove outfielders, along with Torii Hunter, who was on his way to nine in a row. If neither man is the defensive player he once wals, it’s perfectly understandable – predictable, even. But both men are lucky in the sense that they have escaped the turf now and are resuming their careers on God’s green grass.

It is for this reason that I feel Wells will be best served moving to left, with Hunter in right, the two old pros surrounding a marvelous young talent, Peter Bourjos. Bourjos’ metrics in his two months with the Angels last season soared off the charts. He is capable of being the best in the game in center, and having the wisdom of Wells and Hunter off his shoulders will be immeasurably helpful.

If Bourjos relaxes and hits in the .250 range at the bottom of the order, he’ll be of tremendous value. And the Angels will have an outfield with few, if any equals.

Now, on to Wells’ statistical oddities in 2010.

He flourished at home, with a stat line (batting average, on-base, slugging) of .321/.363/.628 compared to .207/.301/.407 on the road. It happens to every player over the course of a career. His career numbers are closer: .286/.339/.505 at home; .274/.321/.446 on the road. He has hit 124 homers in Canada, 99 in the U.S. If he performs better in front of his family, that’s not necessarily such a terrible thing.

He definitely had a bad year against lefties: .195/.289/.354 in 113 at-bats. More representative of his prowess, it seems, is his career slash line in 1,485 at-bats against southpaws: .296/.359/.484.

And, yes, he has not hit to his customary level in Anaheim, where his slash line for his career is .226/.267/.340. But he would say that has more to do with the likes of John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields and friends than the ballpark, which he happens to love.

Here are the numbers that should be the focus with respect to Wells’ 2010 All-Star season if you are an anxiety-ridden Angels fan: .515, ninth in slugging in the AL; 31 homers, 44 doubles, 304 total bases, seventh in the AL in each category; 460 feet, fifth longest homer in the AL; 1.000, his fielding percentage as one of two regular outfielders in the Majors (151 games played) to commit not a single error, Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez being the other.

One more Wells fun stat line from 2010: 6-for-10, four homers, seven RBIs in three games. That’s what he did at Rangers Ballpark, back home in Arlington.

The man is a weapon, a pro’s pro. By all accounts, he’s a calm, generous individual who distinguishes his profession on and off the field.

My advice to fans who have endured a fitful, angry winter is to calm down and get ready to enjoy the show. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it could be something to behold. It’s a lot healthier to take that attitude than to drive up your blood pressure needlessly. – Lyle Spencer

 

20 Comments

The Wells trade might work out very well for the Angels, it’s possible. However, there are two major things that make me apprehensive: The players sent to the Jays for Wells, and that the organization is taking on responsibility for the remaining portion of the contract without receiving cash from Toronto in return. Now that the Angels are on the hook for Wells, it reduces the amount of money available to sign other free agents now and in the future, re-sign current players when their contracts expire (Santana, Weaver, etc.) and upgrade the offense. Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera have been key pieces of the Angels offense, able to consistently hit for power over the past few seasons, and guys like Kendrick, Aybar, Izturis, Wood, and Mathis are not simply going to start filling the same role, regardless of how well Wells plays.

And as for the bashing of the contributors to Halos Heaven, those guys are hardcore and make a point to be more knowledgeable about the game than the average, casual fan. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the friggin’ kitchen.

Not to like- a gigantic back-loaded contract sticking us with a mountain of debt, kind of reminiscent of GMJ. Not to like- the catching debate is now officially over, with one of the worst offensive players in recent history officially our permanent backstop. I find it difficult to imagine how Wells’ positives at the plate offset the permanent easy out at the bottom of the order that Mathis has become. Reagins has become the kid in elementary school that gets rolled for his lunch money day in and day out.

You fail to mention that we now have Jeff Mathis playing EVEN MORE than he has the last few seasons. THAT’s why Angel fans don’t like this trade. Oh, and the fact that Vernon can’t play defense. And can barely play offense.

I’m totally going to get ready to enjoy the show. Of course, I’m a Red Sox fan.

This contract is basically the Carl Crawford contract decried by the Angels’ brass, except it excises the cheap and valuable years of Crawford’s deal and only signs on for the relatively expensive and high-risk years (32-35) at a higher cost than what the Sox are paying Crawford (even ignoring the time value of money issue). Additionally, Crawford is a superior player to Wells and has a skillset which ages better. It’s like ordering a chicken and dogcrap burrito, but telling your waiter to hold the chicken. Additionally, Wells and his contract have been available on the waiver wire for no cost at all every year in recent memory. Not content to just assume this albatross, the Angels gave up a useful bat in Mike Napoli, which virtually assures the Halofans that they’ll be watching ~ 120 games caught by the worst catcher in the majors last year, Jeff Mathis. That’s what Angels fans are angry about.

But, again, as a fan of a competing team I’m tickled pink. Viva Los Reagins!

Agreed. But go over to HaloHeaven and look at all the negative crap. Like usual, I see that the handful of people that disagree with the likes of Rev and his know-it-all minions (and you know who you are) get slammed and get personally attacked. I have seen this so many times that after today, I refuse to go back there again. And btw Rev, you have the perfect face for radio….just too bad your voice sounds like a 14 year old begging to get through puberty. Looks like you never have quite climbed that mountain….

The first thing that hit me was indeed the fact that we just grabbed yet another aging outfielder who has spent his entire career running on the hard turf of Toronto. But quickly thereafter, and I do mean QUICKLY thereafter, the fact that came to mind was that the Angels have now left themselves with no one but Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson behind the dish.

Supposedly, Jeff Mathis is going to be some kind of prodigy back there. But so far, we’ve yet to see it. His stats have been mediocre and worse, but never better. He’s been well below average at throwing out runners, his error numbers are too high, and the only saving grace that they can point to is the rotations ERA in games that he starts. Who wouldn’t have a good ERA when you’re catching the Angels superb staff?!? Combine all of this with the fact that he can’t seem to get his BA above the Mendoza line, and now you start to see what Angels fans are upset about. Tony Reagins just filled a hole that didn’t need filling by creating a new, giant, gaping hole behind the plate and in the nine hole of the batting order. Maybe the eight hole if Bourjos bats nine.

With Hank Conger a season or two away from being big league ready, the Angels have some work to do if they want to contend in the AL West this year.

Yea, and Halos Heaven sucks. If those guys had half the baseball knowledge that they THINK that they have, they might be on to something. But much like most sports fans in SoCal, they’re full of themselves, and that’s about it.

This is good, and crazy different from the GMJ knee jerk. GMJ was signed based off one season and one stupidly insane catch he made crawling up an outfield wall. Wells has proven himself, though I would argue not quite to the size of his contract. With that being said, put him on grass and opposing the visiting pitching staff vice ours, and I think this will pan out to great things. We fixed the bull pen and added a bat. Bring on spring training!!!!

“The big talking point is Wells’ huge contract, which wouldn’t have been an issue back in the day when it was the game that mattered, not economics. If I’m an Angels fan, I ignore this aspect of the deal. Arte Moreno gave it his OK. If he doesn’t have to raise ticket prices, the bottom line should be of no concern.”

We should be concerned when the Angels won’t be able to resign or extend Weaver/Morales or sign any other free agents. This is what has happened with Kazmir and GMJ. If it’s going to affect the team in the future, which I’m sure it will, we have a right to be concerned. Saying it’s not our money is ignorant.

“If I’m an Angels fan, I ignore this aspect of the deal.”

Yeah, then they’d be morons. Arte Moreno has backed off to two premium free agents in two positions of need for his franchise because those players were too expensive, so I’m unsure how you suggest that Angels fans ignore the economic portion of the game. Arte Moreno doesn’t. That suggestion is akin to suggesting to someone whose house was robbed that they shouldn’t focus on their missing stuff, but on the new airy feel of their living room after the thieves smashed through their sliding glass patio doors.

Mr. Spencer, I think you need to ratchet up your understanding of the level of comprehension of your audience. As much as I may dislike some Halofans, they’re not simpletons who can be distracted by platitudes and cherry-picked stats. That would be Dodger fans…

“And, yes, he has not hit to his customary level in Anaheim, where his slash line for his career is .226/.267/.340. But he would say that has more to do with the likes of John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields and friends than the ballpark, which he happens to love.”

What has been conveniently neglected is the fact that Wells has better splits against the Angels at home. With the above logic and the assumption that these poor road numbers are mainly the result of the Angels’ excellent pitching, he would naturally have the same poor numbers at home against the same pitching (and in fact, might have even worse numbers, considering that he’s playing in Anaheim, a “ballpark that he happens to love”). However, his career numbers at home against the Angels are a much more respectable .258/.312/.474, good for a .786 OPS (.607 in Anaheim). Most of this is due to Wells hitting 5 home runs in Toronto compared to 3 in Anaheim, while doing so with 43 less ABs at home. It’s worrisome that the difference comes on home runs, since the Angels have placed 34th, 28th, 11th, 18th, 27th, 22nd, 17th, 2nd, and 23rd in HR park factors since 2002, with TO coming in 13th, 10th, 7th, 4th, 4th, 7th, 18th, 17th, and 4th. The best conclusion is that we have yet to really see what Wells can do in this ballpark since the sample size is still quite small; he has barely collected a quarter of a season’s worth of at-bats in Anaheim (Dustin Pedroia had a .213 average last May in 108 AB, but still managed to end up with .288 despite not playing for much of August and all of September). That is still much more optimistic than by simply throwing out half the stats (and half the pitchers) and decide to make an argument that way.

Seriously, More Mathis bashing? Guys, He’s gonna hit .250. Before the broken wrist He was lights out. Napoli was great but We don’t need him. Conger is in the wings and Wilson has more promise then is given credit for. Rivera needed to go 2 seasons ago, Wells is going to be a great fit for Us. His power replaces Naps power.

We are gonna be strong BUT lets keep an eye on our pitching, thats the real question mark, IMO. And the fact Boras hates Angels. :) Weaver will be headed to NY next year, mark my words.

Lyle, keep up the great work!

Guz

What gives you the idea that Jeff Mathis, career .199 hitter Jeff Mathis, is going to hit .250?

Ok fine . We got Vernon Wells. But we now have 2 catchers that can’t hit MLB pitching, No lead off hitter. No 3rd baseman, And Brandon Wood? He is still here? Come on you fix these issues you have a Team that can beat anyone. That would make the Fans Come back for more. Now not so much. Lyle love your comments . But also I dont think Borjous is ready for a starting center field job. He is a Great Defensive player no doubt. But he needs to get on base as a lead off hitter. No hit, No play. They gave Wood to long last season before pulling him. Thanks

Lyle, I really like your blog. But on this one, you’re losing credibility. I appreciate that Wells is a fine man and a very good ballplayer, but he is paid like an elite player. If you simply compare Juan Rivera’s slash stats over the past three years with those of Wells, you’ll see that we just traded Juan Rivera for, well, Juan Rivera with a backloaded monstrous contract. Plus we threw in Napoli as some sort of extra. In other words, by no stretch of anyone’s imagination could this deal be seen as a net positive for the Angels. Wells’ one unassailable talent, defense, is one of those skills that predictably diminish as a player ages. This is especially true of a player with injury history and a long tenure on turf. And please don’t patronize your readers by just asking us to ignore salary concerns. Ownership certainly points us in that direction when they tell us why certain players didn’t get signed. When the entire baseball world is laughing at a deal (which they are), it probably means that it’s ridiculous. So please stop watering our shoes and telling us it’s raining.

Wells? .279/.329/.469 line over the past 5 seasons is shockingly close to Juan Rivera?s .278/.327/.466 over the same period. True, Wells is a much better defender, though he?s no longer a great centerfielder. Factor in the loss of Napoli (.251/.346/.485 over the past 5 years) and I?m not sure how anyone can say this move makes the Angels better offensively. If I were an Angels fan (or writer), I?d certainly want to ignore the economic reality, but the fact is, if you care about a team, then you should also care about their financial flexibility. The Angels just added an additional $12+ million in payroll for 2011 and what they got for that was an upgrade to their outfield defense. That?s the real breakdown of this deal in the short term. In the long term, $86 million over 4 years is a lot of cheddar for a corner outfielder who is 32 years old and has topped 20 home runs in only one of the past 4 seasons.

I think what people keep forgetting is the salary the Angels would have needed to pay Napoli and Rivera this coming season that they will not be on the hook for. Nap would have probably gotten about $6M in arbitration and Rivera is owed about $5.3M. So total is $11.3M. The Angels are going to owe about $21M to Wells, so net net they are increasing payroll by $11M. Not bad for a player of Wells’ caliber. Especially considering Napoli would have been a part time catcher and Rivera probably not starting full-time in left.

I think what people keep forgetting is the salary the Angels would have needed to pay Napoli and Rivera this coming season that they will not be on the hook for. Nap would have probably gotten about $6M in arbitration and Rivera is owed about $5.3M. So total is $11.3M. The Angels are going to owe about $21M to Wells, so net net they are increasing payroll by $11M. Not bad for a player of Wells’ caliber. Oh and I forgot to mention that Toronto also threw in some money, so net net the Angels are not taking on as big a burden as advertised. Especially since you would likely have to pay more to Nap & Rivera the following season should you want to keep them. Also, consider Napoli would have been a part time catcher and Rivera probably not starting full-time in left anyhow.

I love this trade. I only hate that we ate that contract.

$63 million over the next 3 seasons.

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