I often find that after something controversial and upsetting happens, all it takes is a few days to think it over and I am able to calm myself and approach the situation with a cool head. Having now had a weekend to stew on the Vernon Wells trade, I am happy to say that I have, in fact, come to my senses and can confidently say that I no longer dislike the Vernon Wells trade. Now, I really hate it.
I really hope that isn't his batting stance.
I'm not going to lie, even I am surprised that I ended up feeling this way about the Wells trade. I would even consider my initial reaction a somewhat tempered one at the time. I figured that, by now, I would have talked myself into actually believing that this really wasn't that bad of a deal after all. As it turns out, my powers of cognitive dissonance aren't as powerful as I led myself to believe. Since I have worked myself into a rabid fervor instead of the Red Kool-Aid-induced stupor that I was planning on, I don't foresee me being able to continue writing in fully coherent paragraphs, so please forgive me for giving this the bullet point treatment:
- Wells is coming off what was pretty much a career year (at least from a ratio standpoint, as his HR/PA and XBH/PA were both career highs), which basically means that he is almost a certainty to disappoint as an Angel.
- We've all be assuming that vacating the Rogers Centre and its artificial turf would be great for Wells' career. Yeah, maybe not so much. Vernon may be getting away from that nasty fake grass, but Angel Stadium has been historically cruel to Wells who has a measly .607 career OPS in Anaheim over 173 plate appearances. I am hesitant to put too much stock into that, but it doesn't make me feel any better.
- For the last two seasons, Wells has inexplicably been signficantly less effective against left-handed pitching. That is probably a fluke, but it also screams to me that something just isn't right with Wells. His overall performances the last five years have alternated between pretty good and pretty awful, and now he inexplicably can't hit southpaws. This is just too much weird stuff going on all at once and it makes me really uncomfortable.
- I forget who first pointed this out, so I apologize for not giving credit where credit is due, but between Wells, Hunter and Gary Matthews, the Angels are spending $53 million on center fielders who won't be playing center field for them this year.
- This trade does nothing to help the Angels find a consistent offensive philosophy. Yes, Wells has power, but he isn't particularly patient and most reports indicate that he isn't terribly athletic anymore. In other words, he is basically a better version of Juan Rivera. Good, not great power. Doesn't strike out much, but also doesn't hit for a great average. May not be that great of a situational hitter as he looks to be pull happy (a la Rivera, again). That definitely shows he isn't a "pressure the defense" type like Scioscia used to love, but he also doesn't really scream "batter's box offense" like the team has been leaning towards recently. So, hooray, the offensive ship just got a little more power in the engine, but it remains rudderless.
- The general assumption is that Mike Trout will be ready by 2012, but now the Angels have Wells, Bourjos and Hunter already locked up through 2012, leaving no real room for Trout. The obvious option is to move Wells (the worst fielder of the three) to DH since Abreu should exit via free agency after this season. That doesn't sound all that bad until you realize that Vernon would be getting paid his final $63 million as a freaking DH, thus making Wells even more ridiculously overpaid than he originally was. SONUVABITCH.
- My last bastion of hope for salvation in this deal was how much cash the Jays were going to throw in. It turns out it is only $5 million. $5 million total, not per year, total. Subtract the roughly $11 million the Angels would've paid to Rivera and Napoli this season and that $5 million and the Angels are still paying Wells $71 million over four years. Explain to me how the Angels wouldn't have been better off spending a very similar amount of money on Adrian Beltre and then trading Napoli and Rivera for either prospects or a leadoff hitter type WHICH WE STILL DON'T HAVE!!!!!!!!!
And now for the real reason that I am so pissed off about this trade: the Angels went from looking like cheapskates this off-season, to looking like incompetent assclowns who have no idea what they want and no idea how to stick to a course of action.
This was supposed to be an off-season where the Angels stole market share from the Dodgers as they flailed about and made fools of themselves by way of their owners' messy public divorce. This was supposed to be an off-season where the Angels reestablished themselves as contenders and put the fear of God in the upstart Texas Rangers. This was supposed to be an off-season where the Angels finally proved they were major players in free agency. Instead, none of the above.
At least when the Angels lost out on Crawford and Beltre, it was done so under some sort of reasonable set of principles. Pleading fiscal responsibility wasn't a popular sentiment when the Halos backed out of those dealings, but at least it made sense. And at least it made the front office seem like they had some kind of idea of what they were doing even if we didn't like the results. I could live with that front office mentality, even if I didn't really like the results. But this new front office mentality, I have no tolerance for it.
You don't get to bitch and moan about how free agency has gotten out of control and that taking on such massive contracts is a huge risk only to then go out and trade for one of the most out of control contracts ever, thus making a wild gamble with the team's financial future. That's like telling your kids to never, ever do drugs and then going back out into the living room and start mainlining black tar heroin right after. Not only does this deal not make good baseball business sense, it also exposes the Angel front office for never really having a plan in the first place. They kept saying they were OK with missing out on their original targets, but obviously they weren't otherwise they would have had a much better fallback plan and made a move that didn't permeate with desperation.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what they did. Even if Wells turns out to be a pretty good player over the next four years, the stink of this trade is going to haunt the team for a very long time. Will big name free agents ever be able to take Tony Reagins and Arte Moreno's offers seriously now? Having a hardline, low-balling negotiating stance barely worked as it is. Who could ever take their infamous deal-with-a-deadline offers seriously now when they know it is being made by a front office that will eventually breakdown and make a crazy panic move? It is all just so second-rate or junior varsity or bush league or whatever belittling term you can come up with and it sure as hell does the exact opposite of turning the Angels into an elite franchise in Major League Baseball like Arte wants. Instead, the Angels are firmly entrenched in the ever-expanding class of organizations that don't appear to have a freaking clue what they are doing and it looks like they are going to be stuck in that class, sitting in the corner with a duncecap on, for at least four years (and $86 million).