I step away from the Internet for two hours only to come back and find that two of the Yankees' AL East rivals have made a handful of notable moves.
First up, the Toronto Blue Jays apparently traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. I'm having a hard time figuring this deal out from the Angels' perspective -- the Jays are undoubtedly thrilled to be free of Wells' contract, and they're getting not one but two pretty serviceable players in return. Wells started last season out on fire before cooling off some and finishing with a .362 wOBA -- his highest mark since 2006. Bill James has Wells falling to a .345 wOBA in 2011 (as do the Fans). Despite occasionally showing flashes of brilliance, Wells has had a fairly disappointing MLB career, with a .346 wOBA and 108 OPS+ -- basically slightly above above-average.
Napoli's one of the better-hitting catchers in the league, although his .340 wOBA was the lowest of his five-year career and has been trending downward the last three seasons. James actually likes a Napoli rebound, to .350. After a strong 2009 (.348 wOBA, 3.3 fWAR), Rivera collapsed last season, posting a .314 wOBA in a season that was worth half a win. However, James likes Rivera to bounce back to a .334 (the Fans are a less optimistic, at .322). Though this appears to be a win for the Jays, the one thing this deal doesn't really do is fix their biggest problem, which was getting on base. Rivera has a career .328 OBP, though Napoli boasts a slightly more robust .346 career mark. In fact, on second blush, maybe it does help their OBP problem, as Napoli's career number would've been second-best on the 2010 Blue Jays. Baby steps.
Of course, the ultimate takeaway is that getting Wells out of the division is a huge boon to the Yankees, since Vernon hit about 8,000 home runs against the Yanks last season, 7,999 of which seemed to come against personal punching bag Phil Hughes. Exaggeration aside, Wells absolutely annihilated the Yankees in 2o10, hitting an absurd .324/.387/.691 (1.078 OPS) in 17 games against the Bombers. His 2010 OPS against Boston? .575, of course. As for Hughes, Wells leads all MLB hitters with 25 PAs against Hughes, during which he's hit .320/.320/.680, so you can bet that Phil Hughes is one happy camper now that Wells is departing the AL East. Of course, Mike Napoli has three hits in six at-bats against Hughes (including a home run) and Rivera has three hits in five at-bats, and while those are the smallest samples that ever sized, hopefully Hughes has learned from his mistakes and can get these two out more successfully than he did Wells.
And the other big news item is that the Tampa Bay Rays have apparently agreed to contracts with both Johnny Damon ($5.2M) and Manny Ramirez (a mere $2M). I know both former stars had down years in 2010, but they still managed to combine for 2.5 fWAR, and that's with Manny only getting 320 PAs. Even if the duo only matches their combined 2010 production the Rays will still be getting a bargain, and they both seem reasonable candidates to improve upon their 2010 numbers. James has Manny projected for a .393 wOBA, which would make him the best hitter on the team by far (Evan Longoria led Tampa Bay last year with a .376 wOBA), while James has Damon at .339, which is basically exactly what he did with the Tigers.
It's very hard not to like this move for Tampa; adding two above-average offensive players who are highly adept at getting on base for the bargain basement price of $7.2 million. I don't know how Andrew Friedman did it, but my hat's off, as there's zero chance the Yankees could've landed these two for the same price had they had any interest in them.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Jays jettison Yankee Killer Vernon Wells while Tampa Bay goes all 2004 Red Sox and signs both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon
by Larry Koestler