If this could happen, anything can. With that, I declare the Toronto Blue Jays the 2011 World Series champs. Or is beating incredible odds twice in one year too much? Alex Anthopoulos did the unthinkable last night, dumping the remaining four years and $86 million on Vernon Wells’ contract on the Angels for a pair of mid-impact chips in Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. No word yet on whether the Jays are picking up any of the remains on the deal or if Los Angeles is taking the entire hit, much like Chicago did a couple summers ago when it adopted Alex Rios’ six years and $60 million.
Shocking, indeed, considering the seven-year, $126 million deal J.P. Ricciardi and Paul Godfrey etched out for Wells after a nice 2006 season is widely referred to as the worst in baseball history (with apologies to Barry Zito and Alfonso Soriano). In all, Toronto ended up getting three years of Wells for $41 million, with last year’s power surge not quite doing enough to make the last four and 86 justifiable. Well, not for us at least.
I’m no Wells hater, but finding a taker for his contract frees up space for Anthopolous to operate when the Jays are ready to contend and doesn’t even make Toronto much less of a team in 2011. Napoli can catch and push Adam Lind at first base, plus has three straight seasons of 20+ homers in limited at-bats. Rivera is 32 and coming off a down year, but is just a season removed from a Wells-esque line of .287/25/88 with low walks and strikeouts in 2009. Neither are huge difference makers, but Wells wasn’t exactly either after a couple hot months to start last year. (Added sidenote: Napoli’s mom knows how to party.)
Now, on to Wells’ legacy in Toronto: He spent parts of 12 years with the Jays (nine full), two of which were very good (2003 and 2006), a handful of which were alright and two that were downright hellish (2007 and 2009). In total, Wells played 1,393 games (third most in team history), had 1,529 hits, 339 doubles, 223 home runs and 813 RBIs (second in each). He was an All-Star three times and grabbed three Gold Glove Awards.
So, that does it for our grossly overpaid and often-underperforming centre fielder. Everyone feeling a little relieved?