Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

MIke Napoli, Vernon Wells swap places

By Mike Moritz
Edited By Jack E. Cody

The power hitting catcher, Mike Napoli, is being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. In return, the long time face of the Blue Jays franchise, centerfielder Vernon Wells, is being shipped over to Anaheim. Juan Rivera is also included in this deal. This trade looks to be like a big one. At first, I believed that the Angels won this deal because of the fact that they missed out on the likes of Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano, and believed that it acts as somewhat of a plan B for the Angels. However, after thinking this through, I now realize that the Blue Jays won this deal because Wells is earning $83 million over the next three seasons and they finally got that deal off the books while also getting some very good talent in Napoli and Rivera.

As for the Blue Jays, Mike Napoli is the fill in for the departure of John Buck, who had a career year that landed him a three-year, $18 million deal with the Florida Marlins. 

Napoli is the perfect fit for the dangerous Blue Jays offense, which hit 257 long balls as a team and basically has a new “Grip it and rip it” philosophy at the plate. Napoli's bat has a great deal of power says his career .234 ISO and .251/.346/.485 stat line with his wOBA cashing in at a solid .357. In 2010, he smashed 26 home runs in 453 ABs but saw his batting average and OBP drop off significantly to a mere .238 and .316, respectively (even though those numbers are not all that respectable). I believe the reason for his down year at the plate in terms of contact was some bad luck. His BABIP dropped to .279 even though his career mark is .293, but his line drive, fly ball and ground ball rates were all right next to his career averages. If Napoli can get luck back on his side for this season, then he will be in great shape. Napoli also has a career 4.22 P/PA, so he makes the pitcher work which is another positive.
Not much to say about Juan Rivera. Just like Napoli, he got very unlucky last year for the same reasons. Rivera will most likely battle it out for an outfield spot with Rajai Davis in Spring Training.
Napoli is likely going to be the starting catcher for the first time in his career and the new Blue Jays hitting approach should fit in perfectly with him. This is exactly what the Jays need, a catcher with power and a good track record to replace John Buck (who never really had a good track record); plus they even got a good hitting outfielder.

Vernon Wells still is in the middle of a huge contract in which, as aforementioned, he will be making $86 million over the next four seasons. I would expect that this will limit the Angels to any free-agent signings for the next three seasons. Wells had a good bounce back season at the plate posting a line of .273/.331/.515 and a .363 wOBA to go with 31 big flies and 44 doubles in 2010. Wells' plate discipline is a worrisome attribute for him as showed in his O-Swing%. It jumped from 24.9% in 2009 to 33.5% in 2010. Wells also had a fantastic April and May and slowed down a bit for the rest of the season.
A big problem that I have with this trade is the defense that is added to the Angels outfield, or lack thereof. Last year, Vernon Wells had a -6.4 UZR, Torii Hunter, who’s moving to right field, had a -7.0 UZR and Bobby Abreu had a -8.3 UZR; so that is clearly a HUGE defensive liability. However, what the Angels could do is move Abreu to DH and move Wells to left field and start prospect Peter Bourjos, who is essentially a defensive stud and has always been known as a very good defensive player in the minor leagues. That would seem to be the best fit for the Angels as they could also switch Wells and Hunter here and there.
I believe that Angels GM Tony Reagins kind of messed up with this trade. Don't get me wrong, Wells is a great addition to the lineup and will bring some more thunder to an Angels lineup that has failed to produce as well as it has in recent years, but the Blue Jays got, in my opinion, a better deal in Napoli and Rivera, and the two will really help that Blue Jays offense as well. Honestly though, $86 million for the next four years, Tony Reagins, what are you doing?

Jeff Mathis is just a total headache behind the plate with his CAREER -0.8 WAR and his CAREER .199 average. Yes, the Angels have their top hitting prospect Hank Conger to take over the catching job but he has shown some durability issues in the first couple of years of his pro career as well as some defensive worries as well. The only thing that I could be thinking is that Reagins was looking to give Conger the starting job this year and let the headache of Mathis sit on the Anaheim bench. I just do not think that picking up this huge salary on Wells was the right way of getting a productive bat as well as giving the job to Conger.

(Stats in courtesy of: espn.com, fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)


  1. Good article, but you completely forgot to mention JP Arencibia who is a top 3 catching prospect and has some MLB experience. Napoli will probably back up Arencibia for catcher and I see Napoli playing a lot of first base instead of catcher (like he did last year).

  2. Good point, I actually though Arencibia was just another backup catcher, that completely flew right over my head.