Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's a shame about Vern

Pt I: It didn't have to end this way (but we're all kinda' glad that it did)
At the end of the day, it was always about the money. Vernon Wells ranks at or near the top of every major offensive category on the Blue Jays career leaders list - and yeah, they're mostly counting stats based on longevity, but isn't that the point? - and yet, his relationship with the fans has always been...... strained. To say the least.

I mean, who gives themself the nickname "Boo"? A pretty good player living under the shadow of a ridiculous (as seen now) 7 yr/$126M deal handed out at the apex of MLB contract insanity, that's who.

That's megastar money for (just) a pretty good ballplayer who found himself in the right place at the right time. But with that money came expectations that could never be met and shoes ol' Boo could never fill. You always got the feeling Wells was a better fit in a supporting role, but that was never going to be an option once ink met paper. $126M players can't hide in the background, and every struggle was magnified. Every roll-over on an outside fastball or pop-up (GODDAMNIT!!) on a decent offspeed pitch brought on the chorus of hate as a result.

And now we won't have Vernon to kick around anymore. I'm not going to lie to you, I'll miss him.

Pt II: .... but it's OK to be happy about this
Am I going to miss the remaining $80+M over the next 4 seasons? Not so much. Being perfectly honest, I don't really care what Wells made. I never have. But it was/is (to the Angels, now) an albatross contract that had to affect the front-0ffice thinking with regards to roster construction, despite the constant proclaim of an open-ended budget.

And now? No more. If nothing else, it lets us dream (which is everything here). It's behind the subscriber wall, but I'll share a line from Keith Law's analysis of the deal on ESPN regarding the final outcome and ramifications from a Blue Jays perspective:

"They could become very good, very fast."

Feels good to be on the other side of one of these, doesn't it?

Pt III: And what of the new guys? Where do they fit?
Mike Napoli is an offensive-minded catcher whose best attribute is his power, and his worst? Fringey defence. Sound familiar? Somewhere, JP Arencibia nods his head silently. That said, don't be so quick to write-off the Jays' feelings about their young catcher or play up the team's apparent hesitation to let JPA play.

I'm of the opinion that Napoli will find AB's at 1B and DH in addition to his catching duties (think 3 times a week or so), with Arencibia likely seeing slightly-above platoon level at-bats. It just seems the franchise has invested too much in the young catcher in terms of coaching (Wakamatsu) and PR ("the kid has to play") to let him waste away on the bench, and there's nothing left for the AAA MVP to prove in Vegas. So play he will.

Juan Rivera? 4th outfielder..... if he makes the trip north out of Spring Training still a Blue Jay. I'm not convinced.

Pt IV: Where do we go from here?
If I have a concern for the 2011 Blue Jays (just one?), it's this: who are these guys?

Are we close to having all the pieces of the collective puzzle known as The Plan within the system? Or does this magnificent salary mulligan mean more blockbusters are on the horizon - be it this season or next winter? Something even more than a multi-year deal for Jose Bautista? Trades taking on salary? Players in free agency? Extensions for more young stars (Snider, Morrow....)?

(and by the way, if/when Bautista signs on long-term with the club - which I believe he now will - we should get everyone's opinion on record to prevent or justify the tired "I told you so" meme three years down the road. Me? I liked locking up Wells at the time. I know, I know....)

Pt V: Alex Anthopoulos terrifies me
In a good way. Silent Assassin, indeed.

Pt VI: From an LAA perspective
What. The. Fuck?

.... and in the end, it's a great deal for the Blue Jays franchise and a fresh start for Vernon. Remind me to never again bemoan the lack of "blockbuster" moves from the team during the traditional transactional periods. Goddamn, AA. Wow.

23 comments:

Tony Viner said...

Handsome writing Ack. But my proficiency in trading assets is unparalleled.

I trust you trust me?

Navin Vaswani said...

That's no longer our Vernon.

Great post, Acker. What a fucking few hours. I still need time to digest the magnitude of the move.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

The deal gives the Blue Jays a lot more flexibility and that's a very good thing. It's too bad that Wells got so much abuse. He didn't give himself the money. But he's the Angels' albatross now. The Blue Jays are free of it and can move forward. Great move for your home team.

mike in boston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mike in boston said...

amid all the excitement related to Rajai Davis and his .713 career OPS being the CF for the next 2 years it is worth remembering that this is another major move to shed ML salary combined with

1) another off-season where the team has decided not to spend on significant free agents, and
2) recent moves to trade ML talent for prospects

the team has not yet made moves at the ML level to back up their assertions that "when the time is right" they will commit significant dollars to the payroll. this move provides financial and positional flexibility, but that is just one half of the equation. let's hope Rogers comes through with the rest.

Ian - BJH said...

How in the hell did the Blue Jays manage to erase both the Alex Rios and Vernon Wells contracts? AA is truly the Silent Assassin - give him the GM of the year award right now.

PJaysW said...

I'm with Mike in Beantown, they sure shed a lot of salary...and better CF production than they were going to find any time soon, despite his below avg defense.
I'm sad to see Vernon go, I'm going to go hangout by his house in Lorne Park (Mississauga) for the next mo th to make sure he knows he was loved and will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I can see how the pessimistic may say this was just a salary dump. Worst case scenario it was. But the way I see it is we get back Napoli who gives us the flexibility to work in both Lind at 1B and Arencibia behind the plate. The competition should also ensure that Arencibia stays focused on getting his pitchers ready for game day.
Rivera was a throw in that we had to take and we have him for this season as a 4th OF. Worst case he is our everyday RF and Bautista is at 3B
We also have to keep in mind that when Davis was in CF for the a's in 08/09 he put up his best defensive statistics.
I'll miss Wells the person and leader of the team. I won't miss Wells batting cleanup.I hope this means they have signed Chavez!

Tao of Stieb said...

THIS IS NOT A SALARY DUMP! WAKE THE FUCK UP!

The Jays sent Wells and the $86 million on his contract - without having to pay any part of it - and got two every day MLB players.

If you can see the down side of that, then you're being way too pessimistic.

This clears salary for the Jays to sign José Bautista, or make a run at any number of free agents, or make sure that they lock up their own guys to long term deals.

When I'm so giddy that my nipples are cutting through my shirts, I can't conceive of how someone can find the downside of this deal.

Y'all are Leafs fans, aren't you.

Ty said...

Pujols!!!1

Hurley said...

See Tao, the thing that gets me is that Rogers could have done all those things that you just mentioned (sign JBau long term, make a run at high end free agents, lock up current players) even with Vernon's contract on the books. Nobody's being pessimistic just realistic. Mike in Boston is right, they have yet to commit to any significant signings at the Major League level and until they do that, I believe it is disingenuous to call people dumb fucks and Leaf fans (by the way there are a lot of those so maybe the stone throwing in glass houses analogy could apply).

I remember all to vividly Rogers assertions a few years back that the money saved with Burnett opting out of his contract was going to be reinvested in the annual budget and we all know how that turned out so lets just wait and see.

Nobody is suggesting that this is a bad transaction, but to gush all over it like a 12 year old at a Justin Bieber concert may be a little silly, no?

Anonymous said...

I think the best comment I've heard was a tweet about the deal that went something like this:

This deal would be vetoed in every fantasy league.

AA continues to amaze me.

PJaysW said...

Hurley summed up my thoughts exactly.
For a team who REPEATEDLY claims they are operating without a budget and REPEATEDLY claimed that VW's contract wasn't affecting their ability to make moves or acquire free agents, this move makes all of that look like bullshit.
I understand the added flexibility is gravy, but put the money where their mouths are and don't tell me THE CONTRACT is not a hindrance to their ability to spend, because they're llying.
This move confirms it. Now there are a bunch of 1B/LF/DH/C types on this roster, and two new ayers you could live without but had to take to... Wait for it... DUMP SALARY.

... And I'm still positive about the direction, just not sure this move helps when they could have done all they wanted WITH Vern.

I'm a Red Wings fan.

prankmunky said...

Hurley and PJaysW, Gush we will and gush we should. AA's ability to unload one of the worst contracts in baseball history should be lauded and not met with pessimism. Roger's financial commitment shouldn't even enter into the equation at this point. You have to remember that you not only free up the money with this deal but you also free up a ML roster spot. A roster spot that would be held for 4 years by a player on the wrong side of 30 and likely on the decline. A roster spot that can potentially be filled with a better player with his best years still ahead of him. Why do I have the feeling that you guys are just sour over a bad cell contract. You know you can haggle those down right?

And I wouldn't say the jays (and their fans) currently reside in a glass house more like mud brick... inexpensive and efficient.

Anonymous said...

Straight from Wilner's blog, Miked Up...

"Some fans will celebrate the Jays getting out from under the rest of the contract, but if you buy the company line that “the money will be there when it’s needed”, then it really wouldn’t have mattered how much he was making."

Paul McCartney said...

JET!

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with Vernon's contract was that it forced him into situations that didn't benefit the team: deteriorating defence? He's the highest paid player on the team, we can't move him from centre; struggling with the bat? He's making $23 mill, he's got to hit in the middle of the order.

He isn't a bad player by any definition, but he shouldn't be the highest paid player on any team.

DaveC said...

Rogers might be made of money, but that doesn't mean they don't still want to spend it wisely.

$23 million on several assets instead of one declining centrefielder sounds like good money sense to me.

Roberto said...

Agree with Dave.

I am a little worried about Rogers just pocketing the money they save on Wells's contract. However, the Hechevarria deal and the money spent on undrafted free agents, last year's draft, etc., is somewhat reassuring.

I'd like to think that the team is going young, cheap, and high-ceiling over the next year or two. Spending money when the player is truly worth it. And when they're within shouting distance of 95 wins, THEN they open the wallet for some rent-a-player type of deals.

Perhaps more importantly: If, in 3-5 years, the Jays have been to the playoffs a couple of times and have a core of young veterans, they'd better be willing to spend to keep the key players. A Marlins-style fire sale would make me very cynical about what Anthopoulos has said about money.

Tom Jackson said...

No more than 3 years plus a 1 year club option on Bautista at say $8 mil/$10 mil/$12 mil/option: $14 mil with say a $3 mil buyout. Just spitballing. I can't believe people are still questioning whether Rogers will spend or not. The many long term extensions since they took over and some big free agent signings plus all the spending on the amateur side of things and in the front office, scouting department, and the farm system say otherwise.

There will always be pessimists and I suppose pessimism is quite understandable in the wake of the Ash and Ricciardi regimes, but AA does not make stupid trades (like Ash) and he tends to keep things on the down low (unlike Ricciardi). It's a process, not a quick fix people. Well, unless you really want a version of "The Burke Solution" to be incorporated into our favourite baseball team. Ugh. No thanks.

Ice Cream Jonsey said...

I think the negative perception that still exists, surrounding ownership's stated willingness to spend, comes from the Millar/Mench/Dellucci/Wilkerson incident(s). We were a DH away from doing real damage, and the money wasn't there, forcing J.P. to go through those retreads. Additionally, it was pretty tough to hear that the money 'would be there' when no additions were made to the team that was in first place after two months in 2009.

However, aside from those two things, we've seen international scouting and signing beefed up and blowing past slot to get guys like Thon (love that deal so much, even if Thon never plays, I like what it stands for). That's huge. There was another negative blip when Marcum was traded before a possible extension was reached, but after learning more about Lawrie I am OK with the deal. (And the first jersey I ever bought was Marcum's.) The six million sent over to Philadelphia was also a nice sign, even though those skeezy cock jonglers ultimately had plenty of available cash to sign Lee.

There is a budget, regardless of what ownership has instructed Anthopolous to say. VW's future salary figured into it mightily. As fans, we can either let that particular lie go, because it is so egregious, and root for wisdom behind the slow building of a $80 - $100 mill team with the core we have now properly extended into their big boy contracts, or we can use that as a point of contention to go berserk. For me, I am willing to let the lie of "no budget" go for now. There is no present need to increase the salary. Especially since, aside from Adam Dunn, there weren't any free agent deals I wished the Jays had been a part of this off-season.

Anonymous said...

Who cares if it's a salary dump...it's still salary that NEEDED to be dumped. Whether your AA, Beeston, or Ted's ghost, if an investment isn't paying off, and you can can move it at no loss, you move it.
Easy to be critical of a 'salary dump' when it isn't your millions.
Great deal! Best of luck VW

Anonymous said...

Wells was a good player, a great guy and anyone that says they wont miss him is a fool for thinking that freeing up that money will be invested BACK into salary...