Wednesday, November 28, 2012

http://img.bleacherreport.net/img/images/photos/001/966/497/hi-res-6525434_crop_exact.jpg?w=650&h=440&q=75

By Robert Cunningham - AngelsWin.com Columnist

Vernon Wells has a really bloated contract.

This isn’t news to pretty much everyone in Major League Baseball (MLB).

It isn’t news to Arte Moreno. It isn’t news to Mike Scioscia. It isn’t news to Jerry Dipoto (JeDi).

Even before the season ended, there were various sources indicating that the Angel’s were working hard to move Vernon and the 2 years and $42 million remaining on his contract.

But are there any teams willing and able to acquire him in trade?

Realistically, is there any ballclub that needs a regular left fielder, right fielder, or a platoon bat, that has some type of matchup with the Angels that includes a swap of large contracts? Is Vernon Wells a viable MLB player and would another team see him as an asset if the Angels absorbed a huge chunk of his salary?

Despite the large amount of money involved, there are at least three factors in Dipoto’s favor:

•    First of all Vernon is, by all accounts, a great clubhouse guy. Unfortunately that doesn’t translate to actual play in the field.

•    Second, Wells does still have a serviceable bat versus left-handed pitching (LHP). As recently as 2011, Vernon had a .851 On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging (OPS) against LHP which, in a platoon role, would be seen as an asset to many teams.

•    Third, and finally, Vernon still adds some limited value with his defense, playing in left field. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) pegged him with a UZR/150 (Games Played) of 11.7 in 2011 and 3.1 in 2012 (the latter based on inconsistent playing time due to injury). Even the worst defensive evaluation (Total Zone) had him at an average MLB glove in left field which, again, another club might find value in, compared to other, alternative choices.

So are these factors enough to overcome the stigma of his massive contract and the perception that his bat doesn’t play anymore in a full-time outfield role? The answer really revolves around the 800 lb. gorilla in the room: the Money!

Last year, according to FanGraphs, Vernon Wells produced 0.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Translating this into real-money value equates to approximately $2.7 million dollars. Clearly there is a huge delta between that number and the $42 million remaining on his contract.

On the assumption that Vernon could produce the same 0.6 WAR in 2013 and say, based on a -0.5 decline per year, 0.1 WAR in 2014, you are faced with a total value of approximately $3 million dollars over the next two seasons. This basically means that if the Angels want to trade Vernon they will have to eat $39 million ($42-$3 = $39 million) dollars, or something close to it, to make the offer attractive enough for another team to accept the risk.

Now some might disagree, but Vernon Wells at $3 million is a more appealing platoon, or even regular full-time, outfield option with a small amount of upside (say a possible 1, maybe 2, WAR potential) for an acquiring team. At $3 million, you get a veteran player with a good clubhouse presence and a decent bat against LHP. In fact, this is very similar to what the Yankee’s paid Andruw Jones for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Another assumption is would Vernon be willing to waive his no-trade clause to move out of Anaheim? I think, based on all that has happened, that would be a yes. Wells has struggled in his time with the Angels and I think that, combined with his projected playing time and fan backlash, would provide the impetus that Vernon needs to get a fresh start with a different ballclub. Most players want to play and Vernon is probably no exception.

So, now the question becomes, what teams would be willing to acquire a left-field regular or platoon outfield bat and have, either, a relatively bad contract to exchange with us or are willing to accept Vernon if we eat an enormous amount of cash? Below is a list of the top 30 highest paid players in MLB for the 2013 season:

Player
2013 Salary
Guaranteed Years Remaining on Contract
Total Guaranteed Contract Value
Alex Rodriguez
$28,000,000
5
$114,000,000
Johan Santana
$25,500,000
1
$25,500,000
Cliff Lee
$25,000,000
3
$75,000,000
Prince Fielder
$23,000,000
8
$191,000,000
Joe Mauer
$23,000,000
6
$138,000,000
CC Sabathia
$23,000,000
4
$94,000,000
Mark Teixeira
$22,500,000
4
$90,000,000
Tim Lincecum
$22,000,000
1
$22,000,000
Miguel Cabrera
$21,000,000
3
$65,000,000
Vernon Wells
$21,000,000
2
$42,000,000
Adrian Gonzalez
$21,000,000
6
$127,000,000
Justin Verlander
$20,000,000
2
$40,000,000
Roy Halladay
$20,000,000
1
$20,000,000
Ryan Howard
$20,000,000
4
$95,000,000
Barry Zito
$20,000,000
1
$20,000,000
Matt Cain
$20,000,000
5
$100,000,000
Cole Hamels
$19,500,000
6
$132,000,000
Felix Hernandez
$19,500,000
2
$39,500,000
Alfonso Soriano
$18,000,000
2
$36,000,000
Joey Votto
$17,000,000
12
$238,000,000
Derek Jeter
$17,000,000
1
$17,000,000
Matt Holliday
$17,000,000
4
$68,000,000
A.J. Burnett
$16,500,000
1
$16,500,000
Albert Pujols
$16,000,000
9
$228,000,000
Jered Weaver
$16,000,000
4
$70,000,000
David Wright
$16,000,000
1
$16,000,000
Michael Young
$16,000,000
1
$16,000,000
Adrian Beltre
$16,000,000
3
$51,000,000
Jayson Werth
$16,000,000
5
$99,000,000
Josh Beckett
$15,750,000
2
$31,500,000
Note: Only guaranteed years are shown. Many of these players have an extra option year(s) that will vest under particular conditions.


Wow! That is a lot of players with guaranteed money next season! By looking at that list it appears that there are some possible trade partners the Angels could match up with in a swap for Vernon Wells.

First of all, in order to better identify candidates, we can effectively eliminate several names off of that list: Fielder, Teixeira, Cabrera, Gonzalez, Howard, Votto, and Pujols all play first base, which is definitely not a position of need for the Angels, and the last one, of course, is already on our team.

Additionally, the following pitchers can be eliminated: Sabathia, Verlander, Cain, Hamels, Hernandez, Lee, Beckett, Burnett, and Weaver. All of them are staff aces that appear to be clear locks to stay with their respective teams or were recently acquired and not likely to be moved and, of course, Jered already plays for the Halo’s.

Finally, there is another subset of players who would probably be unavailable: Jeter, Wright, Holliday, Soriano, Young, Beltre, and Werth. These players would likely not be traded due to either team loyalty, not an area-of-need, they would cost us to much, or the fact that a lot of teams won’t trade within their division.

That leaves us with the following list:


Player
2013 Salary
Guaranteed Years Remaining on Contract
Total Guaranteed Contract Value
Alex Rodriguez
$28,000,000
5
$114,000,000
Johan Santana
$25,500,000
1
$25,500,000
Joe Mauer
$23,000,000
6
$138,000,000
Tim Lincecum
$22,000,000
1
$22,000,000
Roy Halladay
$20,000,000
1
$20,000,000
Barry Zito
$20,000,000
1
$20,000,000


So let’s take a look at each one and determine if there really is a fit:

Alex Rodriguez:

First of all, A-Rod would fill an area of potential need for the Angels at third base. The problems, however, are that A-Rod has an even more massive contract than Vernon, the Yankees would have to absorb quite a bit of that money, he is 4 years older, and would he even consent to waiving his no-trade clause?

Assuming that A-Rod’s 2.2 WAR, for 2012, is a baseline for 2013 and beyond, and he declines at a -0.5 rate per year, you are looking at a total of 3.5 WAR which, in terms of salary, equates to approximately $20-25 million. There are also additional, significant milestone bonuses that could add up to another $30 million although that is a catch-22 as the bonuses are related to home run totals and if he is achieving those thresholds that means he is probably producing with his bat.

So would the Yankees eat $90 million? That is probably as likely as the Angels eating Vernon’s $42 million.

However, there is a potential fit with the probable departure of Andruw Jones from New York and a potential need for an outfield platoon bat, to compliment Granderson, in their lineup.

It doesn’t seem to be in the Angel’s best interest to acquire an aging (almost ancient) superstar when we have a very cost-effective ($6 million) solution in the form of Callaspo. There is always a small chance that A-Rod could surprise with an upside season but at the age of 37 there is a lot of risk involved. On top of that we would have to absorb five years of his play in our lineup which doesn’t even consider the fact that he is losing range every year at third base.

Although at first glance there appears to be a fit the Angel’s should pass on A-Rod and utilize Callaspo, Trumbo, or even Pujols at third for 2013 and look for a longer-term solution (hopefully prospects Cowart or Jimenez) for 2014 and beyond. Also it appears that A-Rod will refuse to waive his no-trade clause which makes it a non-starter idea.

Determination: Unlikely

Johan Santana:


It has been reported, ever since the Bernie Madoff scandal, that the Met’s franchise might be in financial trouble. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, there were even reports that MLB might have to step in and take over the team due to its financial woes.

A Santana for Wells swap has some possibilities embedded in it. First of all the Angels are in need of starting pitching and Johan Santana does have a past history of ace-level performance. He also has an injury history. The Met’s just released Jason Bay so there is a possible left field position open for Vernon. Although the Met’s started off well in 2012 their season fizzled out and a trade might make sense from a financial point-of-view.

Considering that over a full season Johan might produce 2.5 WAR we can probably guess that his true value sits somewhere around $12-15 million for the remaining year on his contract (Note: He has a team option on his contract for $25 million with a $5.5 million buyout). Add that in to the probable buyout for the 2014 season and he has a realistic value, for 2013, of $7-10 million. That is a negative contract value of $15-18 million.

The Angels may be able to make a trade of Johan Santana for Vernon Wells plus some combination of MLB-ready players, prospects, and/or cash. Clearly the Angels would have to provide about $25 million worth of additional value for a trade to make sense for New York. A reliever, such as Jordan Walden, along with 1-3 prospects and/or some cash might make this happen.

New York is a motivated seller at the moment so inquiring about Santana wouldn’t hurt, especially when you consider our sudden need for pitching. There is a fit on both sides of the aisle and the contract differences aren’t too wide for the two teams to bridge the gap.

Determination: Maybe

Joe Mauer:

Author’s Note: After this article was penned, it was reported that the Red Sox have inquired about Mauer and that the Twins have rejected all advances regarding a trade, which makes this case even more unlikely for exactly the reasons I described.

The case for Joe Mauer, on paper, makes sense. You have a player with a massive contract that is slightly underperforming based on the salary he’s receiving. The problems with the idea are probably more political than they are business related.

First of all the Twins are not in a position to have a realistic chance of winning in the next 2 years. Their rotation is in shambles and there are some definite holes to fill now and in the future, say around the 2015 timeframe, when they will be more likely to contend. Building for that future would be a wise decision for the Twins and moving Mauer’s contract, in principle, would make good financial sense.

The other problems that would face the Twins, in any possible Mauer trade, is 1) How would the fan base feel about their “hometown hero” being traded, 2) Would the organization be negatively impacted, financially, by lower fan attendance and, baseball-wise, not being seen as a good destination for free agent signings, and 3) Would Mauer waive his no-trade clause?

If the Twins are serious about rebuilding they should trade Joe Mauer. Yes there will be backlash from the fan base and some temporary loss in attendance but a future, stronger Twins team should be the goal. I think even Joe would give consideration to waiving his no-trade clause if the Twins asked him to and it gave him an opportunity to possibly win a championship. Mauer could bring in some decent prospect talent in the right deal.

In order to determine Joe’s true value we would start by using his 2012, 5-WAR season as the baseline and then apply the -0.5 WAR per year decline over the remainder of his 6-year contract. So if he has a 5-WAR season, at age 30 in 2013, his total WAR over that six years would be approximately 22.5, total. That is equivalent to a rough total value of $110-115 million. This would leave about $23-28 million in negative value over the life of his contract.

That surplus is fairly significant and is closer to the total $39 million negative value that Vernon currently carries. It would behoove the Angels to actually inquire on Mauer just to see if this is a possibility. The loss of Torii Hunter has created a need for a high-OBP hitter and Mauer with his sweet left-handed stroke, hitting behind Trout and in front of Pujols, would be a fantastic fit in the batting order.

In order to make a trade work the Angels would have to provide several million in trade value, especially considering that Mauer is a superstar player. Joe Mauer for Vernon Wells and a group of prospects would give the Twins the opportunity to flip Denard Span and/or Josh Willingham for the starting pitching they desperately need.

Actually the Angels probably could expand the trade and bring in both Joe Mauer and left-handed reliever Glen Perkins in exchange for Vernon Wells, Jordan Walden, Randall Grichuk, Taylor Lindsey, and Cameron Bedrosian.

The Angels need another LHP in the bullpen and Walden could become the Twins closer through 2016, while Lindsey could potentially fill in Minnesota’s infield needs at second, and Bedrosian could join the Twins rising young group of pitching prospects that are projected to hit the Major league club in the 2015 timeframe. Vernon could roam their outfield for 2 years and would be gone as they enter their projected division-contention years.

Although this seems to be a good fit, there are issues that make it difficult. The Angels would have to move one of Trumbo or Pujols to third base, when Mauer isn’t catching. Also, Hank Conger would either have to be included in the trade (possible) or flipped to another team as he would be redundant. To keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup every day would take some serious chess moves on JeDi’s and Scioscia’s parts.

So unless some serious lineup repositioning or trades are made this idea is probably dead in the water. On top of that you’d have to get past both Vernon’s and Joe’s no-trade clauses and the Twins would have to accept the backlash of losing the face of their franchise. If Mauer is like Weaver, and loves his hometown, then this is probably a no-go from the start.

But still a 1-2-3-4 of Trout, Mauer, Pujols, and Morales makes the mouth water, no?

Determination: Unlikely

Tim Lincecum:


The “Freak” had his first real down year in 2012 where he found himself struggling with his control. In fact he was moved into a bullpen role near the end of the year due to those said struggles.

Lincecum clearly has a strong pedigree and his 1.5 WAR season is probably not a reflection of his true value. His stuff began to return late in the season so determining his value is a little tricky but clearly he is not worth the $22 million remaining on his one year contract.

So where does that leave us? If the Giants want to move one of their starters, Lincecum would clearly have more value in trade but based on his 2012 season his value would seem to be around $8 million. However with the thin pitcher market and the mere fact that at least one club was willing to take Santana at $12 million shows you that this valuation is off by a lot.

If you peg Timmy’s value at, say, $14 million that means he is carry a negative value of $8 million dollars. The Angels, in order to make a Wells trade happen, would have to kick in about $30 million in additional value. Although that is a stretch the Giants have some motivation to move some salary as they have been heard to be interested in Josh Hamilton and that would require a large investment.

This is another situation where expanding the trade would have value for the Angels. If the Angels moved Vernon Wells, Jordan Walden, 2-3 prospects, and, say, $5-10 million in cash, for instance, that might be enough to acquire Tim Lincecum and LHP Javier LHP for the 2013 season.

The move would give us a quality starter and a lefty reliever for 2013 and the Giants would fill in an outfield hole and replace the loss of Brian Wilson who is probably a definite non-tender. Additionally the Giants would free up a little more cash for other moves.

The Giants are probably more inclined to keep Tim and move Zito instead (see below). In principle it looks like a good move but may be hard to pull off from the Angel’s side.

Determination: Unlikely

Roy Halladay:

This prediction is based on two things: 1) The Phillies seem like they may want to move some payroll to pursue other needs and 2) Halladay is starting to age and was on the DL for part of the 2012 season.

The Angels were very interested in acquiring Halladay before the Phillies picked him up from Toronto. I don’t think that desire has changed but the Angels have to find a fit and Vernon would actually be a good platoon bat in Philadelphia.

Dominic Brown, Laynce Nix, Tyson Gilies, and Nate Schierholtz are all left-handed hitters. If the Phillies go big, and acquire Josh Hamilton, that would be another left-handed bat. Having a right-handed bat would help balance out the lineup.

Despite posting only a 2.5 WAR in 2012, it is clear that a pitcher like Halladay is not worth $13 million. Realistically Roy is closer to the $20 million he is going to be paid for 2013, so he probably has, at worst, a negative value of $3-4 million. Essentially the Angels would have to kick in roughly $35 million in additional value for the Phillies to consider it worthwhile.

The Phillies reportedly need a set up man in their bullpen so someone like Walden might be a fit here too. A package of Vernon Wells, Taylor Lindsey, Randall Grichuk, and perhaps one more positional prospect like Luis Jimenez, along with $10 million in cash, might make sense in a trade. Any trade for Halladay would probably have to involve cash relief as the Phillies might find themselves close to the luxury tax.

Determination: Maybe

Barry Zito:

There have been multiple suggestions that a Wells for Zito trade would make sense of both the Giants and the Angels and it is hard to disagree with that assertion.

Zito will be paid $20 million for the 2013 season and has an option for another $20 million in 2014 with a $7 million buyout. Clearly the 2014 option, barring some miracle turn around by Barry, would not be exercised, so you are looking at a pitcher who will be paid $27 million over the next 2 years and, realistically, based on his 2012, 0.8 WAR, is only worth about $3.6 million for 2013. This would be a negative valuation of $23.5 million.

Barry is clearly not a good starting pitcher anymore and hasn’t been for a while. The Angels would be taking a big risk by trading for him. A straight up trade of Zito for Wells plus, say, $13-14 million in cash would make the most sense. Again the Giants have interest in Hamilton so the cash relief would go towards freeing up salary to bid on him. The Angels might actually prefer this route as it would take Hamilton out of Texas and the American League.

This probably is the most likely scenario out of all the ones available and it is definitely the least sexy of the group. It does fill needs on both sides but it does so inadequately for both teams. This is why bad contracts are so bad.

Determination: Likely

Conclusion:

All of these scenarios will be difficult to complete. The Vernon Wells contract has negatively impacted the Angels by tying up a large amount of money in what is basically a replacement level player at this point in his career.

It is also tying up a roster spot that could be used for a more useful purpose, such as playing Kole Calhoun in a platoon role, with his left-handed swing, to compliment the right-handed hitting outfielders projected to play in 2013 (Trout, Bourjos, and Trumbo).

If the Angels can’t find a trade partner, JeDi will, unfortunately, keep Vernon on our bench for the 2013 season. His only hope, beyond a trade, is that Wells performs well to start off the 2013 season and then he can possibly flip him for something of value before the trade deadline.

The real lesson to be learned from all of this is that any team, including the Angels, should perform thorough evaluations of players before signing or trading for them, especially when large amounts of money are involved. A simple look at Vernon Well’s road splits or Scott Kazmir’s 2008, and pre-trade 2009, peripheral stat’s would, and should, have sent off enough warning bells for the Angels to either back out of the deals or at least not pay such a high price for their true aptitude levels.
Love to hear what you think!

AngelsWin Media



AngelsWin.com Website Store

 photo t_zps6af139fc.gif
Copyright © 2013 Los Angeles Angels Blog | AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com is the unofficial website of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Our comments and views do not express the views of the major league club or anyone affiliate with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  AngelsWin.com blog content, articles and opinions are provided "as is" and without warranties of any kind.  We disclaim warranties, express or implied, including warranties for a particular purpose, accuracy, completeness, availability, security, compatibility and non-infringement.  Blog material, articles and other information furnished or supplied by you to AngelsWin.com become the ownership of AngelsWin.com for use at our discretion.  Your use of AngelsWin content is at your own discretion and risk. We do not warrant that any content here be error free that access thereto will be uninterrupted or errors will be corrected. We do not warrant or make any representations regarding  the use of any content made available through AngelsWin.com  You hereby waive any claim against us with respect thereto. AngelsWin.com may contain the opinions and views of other members and users. We cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy, efficacy or veracity of any content generated by our members and other users. The content of AngelsWin.com is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. Such content is not intended to, and does not, constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis, and may not be used for such purposes. Reliance on any information appearing on AngelsWin.com is strictly at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in, or accessible through, the AngelsWin.com without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or professional licensed in the recipient's state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.