Economic considerations motivated the Vernon Wells trade. The Blues got out from under the last four years of his contract.
While agreeing to absorb that cost, the Angels unloaded two overpaid players – OF Juan Rivera and C-1B Mike Napoli. Both teams gained clear budgetary benefits from this trade.
The fantasy implications are much murkier, however. Will any of the traded players actually gain fantasy value?
Let’s look at those impacted:
Vernon Wells, OF, Angels: He was solid last season in Toronto, hitting .273 with 31 home runs, 44 doubles and 88 RBIs. But Wells, 32, averaged 17 homers and 74 RBIs during the previous three seasons while battling assorted injuries. And his ’10 on-base percentage was just .331, which ranked 88th among 149 qualifying hitters.
Since Anaheim underbid for free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre earlier in this offseason, Wells will face lofty expectations. On the other hand, he will get hit in the middle of an impressive offensive lineup. Perhaps the change of scenery will energize him.
“To go into a season where you're expected to win — I haven't had that in a while, and it's something I'm looking forward to,” Wells told reporters on a conference call. “The last two days have been two of the most goose bump-filled days I've had in my career.”
Juan Rivera, OF, Blue Jays: He will bid for the starting right field job in Toronto. Back in 2009, he hit .287 with 25 homers. But last season Rivera, 32, hit just 15 homers while hitting .252 and posting a .312 on-base percentage. Can he hit enough to convince the Blue Jays to keep slugger Jose Bautista at 3B?
Mike Napoli, C-1B, Blue Jays: The good news: He has topped 20 homers the last three seasons, which is notable for a catcher. The bad news: He continued a three-year slide in batting average (to .238), his career worst and on-base percentage (.316). He is a defensive liability behind the plate and he didn’t do much with his opportunity to fill in at first last season in Anaheim.
His .182 average with runners in scoring position and 137 strikeouts made him expendable. Can he earn regular work in Toronto? The Blue Jays have many 1B/DH candidates, starting with reliable Adam Lind. Toronto also has prospect J.P. Arencibia ready to step in as catcher.
Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays: With Wells departing, he gets an opportunity to take over in center field. “They’re making room for somebody, yeah? That’s pretty amazing; I’m speechless,” Davis told the Norwich Bulletin. “It’s something I’m looking forward to, training even more. I’m excited.” Davis hit .284 with 50 stolen bases for Oakland last season.
Jeff Mathis, C, Angels: Napoli’s exit gives him an opportunity to play more. But his .199 career batting average makes him a potential liability, so Bobby Wilson and rookie Hank Conger will be pressing for playing time as well.
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