Surprise! Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera Traded for Vernon Wells

Wow. I leave the internets alone for one day and our recently all too mild-mannered Tony Reagins turns into the Trade Ninja again. So intent was I on fun, gorgeous scenery and wine today that I wasn’t even checking my email (understandable given that reception up here is pretty hit and miss) and didn’t notice the trade announcement until a few hours ago. Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays in exchange for Vernon Wells and an undisclosed amount of cash, or no cash at all depending on which reports you read. My, that was unexpected.

Admittedly, my initial reaction to the trade news was a little pouty. Mike Napoli is one of my favorite current Angels players and you always hate to see a favorite player move on even though it’s all part of the game. But then the trade started to grow on me. The truth of the matter is, Mike Scioscia prefers Jeff Mathis behind the plate and has said repeatedly that he considers Napoli too streaky to be anything more than an occasional DH. Whether or not I agree with Scioscia’s assessment, the bottom line is that barring injuries and with Kendry back at first (Yay!), at the absolute best Napoli was only going to split time behind the plate and see a couple of games as the DH anyway. If the Angels were going to underuse him, I’m sad to see a favorite player go, but I would rather trade him for someone the Angels will use. I wish Napoli all the best with the Blue Jays, except when the Blue Jays play the Angels. He’s streaky. Maybe he can have a brief slump those games.

On the other hand, I am not at all sorry to see Juan Rivera go. It’s uncharitable, I realize. He gave the Angels a few great seasons but he’s been sliding downhill since returning from the broken leg. He just seems to play with fear and hesitation now and the hustle is gone. I can forgive a player many things, including loss of mobility from aging or injury, but lack of hustle is something I’ve always found very hard to forgive. I wish him well in Toronto, I truly do (except when they play us, of course), but after last season especially, I will not miss him in Anaheim.

As for the other end of the deal? Yes, we overpaid. Whether or not we actually get cash out of this. I’m not even going to debate that. But, with the way deals have been going this offseason, free agency signings, trades or otherwise, I just don’t see very many ways for the Angels to have avoided overpaying and other teams already struck those deals. Yes, Vernon Wells is 32. But he doesn’t seem to have slowed down in the outfield since his Gold Glove years and, in terms of homeruns, OPS and batting average, 2010 was one of Wells’ best offensive seasons since 2006. When you ignore the money (and I am, because, really, how many deals didn’t involve insane money this offseason?) the Angels traded two players they were using as occasional utility players for a starting outfielder with a good glove and a dangerous bat. Between Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter and Wells, I am actually really excited to see our outfield in action this year and I am starting to worry less about the batting line-up…though we still really need a leadoff hitter. I also love how excited Wells sounded about coming to Anaheim in his interview. He sounded ready to win and certain the Angels could accomplish that. Maybe he can help bring some of the swagger and daring the Angels lost in 2010 back to the Big A. Optimism returning and growing.



  1. Jane Heller

    I immediately thought of you when I heard about the trade the other day. Your team finally stoked the Hot Stove! Wells has always given the Yankees trouble, even during his down years with the Jays, so I know he’s extremely talented and I’m glad he’s out of our division. And hey, it’s not the fans’ money. So the Angels overpaid. As you point out, it happens all the time.

  2. morrismcdoo

    Funny Rivera story. It was the third game of last season, and my family and I were front row down third base line. Great seats. Rivera was in left and whomever was pitching struck out a batter for out number two….and Rivera starting running in, thinking it was out three. The fans all started yelling…”Juan!! It’s only two outs!!” It took Wood waving him back before he realized it. As he hustled back I could see how red his face was. When the third out finally happened and Juan started in, we all started cheering and Juan took a quick bow, laughing it off. I know, a cheesy memory, but I liked the guy. He hasn’t been the same since his broken leg, and I wish him all the best in Toronto.l

  3. blithescribe

    Jane – Finally, indeed! And not in the way I think anyone, including the Angels, really saw it coming but hey, at least it’s something and I think a decent something at that. I am surprised at all the extremely negative commentary in the press to be honest. We’ll see how it plays out this season.
    Morris – I don’t think that’s a cheesy story at all. It’s always great to get interaction with the players, and I think this is a particularly endearing Juan story. I have nothing against Rivera personally. I just think he’s getting to be more of a liability in left and when Scioscia puts him in right, he gets a chip on his shoulder and fights with Bourjos over the ball. Maybe this trade will work out well for him in the end. It sounds like the Jays plan on using him and not just as a DH and I remember that Juan hits a ton in Toronto. I wish him all the best too…just with a mini-slump when the Jays play the Angels.
    – Kristen

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