Why, And How, Moreno Landed Wells
Here is the first thing you have to know about the Angels’ deal for Vernon Wells:
If the offer had come two months, or even six weeks earlier, they might have laughed Toronto’s GM off the phone. How many millions would it cost to pick up the contract of the Blue Jays’ outfielder? No chance.
But then Carl Crawford went to Boston for $142 million, and Adrian Beltre signed with Texas for a reported $90 million. And the criticism of Moreno, the owner who seemed determine to sign one of those free agents, started to mount.
That’s almost precisely when GM Tony Reagins was OK’d to begin speaking seriously with the Blue Jays’ Alex Anthopoulos. Still, $86 million left on a deal that had four years remaining seemed extremely high.
Well, at Wells’ introductory press conference outside Angels’ Stadium on Wednesday, a few more facts came to light and that deal suddenly sounded much more palatable.
First, despite reports to the contrary, Moreno said Toronto DID pick up some of the money owed to Wells. He didn’t say exactly how much, but he indicated it was in the neighborhood of $5 million.
OK, so if you subtract that much, as well as the $11 million the Angels won’t have to pay Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, the two Anaheim players involved in the deal, suddenly that $86 million is reduced to about $70 million.
Granted, that’s still a lot of money. But a salary of $17.5 million a year for four years is a lot different than $22 million a year across the same time frame.
People argue that for the same total, the Angels could have had Beltre. Except the difference is this is a four-year deal, and the one Beltre signed with Texas is for six years.
“I don’t like six or seven-year deals,” Moreno said, and you can’t really blame him.
Moreno said the criticism he received for losing out on Crawford and Beltre didn’t bother him. That’s hard to believe.
He is human, and his image as an owner had been as strong as any in baseball up until that time. No one likes to see his reputation take a major hit. Besides, baseball-wise, Moreno knew his team was still in dire straits offensively.
He had to do something, and now he has. Everyone in the organization seemed alternately a) relieved and b) almost giddy at the press conference.
Wells, smooth and articulate, made a good first impression, and his longtime buddy, Torii Hunter, who was there to lend support, sounded almost as excited as Manager Mike Scioscia about landing the Toronto center fielder.
“You realize we’ll now have three athletes (Wells, Hunter and Peter Bourjos) out there (in the outfield),” Hunter said. “We haven’t had that since I’ve been here. But now we have three real athletes and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
This is not to say Wells’ acquisition solved all the Angels’ problems. It didn’t. They still can’t really identify their leadoff hitter or their fifth starting pitcher, and, when asked whom his closer would be if the season started tomorrow, Scioscia gave incumbent Fernando Rodney what would have to be described as a lukewarm endorsement.
Still, there were plenty of Angels’ fans who showed up, standing behind the chairs at the press conference, whooping and cheering and sounding enthused about the upcoming season.
And trust me, that’s something that just wouldn’t have happened without the Vernon Wells trade.
— STEVE BISHEFF