The Vernon Wells Trade, Part II: What the Jays are getting back

Coming back in this trade are two major-league players in C/1B/DH Mike Napoli and OF Juan Rivera.

I think it should be assumed that if the Angels had offered Toronto a pack of Big League Chew they would have accepted the trade, but the fact is, Napoli and Rivera are far from useless commodities.

Napoli, although not a great defensive catcher is probably better than people think he is; he’s certainly better than the Angels think he is.

He’s also one of the better offensive catchers in the game having posted a career OPS 26 points higher than that of Wells at .831.  He also tops Wells in OBP (.346-.328) and in slugging percentage (.485-.475).  Napoli also has a career walk-rate of 11% which is a very solid above-average number.  The Jays need patience at the plate; we know this.

From pretty much any angle, Napoli in himself is comparable to Wells in return value, especially when you consider Napoli’s salary will be no more than just over $6-million for 2011.

Defensively, Napoli has some serious versatility and fits two or three real needs in the Jays’ lineup.  He was actually rated as an above-average fielder last season with the Angels, according to FanGraphs and will allow Toronto to ease J.P. Arencibia into his role as starting catcher this season.  If Arencibia struggles and has to be sent down, Napoli and Jose Molina are more than capable of carrying the catching load.

Outside of that, Napoli actually played more games and innings at first base last season in Anaheim than at catcher, where he more than held his own defensively.  Given his propensity to tear apart left-handed pitching (.289/.393/.538 against lefties vs. .238/.329/.467 against righties in his career) a platoon situation at first base with Adam Lind does seem to make some sense.

His offensive ability also makes him a nice DH option when there’s no other way to get him in the lineup.

This also allows Edwin Encarnacion to move into a corner-infielder bench role who can also DH occasionally, which in my opinion increases his value over his status as a below-average regular.

There’s very little not to like about Napoli in a favourable situation such as Toronto.

As for Juan Rivera, he was more of a throw in to the deal, likely to make room on Los Angeles’ depth chart as well as to clear his $5.25-million salary for 2011, but he still fills a noted hole in Toronto, especially with Wells departing.

Rivera will likely occupy one of the corner positions (my guess is left field) with Travis Snider playing in the other.  Rivera is not a particularly good fielder but does possess some pop at the plate with a career .461 slugging-percentage and even if his on-base numbers aren’t great, he still has an identical .328 career OBP as Wells.

The more I look at this deal, the more I love it.

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One response to “The Vernon Wells Trade, Part II: What the Jays are getting back

  1. Pingback: Today in bad journalism: Ken Fidlin, Toronto Sun | Baseball Canadiana

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