Worst Trade Ever?

It's hard to overstate how bad the Angels' trade with Toronto was.

From a strictly performance standpoint, the Angels traded a 29-year-old catcher who had averaged 2.4 WAR over the past three years and a left fielder who had averaged 0.7 WAR in that same time for a left fielder who had averaged less than 2 WAR. So right off the bat, the Angels are losing the trade by a couple of wins per season.

Then there is everything else.

For one thing, Napoli has long been mystifyingly underplayed by Mike Scoscia, who apparently thinks his defense is so bad that it outweighs his prodigious offense. Instead, Scoscia has played the truly abominable Jeff Mathis — and will presumably be free to do this even more. Mathis has averaged -0.4 wins per season. If Napoli's 2.4 WAR are replaced by Mathis' -0.4 WAR, then the Angels are actually trading or losing 3.5 wins to get back Wells' 1.9. 

(Some have argued that Napoli's defense is so bad that it cuts deeply into his value at catcher, which is fine, except that there is 1. no evidence of that, based on any attempts to measure catcher defense, and 2. actually evidence that however bad Napoli is [he is certainly below average], Mathis is actually worse.)

But that's obviously not the whole story; there's also the money.

The Angels, because they inconceivably did not demand that Toronto cover some ofhis salary, will be paying Vernon Wells $86 million for his age 32-35 seasons, or more than $22 million per year for a player who has averaged 2 WAR per season entering that period. That's bad enough, but it comes after they elected, for whatever reason, not to sign Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.

The Red Sox signed Crawford to a huge contract, yes, but one that will pay him less for his age 32-35 seasons than the Angels will pay Wells. If the Angels declined to sign Crawford because he required a seven-year deal while Wells was only locked up for four seasons, it's the very definition of getting the cart before the horse. The reason why teams are leery about long-term deals is because the back ends can get pretty ugly. So the Angels rejected giving Crawford a lot of money for his prime age 29-31 years presumably out of fear over what his age 32-35 years would look like, then turned around to acquire a player and pay him more per season for a contract that (for them) includes only the potentially ugly back end. Oh, and Crawford averaged 3.4 WAR over the past three seasons and was well above that in the past two.

And then there's the Beltre deal, which pays the elite-fielding, solid-offense third baseman less total money for his age 32-36 seasons than the Angels will pay Wells for his age 32-25 years. Beltre, of course, has averaged better than 3.5 WAR over the past three seasons, so the Rangers will be paying less for a more valuable player, and they're only spending money to do it, not giving up one of the best-hitting catchers in the game.

So there's that aspect: The Angels turned down deals that will pay better players less money for their age 32-25 seasons, then gave up another better player for the privilege of paying a worse hitter more money for those very same seasons.

Then there's this one: If the Angels, already smarting after their failure to acquire one of the two players everyone assumed they would acquire, felt the need to get a high-impact bat, why didn't they sign Manny Ramirez, whose WAR over the past three seasons far exceeds Wells'? Or Jim Thome, whose bat has averaged to roughly the same WAR over the past three years. Or Johnny Damon, who averaged roughly 3.5 WAR over the past three years? These players are all much older than Wells and come with some risk, which is why they all signed cheap one-year contracts. The Wells' contract is far, far riskier.

So to recap:

  • The Angels declined to sign two better players to contracts that would have paid them less money for their decline years.
  • The Angels declined to sign any number of outfield/DH types who would have commanded far less for similar or better production.
  • Instead, they traded away two players for Vernon Wells and his monstrous contract.
  • One of those players is actually more valuable than Wells and plays a position where offense is a tremendous scarcity.

I don't think I've ever seen a trade make less sense.

16 comments… add one

  • I would bet Vernon goes off this year in Anaheim. Watch.

    krueg January 25, 2011, 10:40 am
  • Few things:
    1. There’s no arguing that this trade was bad in the sense that the Angels really didn’t get max value for their players AND they are on the hook for the whole contract. Napoli 26 HR’s, moving into peak years. Wells 31 HR’s and moving into decline years. No argument here. Napoli won’t catch for the Jays all that much, if at all, so I imagine his value takes a slight hit moving to 1B and DH.
    2. I think the Angels had issues with Napoli. If you remember during the days leading up Napoli had been linked to a few other trades as well. Napoli is not a good defensive catcher and with Scioscia being a former catcher I am sure this was a sticking point for him regardless of his offensive prowess.
    3. The Angels LOVE Hank Conger. So I am sure they thought moving Napoli wouldn’t hurt them long term as they already had someone that they thought more highly of.
    These points don’t excuse the trade that’s for sure, just something to think about.
    Sidenote: Paul, what makes you think the Angels didn’t try to sign Crawford? I know we didn’t really hear anything about a hardcore push, but who’s to say behind the scenes the Angels didn’t make a push? I’d at least hope that they made an effort if in fact they thought they needed an OF’r and more punch to their lineup. I guess we will never truly know.

    John - YF January 25, 2011, 11:11 am
  • +2 Krueg’s comment.
    I think it’s going to be a “Beltre to Fenway” type of deal for some reason.

    Brad January 25, 2011, 11:20 am
  • , what makes you think the Angels didn’t try to sign Crawford?
    Oh, I think they did. But they ultimately did not match the Red Sox’ offer, even though the Sox’ offer will pay Crawford less for the scary early-30s years than the Angels will pay Wells for those same years.

    Paul SF January 25, 2011, 11:55 am
  • Yeah, there’s Conger, but if the Angels are putting all their eggs in the basket of a sure-fire catching prospect… well, that’s not too smart either, as the Rangers could tell them. The Angels already had great production at catcher, and sure, Napoli isn’t a good defensive catcher, but Mathis is actually worse, AND Napoli is such a good hitter that he easily outweighs his defensive deficiencies.

    Paul SF January 25, 2011, 11:57 am
  • Just playing devil’s advocate here…
    What if the Angels were fearful of how a player driven by speed would age? I mean that’s the only thing I could think of if they were in fact scared away by the long term re: Crawford.
    As for Conger, I agree completely. I’m just trying to see their side I guess. Regardless of his warts Napoli is seen as a threat with the bat, little wear and tear on him as he rarely plays a full season behind the dish, etc…They could have at the very least had the Blue Jays pay a portion of Wells’ salary. I think that is the sticking point for me. Forget the deal, because I think Rivera is a 4th OF’r, just the money aspect makes you shake your head.
    As for the Rangers, that’s why I hate the fact that Montero is a C and surrounded by all this hype. The Rangers had three catchers in their organizational top 10 in Teagarden, Ramirez and Saltalamacchia and NONE of them ended up making an ounce of difference for the Rangers (or for any team for that matter) thus far. Catchers scare me when it comes to hype…from Wieters to Iannetta to Snyder to JD Closser and Daric Barton, the list goes on and on they hype in all the cases except Wieters (only because he’s still a baby) has well exceeded the production.

    John - YF January 25, 2011, 12:40 pm
  • Of course, there’s evidence that players with Crawford’s skills age better than others. Athletic guys with elite speed as they age simply lose a little bit of speed, transforming them from great baserunners/defenders to merely good ones, so they retain a good deal of their value. I’m curious to see whether the power Crawford showed last season will stick or not. It could be the difference between his deal being borderline acceptable and truly decent.

    Paul SF January 25, 2011, 1:08 pm
  • krueg January 25, 2011, 2:08 pm
  • That’s funny, Krueg.
    I’m not trying to start a “Defend the Captain at all Costs” party, but this seems like a huge stretch. It’s almost the equivalent to the Red Sox saying that they planned to move Mike Lowell to the outfield (about the same running speed)
    I know he’s awesome and all that, but how is a player who can’t cover the hole at SS supposed to cover the entire outfield.
    I mean, maybe they move him to RF, where he’s a little hidden, but other than that, I can’t see that working at all.
    A player who leads the league in double plays, has diminishing footwork and arm strength to the outfield?
    My guess is that he moves to DH, but maybe I’m wrong.
    In better news, sub one month till pitchers and catchers!

    Brad January 25, 2011, 3:02 pm
  • I’m going to repost this up top. Very interesting.

    Paul SF January 25, 2011, 3:21 pm
  • Honestly, those comments from Cashman (along with the ones after the Soriano press conference) aren’t the comments of someone who is comfortable in their job for the long-term. And since Cashman is a free agent after this coming season…
    It honestly sounds like Cashman is starting the process of moving on from the Yankees.

    SF January 25, 2011, 3:22 pm
  • That’s because he knows he’s the scapegoat at this point. Which, to a point, is why he is so adamant about his choices and opinions. If he’s fired, he’ll want to ensure his own opinion before the time comes. I think if they force him to trade his prized pieces for a average MLB starter, that’ll be the last straw. Just my opinion.
    I also find this one funny:
    The legacy George left is he created a bunch of other Georges,” Cashman said. “The man was so dedicated to winning. [George’s] family is dedicated to winning…
    Is that a shot or a compliment?
    I like corner outfielders and corner infielders who have power, so for me, if he’s ever gonna move, it’s probably gonna be a Robin Yount situation…
    Yount was under 30 when he made the move, but good comparison (rolls eyes).

    Brad January 25, 2011, 3:28 pm
  • …then remained a CF until 37 years old, when he could no longer cover the gaps, and retired.

    Brad January 25, 2011, 3:30 pm
  • Actually, if you check in on Lohud, Cashman has retracted a lot of what he said earlier.
    Maybe he has a drinking problem or something? He’s being very weird lately.
    He basically just countered everything that went on with Francessa this morning.

    Brad January 25, 2011, 3:34 pm
  • > He’s being very weird lately.
    He is acting exactly like a guy who sees that he is done as dinner with the Yankees, and that whatever cachet he held with George Steinbrenner means jack-spit with The H&H Day-Late Delivery Co. So long and no thanks for all the Fish (Rays/Marlins).
    The Steinbrenners are stretching their legs.

    attackgerbil January 25, 2011, 3:48 pm
  • agreed.

    Brad January 25, 2011, 3:53 pm

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