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.