Toronto did what now?

Lets_Make_A_Deal.gifI thought Jayson Werth’s $126 million contract with the Nationals was going to be the shock of the offseason. That was until Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ latest coup.

On Friday, the Blue Jays convinced the Angels to take outfielder Vernon Wells and the $86 million he’s owed through the 2014 season. Toronto netted Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera and did not send a single penny to L.A. as part of the deal.

Given Wells’ recent history of injury and performance, and the fact that he was set to earn $23 million in 2011 and $21 million in each of the following three campaigns, it was believed that his contract was unmovable. No one was going to agree to take on a mammoth deal for a player that was not performing as one of the game’s elite stars in recent seasons.

Well, turns out we were all wrong. Anthopoulos found a taker and suddenly anything seemed possible. Maybe this deal meant other big contracts weren’t the immovable objects we thought they were. Take the Indians, for example. Could the Wells trade mean there could be hope for Cleveland to find a taker for Travis Hafner?

Wells has a strong bounceback year in 2010 (.273 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs), but it was his best showing since his incredible 2006. That year, he hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs, posting a 6.7 WAR and .899 OPS in the process. In the four years since, he’s averaged a 1.9 WAR, and a .770 OPS while battling injuries and other issues.

Hafner last put up an eye-popping performance in ’06, when he hit .308 with 42 homers, 117 RBIs and a 1.097 OPS. He posted a 5.9 WAR that year. In the four years since then, Pronk has also battled injuries and consistency at the plate, putting up a 5.5 WAR overall (1.4 on average) with a .803 OPS.

Similar, yes. But hardly the same.

“DH — very different,” said one rival general manager.

Wells is a center fielder by trade, but can easily shift to a corner outfield spot or spend some time as a designated hitter. Hafner is limited as a pure DH, really only giving the Indians 13 potential trade partners. That list is obviously smaller when considering how many teams already have a clear-cut DH in the fold for the next season or two. Beyond that, Hafner has a limited no-trade clause, so he could possibly nix a deal to another team.

Another difference is the fact that Wells 2007-10 performance, while diminished, came between ages 28-31. Hafner heads into 2011 as a 33-year-old DH. The market for an aging DH with that recent history — plus owed salaries of $13 million in each of 2011-12 with another $13 million, or a $2.75 million buyout, for 2013 — would be small.

So while I’d expect the Indians to be open to trading Hafner, especially in the midst of a rebuilding period, I wouldn’t expect him to be dealt. What I would expect is for Cleveland to continue to hold out hope that Hafner can bounce back and avoid the disabled list. Pronk is still being counted on as a big part of the Tribe’s offense for the next two years.

TRIBE EYEING CANTU? Free-agent third baseman Jorge Cantu told the Houston Astros Examiner on Saturday that the Padres, Braves and Indians were among the teams considering his services for the upcoming season. On Monday, reports indicated that the Padres might be the front-runner to sign him, while the Braves’ interest has cooled. Messages left with Cantu’s agent were not immediately returned. When reached via e-mail, Indians GM Chris Antonetti declined to comment on Cantu specifically, but said the club continues to look at infielders and starting pitchers that the team feels would improve upon the in-house alternatives.

UPDATE: 11:16 p.m. ET — Online reports tonight are indicating that Cantu has signed with San Diego. So there goes that. Carry on…

–JB

3 Comments

I was surprised by the Wells trade. It gives me hope that the Cubs may be able to trade Alfonso Soriano and his huge contract.

Ron

http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/

The Angels were desperate for a named player, any player, that would appease their organization and fanbase after they lost out on the Carl Crawford sweepstakes. If you read any of the articles that were coming out prior to him signing in Boston then you know what I’m talking about. L.A. considered him to practically be in the bag already so they were really shocked when he went elsewhere.

I like the WAR usage … it kind of blows my mind that Indians fans still write in asking, “Are the Indians looking to trade Hafner?”… which is kind of the dumber cousin question to, “Are the Indians looking to trade Grady?” … yes, because the market is huge for DHs with chronic shoulder issues who can play 2 out of every 3 days at most, and centerfielders coming off microfracture surgery. Probably the biggest difference between Wells and Hafner is that last year Wells did put up a 4.0 WAR, compared to Hafner’s 1.9 – just no one except the Angels expects him to replicate that going forward. If Hafner had banged out 31 HRs last year like Wells, there probably would be a market for him

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