Roster Ramifications of the Vernon Wells Deal
It might feel like we all woke up from a Charlie Sheen-sized three day bender, but what transpired on Friday evening did in fact happen … the Blue Jays managed to free themselves from one of baseball’s most immovable contracts.
Lost in the shuffle of the Blue Jays moving the $86 million dollars remaining on Vernon Wells contract were the players that were received in return: Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.
Now that I’ve had a few days to digest this information and do some sober thinking, things appear to be a little clearer in the picture of the Blue Jays roster … or do they?
Let’s begin with who fills the shoes that Vernon Wells left behind in centre field. Naturally, the top candidate for that job would be Rajai Davis, and as others have indicated, that 2-year deal suddenly makes much more sense.
They may not be ready by 2013, but those two years with an option are to bide some time until guys like Anthony Gose or Jake Marisnick will be knocking at the door and ready to play centre field.
Next we have Mike Napoli: if he were a free agent this offseason, Alex Anthopoulos likely would’ve gone after him anyway. Napoli’s ability to play multiple positions makes him very valuable on this team which will go some rough patches defensively this season.
I’m not exactly sure where Mike Napoli fits in, but in my opinion he probably pushes Jose Molina off the roster entirely and Napoli becomes to the go-to catcher.
Prior to this trade, the Blue Jays were committed to handing J.P. Arencibia the starting job. However, things have changed and now there’s a possibility we could see something like a 50/50 split between Napoli and Arencibia.
Although Napoli can play multiple positions, he” probably be situated primarily behind the plate and I can’t foresee the Blue Jays carrying three catchers on the roster. That’s why having Jose Molina doesn’t make sense unless Arencibia is going to start the year in Las Vegas.
Of course there’s also a possibility that Mike Napoli becomes the de facto designated hitter, which would then relegate Edwin Encarnacion to the bench. Wow … so many scenarios and only so many roster spots.
With the Silent Assassin as the General Manager, there’s always a chance Mike Napoli gets dealt before Opening Day anyway, but he seems like the kind of player that really fits the overall direction of the “New Jays”.
Napoli is under team control for three two more seasons, but it’s just that his incremental salary hike could become quite pricey down the road if he performs very well with the Blue Jays.
So just to reiterate, here are the options for what to do with Mike Napoli:
- 1.) Napoli starting catcher, Arencibia backup catcher, Molina gone
- 2.) Napoli/Arencibia split catching duties, Molina gone
- 3.) Napoli/Molina split catching duties, Arencibia starts in AAA
- 4.) Arencibia/Molina split catching duties, Napoli as DH, EE on the bench.
Wow, so many scenarios and only so many roster spots.
Juan Rivera is another intriguing case in this deal. I personally don’t know very much about him, but from what I’ve gathered on Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, he has the ability to play first base, but is best used in one of the corner outfield positions.
With these changes to the roster, it looks like the Blue Jays Opening Day outfield would comprise of Travis Snider in left, Rajai Davis in centre, and Juan Rivera in right. Rivera might be better served in left field though, as his range factor was one of the best amongst AL left fielders last season.
Rivera is on the final year of a three year contract and stands to make $5.25 million in 2011. I really only see him as a replacement player to keep an outfield spot warm until somebody from the minors is ready or AA picks up another outfielder.
I wouldn’t have expected the Los Angeles Angels to reciprocate with any players in return with that trade, but the addition of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera will certainly be welcome additions to the roster. It’s just a matter of figuring out where to fit them in.