With Trout Recall, Angels Make Half Of Right Decision

At 6-14, the Angels enter play today tied with the Royals for the second-worst record in baseball, and at -12 runs, they have the eighth-worst run differential as well. They have lost eight of 10, including five straight, with the last two being of the walk-off variety. As such, the team is in desperate search of a spark, and on Friday night they hope they found it by calling up the one player who should have been with the team all along in Mike Trout. Unfortunately, the Angels roster is now misshapen, thanks to the fact that Anaheim cut the wrong player in order to get Trout to the Majors.

In Spring Training, the Angels used a pair of excuses to ship Trout back to the Minors. One was that he battled a virus and lost some weight, with the other potentially being more serious — he had shoulder tendinitis. But since Trout went out and clubbed four doubles, five triples and a homer in his first 20 games at Salt Lake, it seems his shoulder is just fine and dandy. The real reason he was sent down was that the Angels had a conundrum on the corners, and since he is the rookie, he drew the short end of the stick. And he would have likely continued to draw that short end had the Angels started strong. After all, it took a five-game losing streak to get him called up, despite the fact that he was hitting over .400 in the Minors.

Now, some of that batting average is likely attributable to the Pacific Coast League’s hitting-friendly environment, but it’s important to note that Trout’s stats still placed among the league leaders. He currently ranks seventh in wOBA, fourth in speed score and 24th in BB%. It took the Angels a little while to come around, but now that he is back up in the Majors, they aren’t being shy with him — Trout is hitting leadoff today. He is befitting of such a role because outside of Chris Iannetta and Albert Pujols, Trout may be the most patient hitter on the team. But while Trout should immediately make the Angels a better team, Anaheim hamstrung themselves by cutting the wrong player.

To make room for Trout the Angels released Bobby Abreu. This was one of the more telegraphed moves of the season. The Angels have not been shy about trying to find a new team for Abreu, and at one point had a deal to ship Abreu to the Indians, though it fell apart over how much of Abreu’s salary Anaheim would eat. But while it was a telegraphed move, it was also the wrong one. Whether or not you are of the opinion that there is anything left to salvage of Vernon Wells’ career or not, he is now completely redundant on Anaheim’s roster. Today, Wells will ride the pine, with Trout, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter starting from left to right in the outfield. You’ll notice something about those three players, and that is that like Wells, they’re all right-handed hitters.

When Wells was platooning with Abreu, it made sense, since Abreu is a left-handed hitter. They could easily swap in and out of the lineup based on matchups. Wells no longer has that luxury. And while Wells still hits lefties well, none of the three outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart has demonstrated a deficiency against lefties. Kendrys Morales has had troubles against lefties in the past, but if he needs a day off against a lefty, Mark Trumbo can stand in for him, with one of the Angels’ better fielders manning third base. Wells also isn’t going to be valuable as a pinch hitter. For starters, it’s a role with which he is almost completely unfamiliar — he has just 10 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in his 14-season career. Second, Wells is simply too aggressive to be a good fit for the role. A pinch hitter needs to be able to come in and see a couple of pitches to get his bearings and work a good at bat, and Wells doesn’t do that. So far this season, he has seen just 3.59 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks 148th out of 194 American League hitters. His BB/K is no different — his paltry 0.15 mark is 15th-worst in the game. And while the samples for this season are small, it’s not like past years have been much different — Wells BB/K last year was 0.23, and his career-best mark is 0.63.

Abreu, on the other hand, is not only the better hitter — his wOBA last season bettered Wells’ by 40 points — but he is also a perfect fit as a pinch hitter. Thanks to his time in the National League, he has pinch hit far more frequently during his career than has Wells, and his hitting profile fits the role of one much better. While Wells topped out at 0.63 BB/K, Abreu has had a BB/K of .63 or better in each of the last 14 seasons. He is at just 0.40 so far this year, but then he’s only had 27 plate appearances. And Abreu also sees a lot more pitches — his 4.30 P/PA ranks 22nd best in the AL right now. And again, since he is a left-handed hitter, he would be easier to sub in for one of the outfielders on days when they might need a breather. To take that one step further, by keeping Wells, the Angels now have no solely left-handed hitter on their active roster; they have nine right-handed hitters and four switch hitters. Abreu would have helped balance both the outfield and the entire roster better than does Wells.

While it may have taken 20 games too many, the Angels were right to get Mike Trout back to the bigs, as he will almost assuredly be one of the Angels’ three best outfielders from here on out. However, in cutting Bobby Abreu instead of Vernon Wells, the Angels have a misshapen roster that is at a tactical disadvantage in the late innings. That might be defensible if Wells was the better player overall, but he isn’t. Yes, the Angels still owe Wells a lot of money, but that is a sunk cost. By choosing to keep him and his contract over Abreu, Anaheim has not only done themselves a disservice, but potentially one to Trout as well, as he may have to look over his shoulder at Wells after every bad game.




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Paul Swydan is the co-managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for ESPN MLB Insider and the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


95 Responses to “With Trout Recall, Angels Make Half Of Right Decision”

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  1. SJEd says:

    I agree with you about Wells. He gives your team very little in terms of benefits right now. The only thing that makes sense was Abreu’s attitude this spring put off management. The best thing for the team would have been to cut Wells. It seems as though Trout will be the everyday player (based on the comments I’ve heard) which is still potentially a huge benefit for the team.

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    • Turks Teeth says:

      The Angels have a fine replacement for Bobby Abreu just waiting in AAA. His name is Kole Calhoun – a lefty college bat with patience, decent speed, and modest power. Stole 20 bags last season, hit a ton of doubles with 22 HRs. Sees a ton of pitches, good situational hitter, and plays all three OF positions plus 1st base. Arguably a better defender at this point than Wells or Hunter, and would have no problem riding the pine without protest, and could pinch hit just fine.

      Over three years in the minors, he’s hit .315/.405/.529, and is arguably the Salt Lake Bees’ most complete hitter now that Trout has been promoted. He’ll never be as good as Abreu in his elite phase, but he’ll be a much better alternative to Abreu in his decline phase. He’s one call to AAA away, and will be delighted to play a part-time role if necessary. The guy absolutely lit up spring training this year, and is very much on Scioscia’s and Dipoto’s radar.

      I think Calhoun makes the author’s argument somewhat moot. It’s understandable that he probably hadn’t heard of him. He’s not a nationally ranked prospect.

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  2. Christo says:

    Angels have around 55 million reasons to try to salvage something from Wells. > than 9 million reasons Abreu offers at this point in his career.

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    • sirvlciv says:

      Because most front offices don’t understand sunk costs.

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      • Matt says:

        Yeah I don’t understand this thought. You have to pay them anyways, regardless of how they are hitting. In the case of Wells last season he was so bad he had a negative impact on your team. Why not just release him if he’s headed that way again?

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      • Dan says:

        The mistake Christo is making is focusing on the dollars. He’s right if you focus on the years.

        Abreu is a free agent after this year; Wells is under team control through 2014. The odds of Wells rebounding to anything worthwhile is basically nil, sure, but that shouldn’t matter.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Are you sure it’s a sunk cost. He was above average defensively last year, his strikeout rates were inline with his career rates, his power numbers were fine, his Babip was .219 compared to a career .280 rate. He still has slightly better than average speed as he stole 9 bases and was caught 4 times. His career walk rate was cut in half which is never a good sign and his Fly ball percentage was up and line drive percentage down which are also not good signs but to say he is incapable of a 3 or 4 fWar year or two is nonsense. It could easily happen. Bobby Abreu is five years older and not as valuable.

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      • AJ says:

        Yes we’re sure it’s a sunk cost. Whether or not it’s a sunk cost has nothing to do with either player’s production. The money has already been spent on both players. Therefore both are unrecoverable sunk costs. Thus decisions about which player to cut should be entirely based on each player’s performance and entirely independent of each player’s salary. Regardless of whether they cut Abreu or Wells, they were still on the hook for both contracts.

        I think psychology can explain most teams’ hesitancy to release players with larger contracts. When the highly paid underperformers are still on the roster, teams can still blindly hold out hope that they player will turn it around (even if the rest of the world knows they won’t). But once they release the player, they’re forced to actually come to term with the fact that they made a mistake.

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      • Christo says:

        I was a bit too brief. With Wells, comparing his fielding and age to Abreu, this decision was necessary. Bringing up Abreu’s late-inning, lefty PH advantage is negated by the presence of Izturis, an entirely serviceable bat off the bench. Bringing up his P/PA is nearly negated by the fact that working what would most likely mid-to-late relievers wouldn’t present demonstratively large results. How many times is he going to PH and take a walk over what Wells would do on the year? Is it really going to matter if Steve Delabar or Mike Adams has to throw .75 more pitches in an inning (the difference between Wells and Abreu in P/PA over the last year and change)?

        Wells is awful but he’s five years younger and can still play left field (not center) with effectiveness (second-best UZR/150 last year, behind only Gardner). That has SOME value w/r/t seeing if they can salvage something from him, see if he can miraculously get back to league-average at the plate and then quickly move him to a sucker (while eating a rather large portion of his contract). It’s a wee small hope but a hope larger than anything Abreu can offer the Angels right now because he’s younger and serviceable in the field.

        Plus, there’s something to be said for the fact that the Angels TV contract money doesn’t kick in until 2015. Simply eating $55M or so over the next THREE years, the most likely best three years Pujols will have, would hamstring the payroll rather significantly. Yes, of course it’s a sunk cost, but Wells might offer something, however unlikely. Abreu offers nothing of substance on this roster.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Front offices understand sunk costs, they just have other concerns to weigh. Trust me it’s their money they understand sunk costs better than anyone on this website. They also better understand the values of a players skills going forward as clubs are privy to almost all of players health records. The Angels know much better than we do who is better going forward between Wells and Abreu. They also have a pretty good idea that Wells is not gonna post the 5 WAR seasons going forward he would need to to validate what he is going to be payed. It’s not out of the question though that he could be worth 3 WAR a year if he gets his Babip back up and raises his walk rate a little bit. Even as he is right now, if he plays everyday he will provide above average defense and 25 to 30 homers a year. If his Babip rebounds to .270 and his walk rate moves up to 5 percent we are looking at a 3 WAR player over the next few years which will become even more important after this year when th Halos do not resign Tori Hunter. Infact if I’m the Angels, I would be shopping Hunter for Youkilis or Wright with my eyes on putting Trout in Right and Wells in left. Yes he is a sunk cost on a WAR/dollar ratio and trading Napoli and Rivera for Wells was dumb to begin with. But now you have Wells and it’s certainly resonable for him to be a league average to slightly above average corner outfielder over the next 3 years. Cutting him is premature.

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      • Joe says:

        There’s a difference between “sunk cost” and “guranteed money”

        Yes it may be semantics for some people, but sunk cost means a PAST expenditure (or cost) that is irrecoverable. While you can argue that his salary is likely irrecoverable or mostly irrecoverable; since some of the money has not been paid out (and may never be paid), it is not a sunk cost economically.

        Was AJ Burnett a sunk cost to the Yankees? No because they hadn’t actually paid him all the $ and they actually recovered some of it. If it were a sunk cost the Yankees still apparently owe him 13more million – someone should tell AJ.

        If folks are going to throw around economic terms to make themselves look smart and GM’s stupid can they actually use them correctly? What people I think are arguing is that it should be TREATED LIKE a sunk cost (that is different from it BEING a sunk cost)

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        @Joe- Thank you for the clarification because it is important. People are working under the assumption that the Wells contract is a sunk cost when that can only be assessed in retrospect. The Angels are paying Wells 21 million dollars a year from 2011-2014. He provided a total of .3 WAR last year so out of the 21 million they paid him last year about 19.5 million dolaars of the contract was a sunk cost assuming 5 million dollars per WAR. So they have 63 million tied up in him over the next three years he would have to accrue 11 or 12 WAR over those three years to break even going forward. It’s not out of the question that he could put up that type of WAR over his 33, 34, 35 seasons assuming he keeps his defense where it is at now and gets his Babip and batted ball stats back closer to his career norms. Watching him play it’s pretty clear he has not lost bat speed or skill, he’s dropping his back shoulder and pulling off the ball leading to lots of pop-ups and a low line drive rate. What is funny is his strikeouts have remained quite constant in spite of his dramatic upper cut swing and inability to lay off pitches. He is gonna be an important piece for the Angels over the next 2 years after Hunter goes. Part of the problem he is having is directly attributable to Scossia as he preaches that his players go up their hacking at the first pitch. Wells should spend some time hitting in the cage with Pujols as he couldlearn something about staying on the ball through the zone and waiting to get a pitch he can handle.

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      • rogue_actuary says:

        @ I am a Red Sux Fan

        I’m pretty sure that you’re employing an incorrect definition of “sunk costs”.

        Sunk costs do not mean “worthless”, but rather something like “already spent”.

        Before a player signs a contract (or, in this case, before a player is acquired via trade), his salary is an imporant part of the cost/benefit analysis. After the player is either signed or acquired, his salary is independent of his performance. It can’t be changed. This is true of Mike Trout’s salary for the year as well. Trout’s salary for the year is also a sunk cost. Trout’s salary isn’t ever mentioned as a sunk cost because Trout is perceived to have tremendous future value relative to his costs.

        The concept of a cost being “sunk” has literally nothing to do with present, past, or future WAR.

        The Angels didn’t release Wells because they don’t want to come off as morons. I mean, they only traded for him last year. And they traded an extremely valuable and inexpensive piece for him (Napoli). Nobody understood why they made the trade then and the picture hasn’t exactly become any clearer.

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      • RC says:

        “Simply eating $55M or so over the next THREE years, the most likely best three years Pujols will have, would hamstring the payroll rather significantly”

        They’ve already spent the money. If its going to hamstring them, it already has.

        The definition of SUNK COST means the money is irrecoverable, it doesn’t mean it has already been paid. Wells’ contract is guaranteed. The money is a sunk cost. Its irrelevant at this point because its ALREADY GONE.

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      • Bob says:

        Wells salary for the next three years most certainly is not a sunk cost. The Angels aren’t required to pay a single penny of it at this point. They could trade Wells, and the new team would pay his salary. Wells could suffer a career ending injury, and insurance would pay his salary. Wells could decide to retire, and then no one would pay his salary. And, most unlikely, Wells could perform up to his salary expectations. Cutting Wells would mean paying all of his salary plus his replacement on the roster (or Abreu’s next year, if you’d rather). Only then would his salary be a sunk cost, because there would be no way to recover it.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Thank you guys for the clarification on sunk cost. It’s been awhile since economis 101. So a sunk cost is a sum of money that has already been committed, past, present or future that a team can never recoup. If Vernon Wells had any trade value it’s cocievable that the 60 million would not be a sunk cost provided they could trade him. Since he is absolutely untradable his contract is a sunk cost. Actually unless he breaks his back doing wheelies on a dirtbike tommorrow his contract is a sunk cost for someone because MLB contracts are guarunteed. Is this correct.

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    • BJ says:

      Hardly a sunk cost.

      I heard people make the same argument about Wells BEFORE he was traded. That his contract was not tradeable. That he brought very little to the table. Then in 2010 he puts up nearly 4 WAR (coming off a 2009 season that was earily similar to his 2011 year) AND he gets traded for an asset.

      I’m not suggesting that history will repeat itself. I am suggesting that the story is far from over. Wells wasn’t released because the team has 60 million reasons to give him additional slack. Even if he becomes a bit player delivering 1 WAR worth of value, so long as he is managed right and isn’t blocking better options the smart move is to keep him on the roster.

      In Abreu’s case, the decision had as much to do with performance as it did attitude. The Angels pride themselves on things like clubhouse unity. Abreu complained himself out of town.

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      • Bob says:

        Only money that has all ready been spent can be a sunk cost. Future commitments can not be a sunk cost, because no money has exchanged hands. The future is subject to change, and circumstances may arise which would turn Wells contract into an asset.

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  3. jim says:

    next up: remaking the angels bullpen

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  4. Ben says:

    I’ll be very interested to see where the Angels outfield ranks in terms of defensive efficiency at the end of the year. It’s quite possible that the two best defensive CFs in the game will be on the field when the Angels pitch.

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    • CJ says:

      Gardener, Ellsbury, Torres, Gutierrez and a couple others might have something to say about that. But Bourjos and Trout are definitely 2 of the better younger defensive players in the league and Wells and Hunter have also been standouts at one point too. Lots of knowledge they can pass down there.

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  5. Eric says:

    Swydan is a moron

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    • Danny says:

      Not too insightful comment, but at least you can spell “moron”.

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    • Daniel says:

      why? you agree with the angels? you think wells is better than abreu?

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    • Donut3 says:

      Obvious troll is obvious.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      Swydan is not a moron. This article however is narrow, poorly constructed and biased. He blames the redudancy of the Angels Roster on this move while ignoring the fact that keeping Abreu (who can’t play defense at all anymore) creates more redundancy than Wells does as at least Wells can start should one of the starting three outfielders get hurt. Abreu should have no place on the outfield depth chart and is really the 4th player in line for the 1b/DH spot behind Pujols, Trumbo and Morales.

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  6. JeffMathisCera says:

    Agree with most of it, except given Bourjos’ recent offensive struggles, Wells isn’t quite as redundant as you make it seem. It’s possible Bourjos sees some time on the bench or back down in AAA allowing Trout to play CF and Wells to play in LF.

    Also, while Abreu and Wells are both, well, not very good baseball players at this point, Wells can still play the field and most would agree he has more upside than Abreu. Sure the platoon advantage is gone, but they cut the worse player and the most disgruntled guy in the clubhouse.

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    • BX says:

      However, Wells isn’t one of the three best fielding OFers on the team (maybe not even the four best; Trumbo isn’t bad in a corner).

      On a team with Bourjos, Hunter, and Trout, Wells’ not-very-good fielding is redundant. He brings *nothing* to the plate that someone else doesn’t. At least Abreu is LH.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Stop it. Hunter and Wells are pretty close defensively these days (look at the stats.) And to say that Trumbo is “maybe” a better corner outfielder than Wells is trollish. What evidence do you have to support a statement that runs contrary to stats, the eye test and common knowledge. And let me be clear. Vernon Wells is worth about 15 defensive runs saved a year over Bobby Abreu at this point. Wells was 4.8 runs above average in left field last year while Tori Hunter was 0.9 runs below average in right field. Throw in positional adjustments and they come out looking like the same defensive outfielder. I won’t even mention Abreu’s defensive stats because it’s been a good decade since he played a reasonable right field.

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    • jim says:

      benching bourjos to play wells would be such a mike scioscia move

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      • chuckb says:

        Yes, but it matters that Wells could play the OF if one of the starters gets hurt. Abreu simply can’t. He’s a DH only and that inflexibility matters. Wells shouldn’t start ahead of one of the other guys but he can give the others a day off or step in when one goes down and Abreu couldn’t do that.

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  7. dp says:

    This is fine analysis. On a tactical and statistical level, cutting Wells was certainly a better choice. His contract and Abreu’s role as a clubhouse distraction, however, made the decision far less clear for DiPoto. Add to this mix Abreu’s OF defense (horrendous) and one could make a strong case that DiPoto made the right decision here.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      Paul you make some good points as having Abreu’s lefthanded bat would seemingly be more beneficial. But the more I think about it the Angels cut the right guy. Yes Abreu was better offensively last year but has been in decline for 5 or 6 years especially the last 3. I think his decline likely would have continued or will continue and going forward I don’t think he is any better offensively than Wells. Remember Abreu is 38 and Wells is 33. Abreu would be a better late game pinch hitter than Wells but if everyone on the team is healthy two of the Morales, Trumbo, Callaspo, Izturis group will be on the bench late in the game. At this point in their careers if I neede a lefty hitting pinch hitter I don’t think Callaspo, Izturis or Morales are worse pinch hitting optios than Abreu. Abreu has also voiced a desire to play everyday and if that was not going to happen he wanted to be traded or released. Abreu’s defense has become amongst the worst of all outfielders in baseball. Vernon Wells is still pretty darn close to average out their. Wells while not worth what he is making is still a useful player. He has 29 homers in 150 games with the Angels and although his walk rate was horrible last year his strikeout rate remained the same. A betting man would think last years .219 Babip will bounce back to at least 260 or 270 this year. All the sudden even without bettering his walk rate we are still talking about a league average hitter. And should one of their starting 3 outfielders go on the 15 or 60 day DL plugging in Wells over Abreu would be a much better option in terms of overall performance at this point. Also looking past this year and torward the next two Hunter is gonna be gone and Wells is gonna be playing everyday. This team has a “misshapen” roster but cutting Bobby Abreu and keeping Wells is not the reason why. Any skill that Abreu could have added that Wells could not at this point is already on the roster. I would not make the preceding statement if we were talking 2003 Bobby Abreu but this is 2012 Bobby Abreu. If you have a righty on the mound and need a lefty hitting outfielder at this point, I would feel more comfortable playing Macier Izturis out their than Abreu. And if I needed a left handed pinch hitter against Alexi Ogando in the 8th inning I would choose Izturis over Abreu.

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  8. PooBear says:

    Should we just ignore the fact that wells has more power, plays better defense, has a better arm, and is four years younger than Abreu? Or is Abreu’s ability to only hit from the left side the main thing we should focus on? Redundancies be damned, if they have to pay both players regardless, and neither player should start, then why wouldn’t you just move the younger, more athletic, marginally better player to the bench and axe the over-the-hill 38 year old?

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    • Daniel says:

      tough to call wells young and athletic. BUt i see your point. The thing is, either way neither of them are gonna see much playing time and hardly any starts. Why not use a lefty who could pinch hit situationally, something wells will be spending most of his time doing anyway

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      • PooBear says:

        Oh for sure. I’m not saying Wells is some stud ballplayer. However, if you cut Abreu instead of Wells, you’re essentially saying that the value that Abreu would provide for the remainder of the season will be so much higher than Wells’ that it will negate whatever Wells could bring to the table for ’13 and ’14. Both guys suck, but I don’t think the difference in Abreu and Wells for ’12 is so great that they should just punt on any sort of value they could potentially get over the next two seasons from Wells. We’re really just splitting hairs here, but at least Wells hit 25 hrs last year and is only two years removed from 31 hrs and hitting .273/.331/.515. Wells is bad, don’t get me wrong, but he does play better defense and he does have some power. No way would I go with the ghost of Bobby Abreu and just throw away $42 million and a possible 40 hrs over the next two years. They made the right move.

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      • PooBear says:

        oops. meant to say “if you cut wells instead of abreu”

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  9. hailey says:

    If this was a National league team then I would agree with you but how often is pitch hitting going to happen? Age, salary, power and defensive ability drove this decision more than pitching hitting ability. In a fantasy world I’d cut both. They cut the one they thought they could best live without. Can’t fault them for that.

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  10. CS Yankee says:

    Other than pitches seen and being LH, Abreu has no value above Wells.

    I would look at it as a 1-year sunk costs for either players, but with Wells costs and years left, I feel you have to keep him above Abreu. Wells has a by far better glove, attitude, and can be a decent (very, very expensive) 4th OF’er over the next few years.

    Thinking Bobby will go back to the Phils, as his age and 5 RBI’s this year seem like the right fit.

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  11. Jeremy Garrett says:

    Your argument is predicated entirely on the idea that Abreu can still play an outfield position passably, which he clearly cannot.

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  12. Steper says:

    Bad analysis here. Being a left handed batter isn’t enough reason to keep Abreu, he long ago out lived his usefulness. And easy for tou to suggest, but no owner in their right mind would cut a $50-60 million dollar player, regardless of how much sense you may think it makes.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      EspeciaLLy when it is not clear Wells is through. He does not strike out alot and he had a 219 BABIP last year. His walk rate stunk but I think he’s fixable to a point.

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  13. exxrox says:

    Second, Wells is simply too aggressive to be a good fit for the role. A pinch hitter needs to be able to come in and see a couple of pitches to get his bearings and work a good at bat, and Wells doesn’t do that.

    Can I get a source on this, or clarification? I don’t doubt you are referring to some study, so I am curious

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    • Pitnick says:

      I’d like to hear more about this too. First I’ve heard of it.

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    • Sam says:

      He clarified right in the article. Wells consistently sees some of the fewest pitches per at bat in the majors, while Abreu always ranks high in that category. Pretty simple analysis there.

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      • CJ says:

        One of the more consistent statements I have read from professional pinch hitters is that they had to learn to be more aggressive in that role, and in particular are coached to be ready to hit the first pitch. I have read and heard this enough to believe that many ML managers and batting coaches tell their pinch hitters to be ready to hit the first pitch. I’m not saying this is necessarily the right approach. But if Socia has a similar concept of good pinch hitting traits, maybe he views this differently than the author.

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      • BJ says:

        I don’t see how it is relevant. Running up pitch counts is great for a leadoff hitter who is going to get 4-5 cracks at the plate. The difference between a patient hitter and impatient hitter could easily be 10-15 pitches. In the case of a pinch hitter? Maybe a pitch or two.

        What would be interesting is how well each batter fares when facing a pitching in their first at bat. My gut says that being patient would help but the value is probably limited.

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    • Jon L. says:

      This.

      Specifically, where is your evidence that more selective batters are more successful in the pinch-hitting role? Maybe pitchers try to take advantage of hitters coming off the bench by getting ahead in the count on that first pitch, and pinch-hitters who come out swinging have more success. And maybe not – but claiming it doesn’t make it so.

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  14. Matt NW says:

    This is silly. Wells was a solid player in 2010 (forget about the contract, it doesn’t matter for this argument, the Angels are on the hook and not getting off).

    Both players crashed in 2011, clearly. However, Wells had a terrible babip (hit too many fly balls, little bit of bad fortune)… keeping Abreu to pinch hit and be left handed is rather silly — he’s very old and very done… you don’t keep him and let the 50 million dollar lesser bum walk away.

    If Bourjos, Hunter or Trout gets injured… who do you want? Wells or Abreu?

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    • Feeding the Abscess says:

      You could have put Trumbo in LF, Pujols at 3B, Morales at 1B, and Abreu at DH if an OF got hurt.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Sure i guess they could. They could also put Pujols at third tommorrow and get both Morales and Trumbo in the lineup but Pujols is not moving. He’s staying at first regardless, period. You really are feeding the abcess with that one.

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      • Bob says:

        Pujols at 3B? Just because he played there 10 years ago doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

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  15. SABRphreak says:

    This comparison of Wells vs. Abreu has two major faults and omissions. First, the author does not take into account contract lengths. Although a guaranteed contract may be a sunk cost, Wells is under contract for two additional years. Second, Wells can play a decent OF. Abreu cannot. A DH-only player is what Abreu is now… with no power or upside and at an advanced age. The value of such players is minimal. As such, I agree with the decision to remove Abreu. Frankly, I was surprised he was not shipped to the Indians earlier.

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  16. Erik says:

    I have to disagree with this analysis. Wells is terrible, but I don’t think management has completely given up on him. He isn’t too far removed from being a quality MLB outfielder, plus he is significantly younger than Abreu and signed for a couple additional years.

    Regardless of salary Wells should easily be the more useful player going forward.

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  17. Preston says:

    While the handedness argument for keeping Abreu over Wells is a strong one, I think it ultimately fails. Vernon Wells is younger, still a quality defender at the corners (and an emergency CFer if the situation calls for it) and he has not had an attitude problem. Those three factors make him a more ideal 4th OFer for the Halos.

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  18. Jon L. says:

    The main problem with this analysis is that Wells is several years younger and under contract for two more years. A lot of players produce quality seasons in their mid-30′s, and Wells might. Abreu, on the other hand, hasn’t had high upside in years. There’s not much reason to think that will change at 38, and not much reason to display faith in an aging outfielder of now-average ability on a team with a glut of outfielders.

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  19. Mal says:

    Cut Abreu, keep Wells, and any outfielder gets hurt, you have an adequate player to play the corners.

    Cut Wells, keep Abreu, and any outfielder gets hurt, you have a defensive liability who can’t hit on the corner.

    I think if this analysis works in a vaccuum, that is to say if the length of contract was the same, and no Angels outfielder is injured.

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  20. CJ says:

    The Angels are stuck paying Wells either way. I would rather see what he can do as a Andruw Jones type fourth outfielder/part-time DH. He doesn’t look like he will ever be the player he was again, but Andruw Jones faced the same problem, floundered for a couple years, realized that he was never going to be a gold glove/silver slugger again and has turned himself into a useful piece.

    If Wells can do the same thing, he will never be worth $23 million/year, but might be able to transform himself into a useful 1.5-2 win player. If he can do that, then it is better off keeping him than Abreu by far.

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  21. Mal says:

    As well, something that the article does not take into account, is that Wells hits RH much better than LH.

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  22. Transmission says:

    “Second, Wells is simply too aggressive to be a good fit for the role. A pinch hitter needs to be able to come in and see a couple of pitches to get his bearings and work a good at bat, and Wells doesn’t do that. So far this season, he has seen just 3.59 pitches per plate appearance”

    Lenny Harris’s Pitchers/Plate Appearance in the last 5 years of his career:

    3.68
    3.56
    4.06
    3.42
    3.63

    This conforms with the CW I’ve always heard: Pinch hitters tend to go up looking for the first fastball they can smack.

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  23. vilhelm says:

    ahreu can’t hit..can’t play d..will find out what his value is when no team picks him up. like 0

    this is a misunderstanding of sunk costs. If Wells was a replacement level player with no hope of being better, than yea, make him your next cut after abreu. But Wells has power and plays decent d with hope for more based on his track record.

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  24. I am a Red Sux Fan says:

    I’m going to say this as constructive criticism not as an insult. Fangraph artcles are slipping as the scientific process of these articles are constantly slipping due to assumption and viewpoint bias. This article is simply one instance of that. Not only was the whole argument not presented, it’s viability was partially dependent upon opinion not backed by any sort of scientific evidence.

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  25. kid says:

    I expected the FG community to be more skeptical in general of calling up these super young prospects like Trout and Harper. Trout was awful in his MLB time last year – .303 wOBA with 89 wRC+ – and really, how much could have changed between the end of last season and two weeks’ worth of AAA at-bats this season? It’s annoying when anytime a club has a hitter in AA or AAA batting .350, fans and media and analysts start screaming “Wow, so-and-so rookie is hitting .350, how can the club leave him in the minors?! Promote him ASAP!” It seems so shortsighted.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      Thing is he was not awful. He had 0.9 fWAR which over the course of a full season would have led to 3.5 WAR. Trout is ready. He’s proved all he can in the minors and even at twenty is the right choice for the Angels. In a perfect world the Angels would have left him on the farm long enough (June) to keep him under team control through his age 26 rather than age 25 season but after their awful start and Trout’s dominance of AAA at age 20 they had to do this. As far as Harper I agree with you. I wouldn’t call for him till he proves he can hit upper level minors pitching. I think he needs more seasoning and starting his service time clock started early is just plain stupid. I’d leave him at AAA until he starts hitting like the phenom he should be. The Nats are gonna regret it when he really starts hitting in his mid twenties and heads northeastfor the Sox or Yankees. About that time the Rodriguez, Sabathia, Crawford, Gonzalez deals will be finishing up. Who gets the first 300 million dollar contract, Trout or Harper.

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      • BX says:

        The threshold for an extra year of service time passed last Wednesday. Depending on how much service time Trout accrued last year, he should be under the time needed for 2012 to count for a full year (hence why several other top prospects were called up on Wednesday).

        The June threshold is for Super Two Arbitration cutoff. Trout and Harper will go to arb 4 times instead of 3, but definitely Harper and most likely Trout also will be controlled through the 2018 season.

        And if you’re throwing money at FAs at the scale the Angels are, one extra year of arb for Trout should be irrelevant.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        @BX-Wong, if Trout stays up all year 2012 will count as his first year of service time since he was in the majors for roughly a quarter of the season. In order to start Trout’s Sevice time in 2013 the Angels would have had to wait until early July to call him up as he has 83 days Major league sevice time. In order to avoid Super two status for 2014 they would have to wait until early September to call him up. Check the link below.

        http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/02/service-time-considerations-for-top-prospects.html

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      • BX says:

        Ah. I didn’t know he had service time from last year. Mea culpa.

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    • mcbrown says:

      Trout was far from awful. His K rate was a little high at 22%, but otherwise his poor results are completely explainable by a below-expectation BABIP of .247. His batted ball split of c. 20/40/40 with a low IFFB rate would suggest a much higher BABIP. And on top of that he showed good power. All in all he looked perfectly ready to hit at the MLB level, and even to excel if/when he cuts his K rate a bit.

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    • BJ says:

      Awful? As pointed out – he would have been a solid ML contributor over the course of a full season. His defense is just that good.

      Really what happened was Trout had a normal adjustment period in July that was rough. August he found his stroke and crushed it. Sept/Oct he was tired and fatigued. Numbers came crashing down. That carried over into Winter/Spring. The guy was just toast.

      People forget that Trout was just a few years removed from baseball seasons lasting 50 games. It’s not surprising when a 19 YO burns out at the end of the season.

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  26. Caleb says:

    I don’t know how many people will read this but, this is probably the best decision.

    This is for one reason…

    Bourjos, Hunter or Trout get injured… Abreu takes the field, No Thank You!

    Sure Abreu would be one year of contractual obligations, then you can go out and sign a good defensive replacement to ride the bench, but would anyone take that risk?? What if you want to give someone a day off, who would you rather have on the field Abreu or Wells? Sure Wells is playing pathetically, but we have to be real Abreu is a far worse player. Everyone is making the assumption that these guys would only pinch hit. But lets be realistic who ever pinch hits in the American League?? It doesn’t have a tenth as often as it does in the national league, It is only ever for late inning matchups and suspected injuries, And a lot of the time you place a pinch hitter in and the opposite handed pitcher in the bullpen gets the call straight after. Plus as people have stated there are better left handed hitters on the bench for the Angels, who can swing and then be replaced by Wells who can take the field for them, and wait as much as three innings to get round to his turn at the plate… Abreu was the correct choice to cut…

    You are all placing far too much value in pinch hitting. There isn’t that much more of a chance of success for a hit when you Pinch hit. After all a good major league hitter still only goes 3 and 10.

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  27. Cliff says:

    The angels roster isn’t mishappen because of THIS move, it’s mishappen because they were getting basically the same skills from players (hunter, wells, abreu, and then morales, trumbo, pujols) that they can get from two. When almost half of your roster has redundant qualities, it hamstrings your ability to adapt in-game.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      I could not have said it better myself. I wonder if the Angels would consider trading Hunter and Callaspo for Youkilis and McDonald given that the Red Sox appear to have the third baseman of their future at AAA in Middlebrooks and could use a Tori Hunter with Ellsbury and Crawford out for the year. I think Wells and Hunter are similiar at this point so th Angels could plug Wells back into left and put Trout in Right. Meanwhile they could take a flier on Youk for a year and if they like him, pick up his option for next year as Hunter is gone after this year.

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  28. RobMer says:

    Tony Reagins was forced to resign as GM of the Angels for making a number of poor decisions, a chief one was acquiring Vernon Wells’ horrific contract.

    Yet if I was the owner of the Angels and fired Reagins, and then my new GM I hired to fix the mess walked into my office and recommended that we cut Wells and keep Abreu, in essence eating the $54 million gap between Wells’ contract ($63M) and Abreu’s contract ($9M) , I would fire him before he could leave my office.

    Come on, Paul. Let’s not ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The gap in talent between what Abreu might deliver in April 2012 and the next few months compared to what Wells might offer is so small that it’s pointless to bring it up when faced with the $54 million gap, which will impact other moves the Angels can make.

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    • hk says:

      That’s interesting because, if I was an owner and the GM that I hired to clean up the prior GM’s mess was unwilling to actually do so (read: unwilling to understand the concept of the sunk cost and release Wells if a release was warranted), I would fire the new guy.

      Having said that, in this case, I believe that Wells > Abreu, so dumping Abreu is the right choice. However, if there is an internal option or low cost player out there who can provide more to the team than Wells, Wells’s contract should not prevent the new GM from releasing him.

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      • RobMer says:

        Actually, if my new GM couldn’t understand the difference between a contract commitment (current situation with Wells) and a sunk cost (outright cut, loss of $63 million, no chance of any value delivered over the next three seasons), then he would give me yet another reason to fire him. It’s a concept that seems alien to some of the posters, and indeed some of the writers, at FanGraphs.

        The job of the GM is to build and manage the roster, both short and longterm, and to do so while working within the financial parameters of the team. Treating the team’s revenue as if it’s Monopoly money and quickly cutting the last GM’s mistake, while costing the team tens of millions of dollars does not exactly show insight; it illustrates just the opposite.

        Yet no need to worry. Jerry Dipoto does appear to understand. He didn’t ask his ownership to eat $63 million of Wells’ contract and turn it into an absolute sunk cost, just to keep Bobby Abreu around to be used as a left-handed pinch hitter.

        Hence the difference between writers and bloggers compared to GMs. The former have no accountability to budgets, rosters and ownership. Writing about what might be the best short-term move (and a debatable one at that) without acknowledging the bigger picture and contraints is in a word, pointless.

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      • hk says:

        That’s why I wrote internal option or inexpensive option who is better than Wells. If the team can improve for the present and the long-term without significantly impacting the payroll, the current GM should not allow Wells’s contract to prevent such a move. Dropping Wells to keep Abreu does not qualify.

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  29. Carl LaFong says:

    The Angels have waited on Wells in order to give him a chance in order to trade him. Yes, they would have to eat 75% of his contract, but 75% is better than 100%. Now it looks like he’ll be their fourth outfielder. Both Amarista and Kalhoun would be more productive than Abreu from the left side. They also have Cantu, who is an RBI machine. All three of those players added chemistry and hustle in spring training, an element that has been missing ever since. The Angels aren’t done dealing. Make no mistake, DiPoto is responsible for Trout being on the roster, not Scioscia. It’s Scioscia that has been giving Abreu playing time over Trumbo. The GM just released that option. Don’t be surprised if it is Bourjos that is dealt. Trout is a CF and they don’t need two. Trumbo in left, Trout in center, Hunter in right. Bourjos goes in a package to the Mets for David Wright to play third.

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    • hk says:

      When referencing Cantu, if by RBI machine you mean Really Bad Infielder, I agree. If you are promoting Cantu based on Runs Batted In, I disagree, because Runs Batted In is among the worst offensive statistics to use to predict a hitter’s future production and because Cantu has been a below average (and below Wells) hitter throughout his career.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      Bourjos and Callaspo for Youkilis?

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      • RobMer says:

        Angels wouldn’t go for that. Youkilis’ trade value is low now.He’s 34, injury prone, and seems to have started his decline. Neither the Red Sox nor the Angels will want to pick up that $13 million option, making him a rental. Bourjos has more value moving forward, let alone throwing in a useful piece in Callaspo.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        never say never. just last yer they traded napoli for wells and threw in a spare part like rivera to get it done. That being said, The trade that would seem to make mores sense to me would be Hunter and Callaspo for Youkilis, Darnell McDonald and a lower grade relief arm. Youkilis is under contract for this year with a team option for next and offers more upside at third base than currently resides on the Angels roster. If he hits well in Anaheim they could pick up the option. McDonald would give them a backup outfielder and the Sox have a couple veteran arms at AAA pitching well. Hunter won’t be resigned after this year and really is a very similiar player to Vernon Wells at this point. If they traded Hunter they could use an outfield of Bourjos in Center, Trout in Right and Wells or Trumbo in left. McDonald would give them a decent outfield backup. The Sox could use a one year rental in the outfield with Crawford and Ells injured and Callaspo would be some insurance for the Sox if Middlebrooks struggled with the big club. I don’t think the trade is that far fetched at all.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        The old front office got fired for the Napoli trade…

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  30. Richie says:

    If you have a choice between keeping a gruntled guy for the bench or a disgruntled guy for the bench, you keep the gruntled one. One of Whitey Herzog’s few unbreakable rules. If Vernon is willing to play a couple of times a week, then of course you keep him. Really, end of argument right there.

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  31. Terrible Ted says:

    As a Jays fan, I enjoyed reading this article.

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      Except for the fact that for some reason you do not have Mike Napoli as a IB/DH/backup catcher. The Jays are looking for another slugger for the middle of the order no?

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      • Terrible Ted says:

        No I’m fine with EE (#3 rank) DHing and d’Arnaud moving quickly through the minors. I also wouldn’t want to pay Napoli 10M this season, that was the whole point of dumping Wells.

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      • todmod says:

        Yes, who would want to pay a fantastic hitting catcher $10 mil for 1 year? AA has done a good job, but you don’t have to defend EVERY move he makes. The Blue Jays could use Napoli because any team could use him. The point of dumping Wells was to get rid of a massively overpaid player.

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      • BJ says:

        As indefensible as the Napoli/Wells trade is from the Angels perspective you HAVE to admit that Francisco for Napoli was also a horrid trade. Not Reagins horrible by any means. Still horrible though.

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  32. TwoSense says:

    You can crunch stats all you want. But the stark fact is that Abreu is sporting a paunch that is noticeable even through his uniform, and looks like he belongs in a weekend beer league. Either that or he better have a great “out” pitch…oh, wait, he’s an outfielder who has historically relied on speed as one of his major assets.

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  33. troy says:

    I bet the angels wish they wouldn’t have played hardball with the Indians. Squabling over how much of abreus 9 million they would pay…now they get to pay it all. Talk about not understanding sunk costs and not knowing when to salvage some value out of the junk you own.

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  34. Rich Johnson says:

    I like the Calhoun reference, but wouldn’t the Angels giving him a shot be considered throwing in the towel unless he gets called up due to an injury situation?

    Lost in all this is the fact trading Napoli/Rivera for Wells was a really, really bad idea at the time, is now, and will be when looking back on it in the future. Reagins lost his job over this and Mike Scioscia is dumb if he had anything to do with getting rid of Napoli so he could have Mathis and his defense. Shockingly the Jay Jeff Mathis has 2 more HRs than Pujols entering 4/30/12. Napoli is no Ruth, but awful decisions/trades by teams can start a chain reaction of events that leads to losing, curses, etc…Pujols signing was supposed to be a cure all. Not paying off yet.

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