Vernon Wells is going to the Los Angeles near Anaheim within the State of California Angels. Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera are headed to Toronto. If you follow baseball, you know what this means for the teams. Toronto is thrilled to be rid of Wells’ contract as they attempt to rebuild, and picked up two great pieces in the process. Anaheim missed out on the big names this offseason (unless you count Scott Downs…), so they’re happy to add a big name bat in the middle of their lineup (Vernon Wells bounced back in a big way last year if you don’t buy that- look it up). This is all well and good, two teams likely very happy with an trade- but what does this mean for fantasy? Quite a lot actually. The move means Bobby Abreu is likely a full time DH, which means Vlad the Impaler is not coming back to LAA-LAA land. It means Peter Bourjos will not be manning center field in 2011. Nor will Torii Hunter. The trade means Juan Rivera is still not going to get enough AB’s to be a full time outfielder. It also means Napoli will take time from both J.P. Arencibia (who I wrote up here) and likely Adam Lind. But don’t get me wrong- Napoli is a great fit in that lineup/ballpark. Clearly, the fantasy implications are plentiful, so let us take a look at a few of the moving parts.
The Angels Lineup
The Angels have a nifty 3-4-5 now, assuming Vernon Wells continues to progress on the comeback trail. A projected lineup with Abreu at 2 and Kendrick at 6 or 7 is formidable in my book. The slide to DH should be great for Abreu and his aging body, so I would imagine his ailing numbers from last year would bump up. Assuming Morales comes back healthy and Torii Hunter plays his usual ball, Wells should have ample opportunities, that is to say more than in Toronto, to drive in runs. Those 31 homers and 88 RBI in a weaker Toronto lineup could suddenly be 35 and 115 in a stronger Angels squad, so draft Vernon accordingly now in his new digs. However, this is not all roses, as Peter Bourjos (who I wrote up here) could end up losing time if Abreu doesn’t get relegated to a strictly DH role. Also worth noting- the Angels have some good catchers. From Jeff Mathis to Hank Conger to Bobby Wilson, all are Major League viable and Conger is supposed to be a powerful backstop (fangraphs here, hardball times here). If you’re in a 2 catcher league, Conger could be an interesting late round grab.
The Blue Jays Lineup
The Jays like to mash. They hit an astounding 257 homers (and whiffed hundreds and hundreds of times) so Napoli should fit right in with his swing-mash-whiff mentality in a swing-whiff-mash lineup. He had a career year, smushing 26 homers in just 510 plate appearances, but only amassing 68 RBI. While I cannot guarantee an upturn in either of those numbers, I can certainly tell you Napoli should have no problem replicating them. Also, there is the possibility of him moving around to 1B and DH, getting more at bats, which should, inevitably, lead to more homers. Juan Rivera is interesting here too. Should they decide to give him regular playing time, that slides Jose Bautista and his bazooka arm to third (useful) and gets Rivera regular AB (very useful). The last time Rivera got regular AB (572 PA), in 2009, he was more than a capable fantasy resource, posting a .287 AVG, whacking 25 homers, and driving in 88 runs. In a retooled Toronto lineup, Rivera could be batting 6th/7th so the RBI’s might not be there, but my goodness could the power show up. I’d watch him to start the year as the Jays figure out who they’re going to play where. Speaking of playing time, an astute fantasy owner has a red flag go up from this deal – what is going to happen to J.P. Arencibia? He is of a similar profile to Napoli with worse plate discipline, so perhaps the deal is the best thing for the rookie, as he will not have to shoulder all the catching duties as Lind, Arencibia, and Napoli rotate through the 1B/C/DH carousel. Given this assumption, Arencibia should still put up useful rookie numbers because, as we know, catching can be a fantasy black hole at times.
It’s a good deal for both squads and it’s a good deal for fantasy. Sort of came out of nowhere, but man it has some implications going into 2011 for those of us monitoring such guys as backup catchers and fourth outfielders. Hope no one’s snowed in, and thanks for the comments we’ve been getting, we love the feedback. Stay warm.