Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hello Vernon Wells, Goodbye ?

It's official. (Okay, it was days ago.) Vernon Wells signed a back-heavy 7-year, $126 million (US) contract extension with the Jays. He'll honor the rest of his contract for 2007, where his salary will be $5.6 million, and his base pay in the first two years of the new contract will be $500,000 and $1.5 million, meaning in the last 3 years, his hit to the payroll will be over $20 million per year. This is guaranteed money in baseball, folks. The $25.5 million signing bonus included in the deal will be paid in 3 annual installments of $8.5 million.

What does this all mean?

#1 - Vernon Wells is a very lucky man. He even said it himself, his children will never be able to spend all this money. The man and his Texas family are set for life.

#2 - The Blue Jays have the rights to the core of their offense until the end of the 2014 season. If Wells completes this contract with the Jays, he will have appeared in 16 straight seasons as a Blue Jay and likely surpassed Toronto greats Joe Carter, George Bell and Carlos Delgado in most, if not all, offensive categories. Not to mention garner more than the five Gold Gloves that Roberto Alomar got as a Blue Jay. He would BE the Blue Jays for an entire generation of fans.

#3 - Vernon Wells is now virtually untradeable. Despite the aberration that the Alex Rodriguez situation was, a contract like this has never been traded. Just think of how hard the Red Sox have worked to move Manny Ramirez over the last 2-3 years.

#4 - The Blue Jays can win NOW. The way the contract is weighted, the Jays still have money to spend over the next 2-3 seasons. They can trade for pitching or, if the right deal comes along, pick up a starter in free agency. They may suffer down the road as Wells' deal balloons, but then again, they may have more money by then.

#5 - Alex Rios is gone. Just as the obvious trade value existed in Gold Glove second-baseman Orlando Hudson last year, it exists in Alex Rios after his breakout 2006. It would certainly weaken the lineup to lose him, but the Jays have an up-and-coming hitter in lefty Adam Lind. He would slot into Left Field if Rios was moved, and Reed Johnson would become the new Right Fielder. The problem with this is that both Rios and Hudson were known quantities. The addition of the new players will help, but will it be enough to offset the loss of the current palyers? Troy Glaus put up the best offensive numbers at third base since Tony Battista (with better defense), but a Hudson-less middle infield was a disaster, with at least 5 starting shortstops (including Glaus) and no stability whatsoever. If the Jays lose Rios, who will hit in the #2 spot? And will they miss his arm in Right?

Ultimately, I think we'd all like to see the Jays add a starter without getting rid of Rios, but that may not be possible. Whatever happens, I think it's safe to say that there are more changes to come...

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