Winning is a powerful drug. It causes teams like the Giants to give Aubrey Huff $22 million over two years and teams like the Red Sox to make a splash this off season after missing the playoffs last season. The formula was laid out by George Steinbrenner who brought in over-the-hill superstars at exorbitant prices when his teams failed to win a championship. Among Steinbrenner's biggest blunders were Robin Ventura, Rondell White and Gary Sheffield. Not that those players played poorly (well White did), but they were so overpriced that it was obscene. The Angels might be the new Yankees.
Friday's news came as a shock and the surprises kept getting bigger as the trade between the Angels and the Blue Jays was announced (Twitter was certainly buzzing!). First, the Angel obtained Vernon Wells, who has long carried the Barry Ztio Award for the worst contract in baseball. Then, we learned that the Blue Jays did not have to subsidize the deal with any money. The Angels were trading for the entire contract. Remarkable!
All this has to be a result of not making the playoffs last year and then failing to improve the team with Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, et al. Again, winning is a powerful intoxication and with the Angels out of the running early last year, and things not going well in the off season, the Angels pulled the panic switch. And can this deal be considered anything other than a panic reaction? Granted, if Wells has the same kind of year as last year, the Angels will be better than with Juan Rivera. Wells will be two or three wins better than Rivera, but that only makes the Angels an 85-win team instead of an 81-win team.
The move bloats the Angels' payroll to $141 million or third behind the Yankees and the Red Sox. That's a lot of money for a mediocre team. And will Wells cost Bourjos at bats? The Blue Jays lost a good player who cost the money of a great player. They gained Rivera, who, at his best, is useful and, at his worst, on the disabled list. They also get Mike Napoli, a decent hitting, crappy-catching sort who can also play first (or at least stand there). But more than anything, the Blue Jays did a remarkable job of freeing themselves to have the kind of financial flexibility they need to get back to the top. The Angels, bereft of a farm system, have saddled themselves with a huge payroll with a limited player they won't be able to move.
And for the Angels' troubles and dollars spent? They'll probably still finish behind the Rangers and the Athletics.