Earlier in the week the Angels officially sent Vernon Wells to the Yankees for a pair of marginal prospects and some salary relief, with New York paying $13.9 million of the remaining $42 million on Wells’s contract. That’s a lot of money, even in today’s bloated baseball economy. So today we’ll take a look at a few things that money could get you, in baseball, mostly…
Late-inning relievers: Mike Adams, Joakim Soria, Sean Burnett
This offseason we saw several talented relievers sign for less than $13.9 million. The market for relief pitching might be the most inflated of any position in baseball, with the volatility of the position, the heavy fluctuations in performance, and the relative ease of finding capable replacements. The sure-thing closers get paid a ton (see Mariano Rivera), which, it seems, creates a middle ground for pitchers who are good but not great.
Adams signed a two-year deal worth $12 million. Over the past five years Adams has racked up 295 innings, posting a stellar 1.98 ERA along the way. His numbers declined last year, his age-33 season. The decline can probably be attributed to both aging and pitching a full season for the Rangers (in the tough AL West), rather than his previous home in San Diego, where fly balls go to die. Adams got his money because of his relatively long track record of success. He’s more of a sure thing than most of the relievers on the market, even if the upside isn’t as high.
Joakim Soria got paid for exactly the opposite reasons. Soria’s two-year, $8 million deal is one based on the upside. If he’s on his game, he’s fantastic. From 2007 through 2010, Soria posted a 2.01 ERA over 255 innings, many of which came in high-leverage situations. In 2011 he took a huge step back, and he missed 2012 after Tommy John surgery. He got paid because if he’s back and he’s healthy, he could be great. It’s essentially the Ryan Madson contract, but there’s apparently more confidence in Soria’s ability to get healthy and perform.
Burnett’s deal–which is identical to Soria’s (two years, $8 million)–is sort of in between the Adams deal and the Soria deal. He’s been “really good” for less time than Adams, and he’s coming off a career year, so he’s got big time upside. He’s never been a closer, so the upside isn’t that huge, but it’s still big.
Essentially, the Wells money erases the Madson deal and the Burnett deal. They got an upside guy in Madson and an less upside, more certainty guy in Burnett, and their salaries are sort of nullified by the Wells savings.
An entire season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Last year the Kardashians agreed to a three-year, $40 millon deal to continue their “show”. The Angels could invest their savings in a season of the show! Kim and Kanye bring the baby to Halos games! Khloe “Loek Van Mil” Kardashian tries out for a bullpen spot, but makeup issues and makeup issues get in the way! Kendall and Kylie try to date Mike Trout and get rejected, but Kris swoops in and forces Trout to date her underaged daughters! Bruce Jenner challenges Peter Bourjos to a foot race at the Big A and hijinks ensue!
Fringy starting pitching: Shaun Marcum, Carlos Villanueva
Starters are expensive. Just ask Zack Greinke. They don’t seem to be as volatile as relievers, but every pitcher comes with some risk of catastrophic injury, and some are super inconsistent (Francisco Liriano). With the money the Angels saved from Wells, it looks they could afford another back-end starting pitcher. I think each arm of the trio of Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, and Jason Vargas, makes more sense than what was on the open market, but for the sake of this exercise…
Marcum signed a one-year deal with the Mets for $4 million in guaranteed money and another $4 million in incentives. Marcum suffered elbow tightness in 2012, missing significant time and losing significant velocity. Even so, he struck out 7.9 batters per nine innings, marking the best total of his career, and posted a 3.70 ERA, which sat in line with marks in 2010 and 2011. There’s a certain amount of risk, but apparently the medical reports didn’t scare the Mets away.
Villanueva inked a two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs this offseason. The 29-year-old works as a starter and reliever, and his former club, Toronto, had doubts about whether or not he could handle a full-time starting job. When he started in 2012, he averaged just under six innings per start, and posted a 4.50 ERA, underwhelming but not terrible. As a reliever he posted a 3.24 ERA. A hybrid that could fill a rotation spot in case of injury is sort of what the Angels have in Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, but Villanueva would have been a clear upgrade over those two.
There’s a lot that a team can do with $13.9 million without going to the free agent market. The Halos recently signed Alberto Callaspo to a two-year, $8.75 million extension. The Halos also recently decided to pay Mike Trout like a second-year player and not a major league superstar.
This cash gives the team some flexibility in what it does over the next year or two. Maybe Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed, the prospects the Angels received, never make it past Double-A. It really doesn’t matter; the money in the deal makes it okay.