The Rays Try to Become ’04 Sox, Jays Trade Their Albatross

We’re just about three weeks away from the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training, but moves are still being made.

The Rays made a big splash yesterday by signing 2004 World Series heroes Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez presumably to play left field and DH respectively. At this point in their careers they might has well have signed a couple of mascots to draw in fans though. Damon’s contract even has some attendance based incentives included in it.

The Blue Jays also made a big splash when they sent Vernon Wells and his still worth $86 million contract that should have been untradable to the Angels for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli.

The moves are generally viewed as good ones by the Rays and I happen to agree. They have nothing lose by signing either of them. Manny’s contract was an absolute steal at $2 million and Damon’s isn’t terrible either at $5.25 million plus another possible $75K in incentives. Both deals are one year deals of course. What makes this better is that both players have a chance of being Type-B free agents at the end of the year which means it could potentially give the Rays some draft picks after the year or at the very least give them a couple of attractive trade chips for the deadline.

The Wells deal is a little bit more difficult to judge. More than anything it seems like the Blue Jays won this deal though. Wells still has four-years and $86 million left on his deal and they only had to eat $5 million of it to move him. In exchange they got Rivera and Napoli.

Wells has been slowed by injuries over the past couple of years, but at this point, even when healthy, he’s not a $20+ million player. Over the last three years he has a .275 average and a .793 OPS. His OBP is a lowly .327 and his slugging is just .466. He doesn’t steal bases the same way anymore and isn’t the defensive outfielder that he was five years ago.

Meanwhile for a fraction of the cost the Jays have gotten back Rivera who comes close to Wells’ numbers with a .266/.314/.445/.760 line over the past three years. Is the difference in 0.33 OPS points really worth $15 million?

On top of that they get Napoli who is a good, but not great catcher. Supposedly the Red Sox didn’t think he could be their starting catcher, but they probably made a mistake in thinking that. He has a career OPS+ of 118 and is better against lefties which could have helped balance out their left handed hitting lineup.

So the Rays have gotten better and put themselves in a position where they could have two strong trade chips or possibly a pair of Type-B free agents if their team isn’t very good next year. The Jays haven’t necessarily gotten much better, but they haven’t gotten worse and shed what was thought to be an untradable contract which will help them in the future. Good moves by the Rays and Jays.

What do you think? Do you like both deals for these teams? Could the Rays possibly challenge the Yankees for the Wild Card with these additions?

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One Response to The Rays Try to Become ’04 Sox, Jays Trade Their Albatross

  1. tjay says:

    As a Rays fan I like both of these signings quite a bit.

    Huge upgrade over our recent DH's over the past few years (Pat the weak bat Burrell, Willie Aybar, Brad Hawpe etc.).

    High upside potential for low cost/risk.