In my last post, I looked at what teams were able to get for various free-agent-to-be-CFers. It was more an rumination about how poor the returns were, rather than a speculation about what the price for Wells would be.
That said...it got me thinking...
If the Blue Jays decide they need to move Wells this offseason, who would the bidders be? And what sort of offers would be on the table?
Let's look at the possibilities...
In the A.L. West, the Rangers would be interested, of course. The Mariners have Adam Jones as their centerfielder of the future, and the A's have Mark Kotsay. Anaheim could be interested...we'll include them for the sake of discussion here...
In the A.L. Central, the Royals aren't going to be buyers, the Indians have Grady Sizemore, the Tigers have Curtis Granderson, and the Twins have payroll constraints and other issues, although with Torii Hunter leaving, they'll need a centerfielder. The ChiSox would no doubt be interested, though...Brian Anderson has disappointed, and Kenny Williams has time and again shown that he's willing to deal prospects for vets.
In the A.L. East, the D-Rays are rebuilding, and Baltimore doesn't look like a candidate. Boston would be in on Wells, though, and I think New York would be, as well, so they could move Johnny Damon and his ragarm to left.
In the National League West, San Fran is likely to be in rebuilding mode, the Padres will probably bring Mike Cameron back, and Arizona has Chris Young. The Dodgers would probably be very interested in Wells, and Rockies could have some interest, although they wouldn't seem to be high on the list of candidates.
In the N.L. Central, the Pirates and Brewers are rebuilding, the Reds are tied to Junior Griffey, and the Cubs are apparently going to bring Juan Pierre back. The Cards would be in on Wells, as would the Astros, if they decide not to go into rebuilding mode.
In the N.L. East, the Braves, Mets and Phillies have Jones, Beltran and Rowand, and thus aren't going to be in the market. The Marlins and Nationals don't look to be contenders in 2007, but both are unpredictable organizations, and either could end up going after Wells.
So...that means that we have identified the following teams as possibilities for acquiring Wells via trade this offseason:
Given that the Blue Jays just dropped a bundle on A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, they are probably going to be in "compete now" mode, and will want major leaguers who can contribute right away. And given that they are giving up Wells, they'll be in the market for a centerfielder, although with Hunter, GMJ, and possibly Juan Pierre available this offseason, that probably wouldn't be a dealbreaker.
Looking at the possibilities...
Florida wouldn't seem to be realistic, except they have the unpredictable Jeffrey Loria as their owner, they have had a surprisingly successful (relatively speaking) season so far in 2006, and they could decide to do like the Tigers did with Juan Gone, and overpay to get Wells in, with the hope that they can try to lock him up long-term and make a run with him in 2007. I don't think that's real likely, but if they decide they want in, they can probably blow any other team away, in terms of what they can offer in terms of prospects, but don't necessarily have the major league talent Toronto would want. Still, a prospect-laden package would be hard for Toronto to turn down, and J.P. Ricciardi is the type of creative g.m. who could then use those pieces to restock the major league team.
If the Marlins are serious about Wells, they could offer the Blue Jays something like Jeremy Hermida, Jason Stokes, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, and only Anaheim could compete with that.
Washington is like Florida, in that they wouldn't seem to be, on the surface, a candidate, but Jim Bowden and the new ownership group may want to try to make an immediate splash. And they have some major league talent that they could try to use to entice the Blue Jays, although the farm is pretty weak.
Bowden could, conceivably, take the package he got from the Reds in the Majewski/Bray trade -- Ryan Wagner, Felipe Lopez, and Austin Kearns -- and offer that to the Blue Jays for Wells. Ricciardi could plug Lopez in at shortstop and Kearns in at centerfield, and hit the ground running. It would be an intriguing possibility.
I'd lump the Rockies into the same category as the Nats and the Marlins...not likely to make a play, but a possibility. The N.L. West is vulnerable, the Rockies have a lot of pretty good young talent, and Wells would fit beautifully in Coors, giving them the ball-hawking power-hitter they thought they were getting when they traded for Preston Wilson.
The Rockies, though, are like the Marlins, only less so...some minor league talent to deal, but not much on the major league level. Chris Iannetta would probably appeal to the Blue Jays, and he could probably take over the starting catcher job right away, but the Rockies would probably have to also kick in Ian Stewart and something else -- Brad Hawpe, perhaps -- to be a legit contender for Wells.
The Cardinals are going to have a gaping hole in centerfield if they don't exercise Jim Edmonds 2007 option, and I've seen some talk he might retire. Even if he doesn't, his health and age have him probably better suited to a corner slot.
Unfortunately for St. Louis, there's not much that they can offer for Wells, either in the majors or minors...Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright is probably as high as they can go, and that's probably not going to get it done.
The Dodgers would have to be one of the favorites, if they want Wells...they have a lot of talent, a g.m. who has shown he's happy to deal prospects to get vets, and a hole in center.
L.A. could go a couple of different ways here. They could offer, say, Wilson Betemit, Jonathon Broxton, and either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier for Wells, which would give the Blue Jays a starting middle infielder, a power arm to set up Ryan, and a good young corner outfielder. And they could sweeten the pot with someone like Justin Orenduff, giving the Blue Jays a really solid package of players, without giving up anyone the Dodgers would really miss.
Or they could offer Kemp or Ethier, along with Scott Elbert or Chad Billingsley, and Andy LaRoche or James Loney, if the Blue Jays would rather go young. Or they could package Kemp or Ethier and LaRoche or Loney with Russell Martin, and give the Blue Jays two very good, cheap young players who could step in immediately and contribute, along with another nice positional prospect. Again, it just depends on how badly the Dodgers decide they want to win in 2007, versus building for farther down the road.
I touched on the Astros in the diary, but I think they would need to build a package around Chris Burke (who immediately would be one of the two or three best second basemen in the A.L.), one of their young pitchers (Nieve, Patton, or Hirsh), and Wily Tavares, who can't hit, but who is a terrific defensive outfielder. That's a nice package, but unless Ricciardi decides he really needs a flycatcher out in center, I don't think that would get it done.
The ChiSox would probably be aggressive in pursuing Wells, with the Blue Jays probably wanting Brian Anderson and Brandon McCarthy -- plus maybe something else -- for Wells. Kenny Williams supposedly wouldn't give up McCarthy and Anderson for Alfonso Soriano, but for a full season of Vernon Wells, he might do it.
With Anaheim, it all depends on whether the Angels feel comfortable with Chone Figgins as their regular centerfielder. I have to think that the idea of pairing Wells with Vlad Guerrero in the outfield would be enticing to Bill Stoneman, but he's shown a reluctance to give up his prospects in the past.
Still, Anaheim has a ton of talent, and no room for it all. The Angels could bite the bullet, and offer a combination of Ervin Santana, Howie Kendrick or Brandon Wood, and Jeff Mathis, and probably knock out any other suitors other than L.A. or Florida, giving the Blue Jays three players who would start (or be in the starting rotation) for Toronto in 2007. Or if the Angels are reluctant to part with Santana (as has been rumored), they could conceivably replace Santana and Mathis with Joe Saunders and Casey Kotchman. Like the Dodgers, the Angels have a lot of possibilities to mix-and-match to make a deal work.
Boston would be interested in Wells, but they'd also have problems finding a package to give up that would beat the other likely offers. Either Coco Crisp or Wily Mo Pena would have to be in the deal, along with, most likely, Jon Lester or Craig Hansen. A combo of Crisp, Hansen or Lester, and Dustin Pedroia would probably be necessary to get Toronto to bite.
New York is flooded with outfielders, but Vernon Wells would give them a top defensive centerfielder for the first time in years. The Yanks could put Matsui and Damon on either side of Wells, although that leaves open the question of what to do with Bobby Abreu. They could DH Abreu and put Giambi at first base, although they'd probably prefer to send Abreu to the Blue Jays and pay a chunk of his salary.
For this to work for New York, they'd probably need to send Abreu, Robinson Cano, and Philip Hughes to the Blue Jays, and then go sign Alfonso Soriano to play second base for them. I don't know that they'd be willing to part with Hughes, but Abreu and Cano isn't enough, and they just don't have much else to offer.
And so that brings us to...the Rangers. And I hope highlights the primary purpose I began this exercise...to point out how hard it would be for the Rangers to pry Vernon Wells away from the Blue Jays, given the other likely bidders and what some of those teams could give up.
The reality is, the Rangers would likely have to part with a couple of Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, and Nelson Cruz, plus either John Danks or Eric Hurley, to be in contention. And even then, they are likely to be out-bid.
Of course, they could instead offer Mark Teixeira for Wells, but I don't think they'd do that, and don't even want to think about it.
So as a Ranger fan, my thought is, sit out of any Vernon Wells bidding this offseason, and see what the situation is after 2007.
If anyone made it to the end of this epic, please feel free to share your thoughts...