Chicago Cubs News

Does The Vernon Wells Trade Help The Cubs?


One of the most absurd rumors that I generally can not stand to hear are those rumors that mention that the Cubs would be trading Alfonso Soriano. While it does make complete sense from a production perspective for the Cubs to trade the veteran slugger, from a financial standpoint, it has been considered for a longtime to be  impossible for the Cubs to move Soriano’s contract. Even with the trade that transpired tonight between the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels, trading Alfonso Soriano still looks like an impossible task for the Cubs.

The Toronto Blue Jays traded center fielder Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels for catcher Mike Napoli, and outfielder Juan Rivera. The Blue Jays are also believed to be sending $5 million to the Angels to help pay for Wells’ contract. Wells is slated to earn $86 million trough the 2014 season, when his contract expires. Meaning that in total, the Angels will still be paying Wells $81 million.

Once I first heard about this trade my instant reaction was wondering if this now gives the Cubs some possibilities. This is where Alfonso Soriano comes into the factor. Like Wells, Soriano’s contract runs through 2014. However, Soriano is only owed $72 million during that time, compared to the $86 million that is owed to Wells. The question is bound to come up now with Wells-whose contract may have been worse than Soriano’s- being traded, can the Cubs follow the Blue Jays example and trade Soriano?

Before we find out the answer to that question, let’s take a look at the production of the two pricey outfielders.

Soriano, 35, is coming off another sub par season where he hit .258/.322/.496 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI’s. Meanwhile Wells, 32, is had a nice bounce back season where he hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI’s. For what it is worth, Wells did play in 10 more games than Soriano. Overlooking the fact that Wells is three years younger, the biggest difference in the two is that Wells is 3 time gold glove winner in the outfield.

Obviously when you are dealing with trades, it takes two teams to make a deal. In this case, lets look at the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have lost out on essentially everyone of their top targets this offseason. They tried on Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, Adrian Beltre, Jayson Werth, and Rafael Soriano but were rejected by all of them.  Meaning the Angels were a big market teams with nothing to spend their big bucks on. Which is what probably enticed them to trade for Vernon Wells. Because it is more like their free agent signing, as they will be paying over 90% of the remaining money on Wells contract. In this case, Wells may still have a couple more seasons of solid production, before he hits free agency after the 2014 season, when he will be 35.

The difference with Soriano comes the fact that he is already 35. Unlike Wells, Soriano’s production will probably be on a steady decline over the course of the remaining years of his contract. Meaning at the end of 2014-when his contract expires- Soriano will be 38. It does not appear realistic that a team would be willing to take on a contract that pays Soriano $18 million for the final four years. Even a team that was in the Angel’s position would not make that deal, because instead of getting increased production, it is more likely that their production may drop.

So, in hindsight does the Vernon Wells trade make it easier for the Cubs to trade Alfonso Soriano? No.  But with the impending emergence of top prospect Brett Jackson, the Cubs will have to trade an outfielder at some point.  A lot of it will depend on how successful Jackson is with the Smokies, but if he takes the same path that Starlin Castro took, then Marlon Byrd may be the odd man out. There were whispers going around this off-season that the Cubs may have been shopping Byrd, but nothing came of those whispers. However, as Luke has pointed out on numerous occasions, those whispers may get louder if Brett Jackson gets off to a hot start.