by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Talk to the 2007 version of me about the prospect of the White Sox acquiring Blue Jays outfielders Vernon Wells and/or Alex Rios, and I'd overflow with excitement like Bartolo Colon at an all-you-can-eat late night burrito hut.
Of course at that time, the chances of the Jays trading either of their young studs was as remote as Paul Konerko pinch-running for Scott Podsednik.
Now, two years and two massive contracts later, it appears JP Ricciardi is willing to deal.
And, like any star-crossed romance, I don't know if I'd touch either of those guys with a 10-foot pole right now.
Back then, Wells was coming off an other-worldly 2006 season in which he hit .303 with 32 homers, 106 RBIs, a .357 OBP, 40 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He also had the reputation of being one of the finest defensive centerfielders in the league. As it turns out, that 2006 season would be his career year.
After signing a gigantic 7-year, $126 million extension that winter, Wells turned in a very blah 2007 season, dropping more than 50 points in both batting average and OBP and knocking out only 16 homers. His alarming 140 point drop in slugging (from .542 in '06 to .402 in '07) had to make the Jays feel like they were duped.
Wells rebounded somewhat in '08, but he will never live up to the big contract, now that he's on the wrong side of 30 and severely injury-prone.
Alex Rios was, probably, my biggest man-crush of a player at the time. He was a well-rounded prospect who was starting to make an impact at the big league level, hitting .302 with 17 HRs, 82 RBIs, a .349 OBP and 15 stolen bases in '06. I thought the guy was going to come into his own and be an ideal top-of-the-order hitter for the next decade.
But after a solid 2007, he stalled a little as well. It's not that he went into the gutter, but he didn't progress enough to the Jays' liking and apparently the team is now frustrated with his attitude. He did get the Blue Jays to commit 7 years and $69.8 million to him in early 2008, before the coming recession would make contracts like that a thing of the past.
I don't know if Kenny Williams ever pursued either Wells or Rios (my guess is that he at least sniffed around them), but I thought either of them would be the perfect solution to the Sox black hole in center field. Wells would be a 40-homer guy at the Cell, and Rios could be a Grady Sizemore-esque leadoff hitter.
Well, I'm not so sure anymore. The fact that the Jays are hemorrhaging money and desperate to unload salary makes either of those guys available today, and the Sox hole in centerfield persists. if the Globe's Jeff Blair is right, these guys are more than available. But they're not the attractive options they once were.
There's virtually zero chance the Sox would take on Wells' contract. He could be had for a song by any team willing to absorb the deal, but he'll be making $20+ million per year every year for 2011 through 2014. Even if the Jays pick up a sizeable portion of that contract, it would still be too expensive. And it's not like the guy is tearing the cover off the ball right now either- he's hitting .248 so far in '09 with 7 longballs.
Rios could also be had pretty cheap if the Sox would pick up his entire contract. Not as cheap as Wells, but still a mediocre prospect will get you close. I don't know anything about these questions about the guy's attitude, but his current slump has him at .263 with 9 homers so far this year. His contract is expensive but not devastating (he never makes more than $13.5 million in any year), and it could be worth it if he even turns the corner and lives up to his ability.
In the end, I would still probably take a chance on Rios, who is talented and only 27, if the price was right. Wells might turn it around, but it won't be with the Sox. But maybe a change of scenery would do Rios good, as he has a world of talent and might be feeling a little to comfy in Toronto.
If Ricciardi is as desperate to get rid of some salary as it seems, Rios could be just the kind of guy that value shopper Kenny Williams picks up.
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