Jays GM able to unload Wells' monster contract

Vernon Wells will not retire a Jay after he and his $86 million remaining were shipped to the...

Vernon Wells will not retire a Jay after he and his $86 million remaining were shipped to the Angels. (REUTERS FILES/Fred Thornhill)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:52 PM ET

TORONTO - Mississauga’s best major leaguer, next to Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Chris Leroux, isn’t coming back.

Vernon Wells lived in his Lorne Park house when his Blue Jays were in town.

He went to Laurie Williamson Motors on Dundas for his cars.

He battled QEW traffic just like the rest of us.

As a resident of Arlington, Tex., he couldn’t vote for mayor Hazel McCallion.

This spring, he could leave his Newport Beach house, take the I-5 to CA-57, ignore the Slauson cutoff and on to Gene Autry Way in Anaheim, Calif.

The face of the Blue Jays franchise was dealt west to the Los Angeles Angels for slugger Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera on Friday.

* * *

Facebook entry by Margaret: “Good-bye dear Vernon Wells. Our loss ... Angels’ gain! (sniff, sniff).”

Reply by Janis: “Thank god Brad clarified, it’s the California Angels — I thought he’d died.”

* * *

“There is no sense asking me about Alex Rios or Wells, they’ll both retire as Jays, that’s how bad those contracts are,” an opposing GM at the 2009 July trade deadline.

Rios didn’t retire as a Jay. He and the six years remaining on a seven-year, $69.35 million US deal were claimed on waivers eight days later by the Chicago White Sox.

Wells will not retire a Jay after he and his $86 million remaining were shipped to the Angels.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos ran into the perfect storm when the Angels called: A large-revenue team, which had chased and lost on free agents Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, Cliff Lee and Rafael Soriano. They had landed ex-Jays set-up man Scott Downs.

Wells’ contract was deemed the most untradeable this side of Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants.

At the 2006 winter meetings, the Jays and GM J.P. Ricciardi were like the Angels this winter: Lots of dough and no one to take it.

Ted Lilly chose to pitch for the Chicago Cubs over Toronto and Gil Meche decided he’d rather be with the Kansas City Royals than the Jays, president Paul Godfrey and Ricciardi gave Wells a seven-year, $126-million contract.

That was then. In a span of five weeks, Alfonso Soriano agreed to an eight-year, $136-million deal with the Cubs, Wells had his contract extended and Zito signed a seven-year, $126-million deal with the Giants.

TSN Comment: Dylan109 “We have the best GM in sports.”

Anthopoulos has an 85-79 career record.

Napoli gives the Jays versatility. Napoli, who started 67 games at first when Kendry Morales was injured in a home-plate celebration and had to be carried off on a stretcher after his walk-off homer, can play first if Adam Lind shows he that can’t this spring. Lind can always return to his best position, the batter’s box.

If J.P. Arencibia shows he can hit as scouts predicted on draft day 2004, Napoli can back up at catcher.

If Arencibia shows he can’t catch as many scouts said on draft day 2004, Napoli could be the No. 1 catcher. And Arencibia could play first or DH.

Whatever, the Jays are more flexible with Rajai Davis or Corey Patterson in centre ... and who knows at third base?

There is work to be done.

In moving Halladay, the Jays obtained Kyle Drabek, who looked for real winning double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year, Travis D’Arnaud, bothered by a bad back, and Brett Wallace, flipped for Anthony Gose, who slipped in the second half at class-A Dunedin.

Rivera is an extra guy.

Wells became a lighting rod for everything wrong with the Jays. This romance didn’t end with management trying to paint him as the bad guy (see Carlos Delgado).

Wells leaves as the franchise leader in at bats.

He always played hard running into walls and never once used injuries as an excuse for his numbers.

Wells made his debut on Aug. 30, 1999.

The Jays current bullpen coach, Pat Hentgen, started that game against the Minnesota Twins.

Of the 26 players in that game two others are active — Cristian Guzman and Angels outfielder Torii Hunter.

bob.elliott@sunmedia.ca


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