Blue Jays trade Vernon Wells to Angels, save about $80 million

The Toronto Blue Jays still owed 32-year-old slugger Vernon Wells(notes) $86 million through 2014. It was a common opinion that such a rich contract made him untradable.

And yet, general manager Alex Anthopoulos pulled off a deal Friday night, doing so while sending barely any offsetting cash — a mere $5 million — to the Los Angeles Angels.

It's not really fair to call Angels' GM Tony Reagins a sucker for sending Mike Napoli(notes) and Juan Rivera(notes) back to the Blue Jays, because Wells (when he's healthy, as he was in 2010) is a very good hitter. Not many can hit 31 homers and 44 doubles, as Wells did this past season.

But consider this: Combine what the Jays owed Wells with what was due Alex Rios(notes) until the White Sox claimed him from waivers in August 2009 and Toronto saves — ready? — $140.7 million.

The Rios move came with J.P. Ricciardi still running the Jays (Anthopoulos was an assistant) but it will be A.A. who's around to reap the benefits.

He's getting what they call a "mulligan" in golf. A do-over. A Peggy Sue Got Married (or did she)?

Saving that money gives the Jays a better chance to compete (from time to time) with the top of the AL East.

The trade has other dimensions that make it look like a win for Toronto.

Most notably: Napoli, a first baseman/catcher who will make at least $5.3 million in 2011 depending on arbitration results, can be just as effective at the plate as Wells. His career adjusted OPS (on-base plus slugging) is 118; Wells' is 108. Napoli is three years younger, too.

Wells also won three Gold Gloves in center, but his defense has been in decline (note his Total Zone rating and UZR/150 rating since 2006). He'll probably be fine in left field in Anaheim.

OK, maybe it IS OK to call Reagins a sucker. The Angels were looking to do something ... anything ... after generally striking in free agency with Carl Crawford(notes) and others this offseason. As Yahoo! Sports' own Tim Brown points out, it's been a rough offseason.

This is something, all right.

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