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big move, little move

big moves all over the majors yesterday. johnny damon and manny ramirez were acquired by the rays for less altogether than we spent on berkman alone. bhile each are past their prime, both still carry substantial value and are easily worth their contract price. 

the strangest news was that vernon "albatross" wells was traded for two real, actual players and without sending a single loonie to anaheim.

it remains to be seen whether last year's 4.0 WAR performance represents an enduring rebound from his prior three below-average seasons. regardless, he is to make $86m over the next 4 years. he has been worth the 4.5-5.0 WAR you would expect for the average annual value of those four year exactly once in his career.  

anaheim is making an unspeakably bad wager, just by volunteering to pay wells. even an optimistic assumption that wells accumulates 3 WAR a year over that time likely makes him a $25M overpay.

throwing preposterous value after bad, the angels put juan rivera and mike napoli in on the deal. rivera is only a middling talent, more like outfield depth than a starter. napoli is an fine hitting catcher, with a career wOBA of .357, regularly worth about 2.5 WAR. salarywise, rivera probably earns his worth and nothing more. napoli is a bargain.  

granted, rivera was superfluous, and the angels were not wanting at catcher. even so, they could have traded napoli to any number of suitors for a better return, especially since a worse return is hard to imagine. the rays were thought to be interested in him, for one.

the angels could have had adrian beltre for FIVE years, for less than what they'll be paying wells for FOUR. beltre has been worth 21.5 WAR over the last 5 years. wells was worth 12.7. they are both within a few months in age. there's just nothing that makes this trade make sense. 

contributing to this overall sense of bad drugs circulating in the angels organization came the following from mike scioscia, who i otherwise think has his head screwed on right. he stated that the angels might now have the best defensive outfield since the 1980's cardinals.

now, i realize that managers greet trades, especially for players they're stuck with for the next four years, with praise, even of the insincere variety. still, no one expects that kind of hyperbole. here in the "managing a professional baseball team for dummies" guide, it says generic yet unproveable statements like "this player will make our team better," "we are happy to have him," and "he likes to compete" are adequate responses.

in actual fact, the angels' outfield is defensively only okay. they have up-and-coming prospect peter bourjos, who has a great defensive rep. if they put him in center, he is probably a plus-plus fielder. so far so good. torii hunter has been mostly in center for years, and mostly subpar there for years. his last positive UZR in center was in 2005. if they move him to a corner, he might be a plus corner outfielder, but nothing special. wells has spent most of his career in center and has been godawful there. i'm not even sure he's an average corner outfielder now. his last three seasons in center look like this by UZR: -21.8, -18.4, -7.0.

not only does the wells acquisition not make the angels the best defensive outfield in the last twenty or thirty years, it doesn't make them the best defensive outfield in their division. notably, the mariners are running perennial best-defenders-in-the-majors franklin gutierrez and ichiro suzuki into the outfield. if they can get an average warm body in left field, they're better than what the angels have. the athletics are doing just fine with crisp and dejesus and an only slightly below average willingham in LF. the hamilton-cruz-bourbon outfield in texas is solid enough defensively. any of those AL West teams have plausible claims to be comparable to the angels with regard to their defense in the outfield. and that's assuming that scioscia is going to let bourjos play CF full time. if he puts hunter or wells out in center and puts abreu in a corner, they'll be looking like one of the worst defensive outfields.

to plant an unpleasant bug, one thing this does is make toronto suddenly a potential contender for albert pujols, in the event the cardinals cannot sign him. the immediate urgency may be to sign jose bautista, but if i were looking to make a splash in the AL East in the face of very stiff competition, albert pujols would upend the scales suddenly and dramatically. the jays now have napoli as their most expensive player on  AAV - somewhere in the $5-6m range once he signs or goes to arb. the departure of wells, halladay, rios, and overbay has left toronto with a good deal of spending money.

the big movement on our end of things was the acquisition of nick punto. at the bargain price of $750,000, punto seems like a very solid acquisition. punto is a no-bat, all-defense utility man. he has a positive UZR at every position. he has been worth 1.3, 1.4, and 2.5 fWAR over the last three seasons, serving part-time duty, never getting more than 450 PAs in those seasons. punto is old at 33, not inspiring, but solid.  

to me, neither greene nor descalso are much of an improvement on Punto.  bill james pegs greene at .308 for wOBA relative to .292 for punto. greene gets a pedestrian .239/.309/.373 projected line from ZiPS, while punto gets .239/.324/.306. I am unsure whether greene's projected OBP or punto's projected SLG is more concerning.

at the same time, greene's defensive numbers at short in the minors and the majors have been poor in the past several years. punto's defensive superiority likely makes up for such a small offensive difference. 

descalso is actually ranked better by ZiPS than greene, with a .268/.330/.394 projection. i suspect that the defensive difference between descalso and punto is substantial. i also doubt we want to see dirty dan try his hand at short.

the difference among greene, punto, and descalso seems pretty marginal in a utility role, although i share the general distaste for playing a 33 year old one year rental over comparable prospects. neither is so compelling a bench option that we should avoid a decent pickup of this sort. yes, we will probably see punto go north from spring training over one of these guys. but we could and we have done far worse than punto as our veteran utility man. and i suspect, baseball being what it is, that all three of greene, descalso, and punto will get substantial time in the field. 

maybe the better point (or en espanol "punto")  is the following: descalso's projection is particularly striking set against schumaker's weaker .276/.333/.365 ZIPS projection, especially considering that descalso's average defense and ability to hit lefties distinguish him further from skip. how exactly did we end up paying more for a year of schumaker in 2011 than a year of greene, descalso, punto, freese, and craig?

and, in case anyone wondered, bill james has aaron miles down for a .286 wOBA, and ZIPS likes aaron miles for a .268/.300/.320 line: a man with tyler greene's on-base skills, nick punto's power, and skip schumaker's defense. punto is not in this class either in terms of his position flexibility or defensive skill, although there are some disturbingly similar numbers on the offensive side.