Thoughts on the Angels and Vernon Wells.

If you weren't among the record crowds at Friday night's Awards Dinner and Saturday and Sunday's Fan Fest, you've no doubt heard and maybe even seen uploaded footage of the highlights.

Friday night, the 1985 El Dorado the club surprised Wash with.

C.J. Wilson's ("Finish it!!") acceptance speech.

Jim Reeves doing what he does best (and what nobody in local sports does better) with his tribute to Tom Vandergriff.

Engel Beltre's ascot.

Eric Nadel's remarks about Colby Lewis. (And about an Eleno Ornelas radio call that I'm now reminding myself I need to chase down.)

Josh Hamilton's comments, followed by Wash's.

Saturday and Sunday, a Rangers-centric version of the NFL Experience that blows away anything the team has done with its Fan Fest/Winter Carnival in the 12 or 13 years I've been going. Tons of great stuff for the kids, including some who are almost 42 years old:

We didn't have autograph guests at the booth this year - the space was massive enough that the team was able to station something like 30 current and former Ranger players without the need for extra locations like ours (plus, there was no mini-camp coinciding with the event, which in past years has brought a couple dozen minor leaguers in town) -

but we did have a few guests drop by unannounced and we put a pen in their hands for a different reason . . . .

. . . and I will tell you this: If you end up buying the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow, there's no way that you'll be able to nail as many Pirates trivia questions two years from now as Chuck Greenberg did on our Rangers quiz on Saturday.

Everything about the weekend was first class, a term I heard dozens of you use about the two events. Friday's banquet sold out, drawing twice as many fans (1,400) as any of the last few years. More than 11,000 fans attended Fan Fest, nearly three times as many as last year.

A whole lot of those Rangers caps and sweatshirts and jackets look brand new, but that's OK. I've got no beef with a bandwagon fan as long as he or she's not the type that plans to jump off at the first sign of adversity.

The front office isn't all about instant gratification, or else Cliff Lee would be a Ranger right now, and maybe Zack Greinke would, too. (But Adrian Beltre wouldn't be, and some significant chunk of a group including Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter and Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Erlin and Engel Beltre and Jurickson Profar and Leury Garcia probably wouldn't be, either.)

The players are resilient. They proved it over and over again in 2010.

Easier said than done in some cases, but there's no reason we, as fans, can't be resilient too, when we need to be, and to resist the urge for the quick fix.

Speaking of which, the most common weekend discussion revolved around Vernon Wells, whom the Angels traded for on Friday. I can't imagine what the scene would have been like in Los Angeles this weekend (if the Angels staged some sort of fan event before spring training, which they don't), but I have yet to run into (or read) anyone who understands what the Angels were doing. It's hard to see the long-term benefit, or even some sort of quick fix aspect to the deal.

You can drill down deep into the numbers, even defensively, to make a case that Wells isn't worth giving Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera up for, but put it this way:

Adam Dunn signed this winter for four years and $56 million (AAV: $14 million).

Victor Martinez signed this winter for four years and $50 million (AAV: $12.5 million).

Beltre: five years and $80 million guaranteed, which could become six years and $96 million (AAV: $16 million).

Carl Crawford, three years younger than Wells: seven years and $142 million (AAV: $20.3 million).

Jayson Werth: seven years and $126 million (AAV: $18 million).

Vernon Wells over the remainder of his existing contract: four years and $86 million ($21.5 million).

Theoretically, the Angels could have signed both Martinez (four years) and Rafael Soriano (three years) for about the same outlay as they're going to pay Wells - either to play on a corner or to move Peter Bourjos to a corner, which would decimate his value - and wouldn't have had to move Napoli and Rivera to do it . . . or more likely, would have allowed them to move those two everyday hitters to other clubs for additional assets (Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star suggests that could be what the Blue Jays now do with one or both right-handed hitters).

So Los Angeles evidently ducked out of paying Beltre - who would have dramatically upgraded third base from the weak threesome of Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, and Brandon Wood - the annual sum of $16 million for five years. But the club was willing to go $21.5 million annually for four years of Wells. The Angels would have had to surrender a second-round pick for Beltre. Instead, Napoli and Rivera for Wells.

It's a strange move.

That's a club that had several black holes in its lineup before Friday, before it traded two moderately productive hitters (who stand to make a combined $11 million or so in 2011, before their commitments end, though Napoli is subject to club control in 2012) for one who's coming off a very good season, but who, at age 31, has been caught in a year-on, year-off pattern since passing his prime years (though he's done plenty more than Gary Matthews Jr., whom the Angels will pay another $11 million to in 2011).

As a Rangers fan, I'm happy the Angels made this trade. Wells killed this team in 2010 (.382/.500/1.147 in 34 at-bats, eight home runs in 10 games), and from that standpoint I'd prefer to see him 10 times a year rather than 19, but I think Los Angeles got worse with this deal, if not in 2011 then absolutely beyond that.

If you think these are merely ramblings of an admitted Rangers homer, here's a media reaction sample:

Rob Neyer, ESPN: "It's like the Angels are doubling down on Torii Hunter's contract . . . . [I]f [rookie center fielder Peter] Bourjos hadn't been so awful in the majors last year, the Angels probably wouldn't have traded for Vernon Wells. If the Angels hadn't struck out in their bids for Crawford and Beltre, they almost certainly wouldn't have traded for Wells, if only because there wouldn't have been room for Wells' HUGE contract in their budget. But both of those things did happen, and the Angels overreacted. Sort of classically. This might actually work, for a year or two. But the Angels are now inside one of those hamster wheels, and I really wonder if they can keep their little legs moving fast enough to keep from being flung off before long."

Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus: "[Angels GM Tony] Reagins' repeating Bill Stoneman's massive mistake with Little Sarge may well be the self-capping gesture of a now worse-than-wasted winter for the Angels. . . . They wouldn't ‘overpay' to guarantee themselves signing Adrian Beltre or Carl Crawford. Instead, they wound up paying a very similar price tag over the next four years - one that had to be offset by shedding Napoli and Rivera, which a free-agent signing would not have done - to wind up with 80 percent of the ballplayer. It's a misunderstanding of both the value of talent and the value of money. . . . [A]s a player now in his 30s with a history for recurring hamstring issues, does it really make sense to bet on his continued good health? Hell no. . . . He will be what he's been for much of his Jays career: a nice ballplayer, good enough to help a winning ballclub, but for the expense of employing him and how much that hampers its efforts to buy real star talent."

Buster Olney, ESPN: "[T]he Angels are committed to paying Vernon Wells - who is two years and eight months older than Crawford - $21.5 million a year, or $2.5 million year more than their decisive offer to Crawford, the younger and better player. They're committed to paying Wells - whom they project as a corner outfielder - more than they offered to Beltre, who is coming off a year in which he had an OPS of .918, as one of the best third basemen in the game. . . . Yes, a seven-year deal with Crawford is the longer deal, but it also would have covered the years when Crawford played at age 28 and 29 and 30 and 31 - which might turn out to be the best years of his career. The Angels are getting Wells on a contract with a shorter term, yes, but they're paying him more money than they offered Crawford for his work at age 32, 33, 34 and 35 - when Wells' work at age 29 and 30 was already a concern. . . . There was a running debate among some talent evaluators Friday over how much Toronto would have to eat to make this deal make sense for the Angels. ‘It would have to be at least $30 million,' said one longtime evaluator. . . . [A] s it turned out, the Jays found a taker in the Angels, who seem to be desperate for some kind of consolation prize near the end of what has been a frustrating winter."

Joe Sheehan, The Joe Sheehan Newsletter: "I had suggested more than a year ago, when the Blue Jays were shopping Roy Halladay, that the Wells contract was so bad, so debilitating, that the best thing they could do would be to trade Halladay and Wells to a team for nothing in return, that simply saving the money on Wells would be worth more to them than any prospects Halladay could return. While I remain convinced that such as deal might have been worthwhile, it's clear that I underestimated the esteem in which at least one team would hold Wells. . . . Over the past five seasons - Napoli's career - Napoli has out-hit Wells . . . I'd bet right now that Napoli will out-hit Wells next year and for the rest of their careers. . . . The Angels have burnt $86 million and done absolutely nothing to make themselves better."

Dave Cameron, FanGraphs: "2007-2010, outfielders with similar [weighted on-base average] to Vernon Wells: Randy Winn, Chris Young, Aaron Rowand. . . . Adrian Beltre produced more value (+7.1 [Wins Above Replacement]) in 2010 than Wells did in the last four years combined (+7.0)."

Keith Law, ESPN: "Vernon Wells isn't a terrible player - he's a solid player with a terrible contract. And he is absolutely the wrong player right now for the Los Angeles Angels, who have made one [of] the worst desperation moves I can remember."

The move also likely makes Bobby Abreu a fulltime DH, which would theoretically take Los Angeles out of the hunt for Vladimir Guerrero, and there are now reports suggesting Texas could reopen the door for Guerrero to return, albeit in a projected role that would call for less playing time than he'd like. Baltimore is also said to be in on Guerrero, whose lifetime OPS in Camden Yards (1.011) is actually higher than it is in Arlington (.996).

Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez signed with Tampa Bay, a development that generated one of the Awards Dinner's loudest ovations on Friday night. (After I sent the COFFEY out on Friday morning passing along the local rumor that Texas was in on Manny, I got nearly 100 responses. Two were in favor of Manny coming here. Two.)

Whether Guerrero is in big league camp with the Rangers a month from now is uncertain, but minor league righthanders Tanner Scheppers and Cody Eppley, catcher Jose Felix, and outfielder/bat Chad Tracy will be there, having all been invited by Texas as non-roster players. Those four join pitchers Seth McClung and Ryan Tucker, catcher Kevin Cash, infielders Brian Barden and Esteban German, and outfielders Endy Chavez and Doug Deeds as non-roster invites so far.

Scheppers didn't make Jonathan Mayo's MLB.com list of the top 10 minor league righthanders in baseball, but Martin Perez checks in at number five on the list of top lefthanders. Jurickson Profar was Mayo's number five shortstop.

Ted Price got some really good interview footage at Fan Fest, and it won't take you long to watch it.

Among those in the upload is Josh Hamilton, who stayed at Fan Fest until about 45 minutes after his autograph session - and the entire event - was supposed to have ended. He didn't budge until the last fan with an autograph ticket was taken care of.

The scene just before Hamilton arrived is hard to describe. He's a Beatle. There were hundreds of fans lined up just to be nearby as he entered the building to walk to his autograph station. I can't think of another local athlete - ever - who's been as magnetic a figure as that guy.

Among the things Nolan Ryan said to reporters over the weekend was that he projects 90-95 wins for the Rangers in 2011. Last year, just after camp had gotten underway, he threw down 92 - a total that the team matched two games into the first round of the playoffs.

The deal that reliever Darren O'Day signed to avoid arbitration was for either $1.251 or $1.215 million (the latter figure looks more like a baseball salary, but the former one is getting reported more often), either slightly above or slightly below the midpoint between his $1.4 million proposal and the club's $1.05 million submission. Notably, the Super Two service time threshold this off-season was two years and 122 days of service, significantly lower than most years, when the cutoff was around two years and 140 days. O'Day, with two years and 128 days of service, therefore qualified for arbitration, which probably resulted in at least $700,000 more in 2011 than he'd have made had he fallen short of Super Two status.

San Diego signed first baseman Jorge Cantu to a one-year, big league deal, reported to be for a $850,000 base. Arizona traded two ordinary pitching prospects for Armando Galarraga.

Colorado signed outfielder Willy Taveras to a minor league deal with a big league invite. St. Louis signed infielder Freddie Bynum to a minor league league deal after a stint in Japan.

Todd Coffey is a Washington National.

The Rangers released minor league righthanders Johnny Gunter and Aaron Thompson, both of whom had arrived in 2009, Gunter via the draft and Thompson as a free agent signed out of Australia.

According to a local report, Texas talked to Phillies play-by-play man Scott Franzke and Brewers play-by-play man Brian Anderson (son of Rangers pro scout Mike Anderson) during the process that led the organization to hire John Rhadigan to handle television play-by-play duties.

I did a segment last night on the debut edition of "Talkin' Baseball with Mike Capps" on 104.9 The Horn/ESPN Radio Austin, radio home of the Round Rock Express. The one-hour show will air every Monday at 7 p.m. leading up to the start of the season, and each week either Scott Lucas or I will join Capps, the Express play-by-play announcer, and former Major Leaguer Jerry Grote, the club's radio color analyst, for a segment to discuss the Rangers at the big league and AAA levels.

Rangers minor league reliever Matt Thompson's dad Bill is helping organize the "Bad Boy Mowers Celebrity Softball Classic," a celebrity softball game on Thursday, February 3, benefiting the Tara Sawyer Foundation. Event information is at www.tarasawyer.org. The game will be followed by fireworks and a Mark Chesnutt concert, and among those slated to play are Ian Kinsler, Tommy Hunter, Darren Oliver, Rusty Greer, Steve Buechele, Jeff Frye, Matt Thompson, Everson Walls, and Randy White . . .

. . . and Vernon Wells.

The great Vernon Wells Sr., that is.

He's going to have a lot more Rangers games to go to this year, and in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and while Junior will probably make Dad plenty proud, especially if he continues to rake in his hometown with half as much bad-ass-ness as he did in 2010 (2.492 OPS), I can't help but think the Angels' measured efforts to reclaim their perch atop the AL West, which some felt two months ago could actually bring Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano to Anaheim, were just dealt a pretty severe, desperately self-inflicted blow.

 
title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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