Former Blue Jays assistant GM Keith Law stirred the pot a few days ago in his blog, mentioning that:
"Vernon Wells has told Blue Jays’ management that he has no intention of signing a contract extension to stay in Toronto."
J.P. Ricciardi responded by calling Law an idiot, and Wells himself said the conversation was fabricated. While the drama here is amusing, let’s take a look at some suitors for Wells if Toronto does make a deal this winter. It’s potentially a long list.
Red Sox – They can afford a long-term extension for Wells, and did shop Coco Crisp this July. Wells is a top five defensive CF, and Crisp doesn’t even enter the conversation. And I didn’t even mention the offensive difference. The obvious problem: both of these teams are trying to win the AL East in 2007. That makes a trade here highly unlikely.
White Sox – They’ve shown a strong commitment to Brian Anderson despite a very rough start. Anderson has at least shown signs of being a league average offensive CF over the last two months, and his defense has drawn praise. Kenny Williams is certainly capable of an unexpected splash, but there’s not a big need here for Wells.
Angels – Let’s hope the Halos realize next year that Garret Anderson is no longer a starting left fielder. Juan Rivera has already stepped up to fill his shoes, and Wells could be added to play center. That leaves Chones Figgins bouncing around again, but does his .698 OPS really need to play every day?
A’s – The A’s are committed to Mark Kotsay through 2008, though Kotsay’s performance has been less than inspiring this season. There’s certainly a chance Billy Beane goes after Wells; the Oakland lineup has been missing a player like that.
Mariners – Adam Jones isn’t ready for full-time duty this year, but he’s only 21. Jeremy Reed will still be with the club next year to help out. The Mariners should probably focus on starting pitching this winter.
Rangers – As has been speculated, the Rangers make an excellent fit for Wells. Gary Matthews Jr. is on the wrong side of 30 and an impending free agent, so Texas is in search of a long-term center field solution. Do they have the cash to lock up both Wells and Carlos Lee? Probably not, but Lee is not guaranteed to stay in Texas this winter. I think if he signs elsewhere the Rangers would step up their pursuit of Wells.
Astros – Houston could try some combo of Willy Taveras, Jason Lane, and Chris Burke out in center next season. That could work, but with money to burn Tim Purpura is expected to bring in some big names. Wells should be at the top of his list.
Cardinals – There’s plenty of debate about whether to exercise Jim Edmonds’s $10MM option for 2007. I think the Cards should do it, but trading for Wells would be even better. I’m not sure how that would make Colby Rasmus feel, but the team could cross that bridge if they come to it. There’s probably room in the budget for one major splash, though it should probably be a pitcher.
Cubs – The unfortunate lack of a Juan Pierre trade this summer may indicate that the Cubs want to keep him around for three, four more years. Bringing in a star like Wells would be exciting for Cubs fans, but the team seems more likely to focus its dollars on Carlos Lee and some starting pitching.
Reds – Only if Junior will finally move over. In Ryan Freel and Chris Denorfia, the Reds already have some workable options for center if that does happen. Wells seems a very long shot for Cincy.
Dodgers – How about an outfield of J.D. Drew, Andre Ethier, and Wells? I can’t see any reason Ned Colletti wouldn’t be involved if Wells is available this winter. They’ve got an opening, the cash, and the talent to make a deal.
Rockies – Now this would be a fun destination. Bring some firepower to the middle of the Colorado order and sparkling outfield defense. There would be a lot of athleticism between Matt Holliday and Wells. It’s not a bad idea if the financials and prospects could be hammered out.
Looks like the major players would be the Texas teams and Dodgers, with the Angels and Red Sox as dark horses. Wells grew up in Arlington, Texas, for what it’s worth.