Last month the Blue Jays dealt Vernon Wells to the Angels for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. Looking at it strictly on paper in terms of talent, the deal looks great for the Angels, but it’s Wells ridiculous contract that is the key.

Wells is in the middle of a 7-year, $126 million contract that will pay him more than $26 million this season and $20+ million until 2014. Meanwhile in return the Jays get a serviceable offensive catcher in Napoli and a 31-year-old former prospect that really never lived up to expectations (only posted a WAR above 2 once in 10 major league seasons). Obviously, this is a straight salary dump for Toronto.

When the Jays signed Wells to the seven-year deal in 2007, he was 27 years old, in his prime and they had Roy Halladay to give them a chance to contend. Things have changed drastically in four years after the Jays struggled to keep up with the big boys of the AL East. Halladay was traded for prospects after the ’09 season and with Wells getting up their in age and the team giving the young prospects a chance to play, the Jays were ready to dump Wells.

The surprising thing is that they found a suitor to take his contract on. Insert the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California. Here’s a team that tried and failed to sign Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre this offseason, losing Beltre to a division rival in the Rangers. The Angels obviously took some heat publicly for not signing either free agent and had some extra money to spend, but $23M? They could have spent less than that and still gave more money to Beltre than Texas did.

Let’s look at Wells to see if he’s worth that kind of money. His best seasons were 2003 and 2006, the latter when he hit 32 home runs and a slash line of .303/.357/.542. Following the 2006 season, he slumped the next three years producing a three-year slash line of .265/.317/.426. Which was right after he signed the long-term deal. Did he get complacent? That’s definitely a possibility.

At any rate, Wells rebounded last year with 31 homers, his highest since ’06, and a slash line of .273/.331/.515. But he’ll be 32 this summer, and he’s already shown signs of diminishing skills so I’m not sure what the Angels can expect from him the next couple of years. But I do not see how the Angels will get $23 million dollars worth out of him this year. Wells is one of the top five paid players in all of baseball, but he’s not one of the top five players out there.

The bottom line is the Angels panicked and searched for a deal that could bring in a name. They lost out on Crawford and Beltre while seeing Adrian Gonzalez go to Boston and Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, and they suddenly didn’t have anything to show for this offseason so they looked for a quick desperate deal. Did their team get better on the field? Yes, but at what cost and for how long?

On the other hand, the Jays will miss Wells production from 2010 but with the $75+ million they saved over the next four years, they can better spend the money to keep prospects like Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek among others around. Then again they could just dump that money into Jose Bautista for the next five years and pray last year wasn’t a fluke, but that’s another topic for another day.

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