New Angels outfielder Vernon Wells surely will return from his groin injury and lift his .183 batting average from below the Mendoza line to something more befitting the high-priced major leaguer that he is. But whatever he does do, the trade that sent Wells and much of the hefty amount left on his contract from Toronto to the Angels was still the Holy Grail of trades for the Blue Jays and the best move made this winter by any team. In a shock to everyone in baseball, the Angels -- apparently desperate to add a big bat after failing to sign Carl Crawford -- took all but $5 million of the $86 million to go on Wells' deal. Originally the teams announced that the Angels were taking the whole contract. That proved to good to be true for the Blue Jays, though not by much very much.
The trade of Wells heads the early list of the best moves of the winter so far:
Red Sox: Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves
Orioles: Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara
Blue Jays: Jon Rauch
Tigers: Jhonny Peralta
White Sox: Phil Humber, Jesse Crain
Angels: Scott Downs
A's: Grant Balfour, Brandon McCarthy
Rangers: Darren Oliver
Mariners: Aaron Laffey
Phillies: Jose Contreras
Braves: Eric Hinske, George Sherrill
Nationals: Livan Hernandez
Mets: Chris Capuano, Taylor Buchholz
Cubs: Reed Johnson
Pirates: Joe Beimel
Rockies: Matt Lindstrom
Giants: Pat Burrell, Ryan Vogelsong
Dodgers: Jon Garland, Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla
Diamondbacks: Willie Bloomquist, David Hernandez, J.J. Putz, Melvin Mora
Padres: Chad Qualls, Dustin Moseley, Chris Denorfia
• Five major league executives suggested at least strong doubt as to whether Milton Bradley could find another job after the Mariners designated him for assignment. The reasons listed were poor offense, declining defense and the usual hellacious temper. "He has no upside,'' one exec said. "I think his career is over.'' Two others were equally emphatic that Bradley was done, but two execs left open a small possibility he'd find one more taker on the theory that there's one in every crowd.
• The Pirates want to bring back Andrew McCutchen on a deal for at least five years. The team will not do a deal that is for four years or fewer, which wouldn't buy out any free-agent years. They want to keep McCutchen (who's hitting .227 so far with seven homers and five stolen bases) long-term, but he has to decide whether he wants to commit to an organization which hasn't had a winning season since 1992. The policy to only do deals to buy out free-agent years is a wise one for Pittsburgh.
• The Mets' Carlos Beltran is helping his trade value with a .526 slugging percentage and an NL high 12 doubles. He recently "looked great going from first to third'' on a single, one AL scout said, and he's done pretty well in rightfield too, opening up the possibility he could interest a National League club as well as AL clubs. It's early, but the White Sox, A's and Tigers look like they could be possibilities, and if the Red Sox suffer any attrition, they'd make sense, too. Beltran is thought willing to waive his no-trade clause for the right team.
• Greenwich, Conn., hedge fund manager Stevie Cohen, a longtime friend of the Wilpons, had previously been seen as a favorite to buy the Mets minority stake that's for sale, but word is Cohen doesn't currently have the high bid. There's been more interest than first predicted, and the sale is expected to keep the Wilpons afloat, at least for the foreseeable future (until they resolve their Madoff issue). There is no hard deadline to find the minority buyer, though financial pressures means they need to do it in coming weeks. Still, there seems to be more optimism they might hold onto the team now than there was a few months ago.
• Meanwhile, Dodgers owners Frank McCourt is thought by one person familiar with his financial situation to be in jeopardy of running out of funds before the All-Star break. The
• Angels star Kendrys Morales visited a foot specialist in Vail, Colo.,. on Tuesday in hopes of avoiding a second surgery a year after injuring himself in a home-plate celebration following his walkoff grand slam home run. He is still having issues running.
• There seems to be reasonable expectation among people in the know that Phillies' injured star Chase Utley will be back in June.
• The poor Twins seem to be snakebit. Jim Thome, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka all are on the disabled list while Justin Morneau is batting his way back from a concussion and also has been hampered in recent days by a virus. There is no timetable for Mauer, who has leg weakness after offseason knee surgery. Both Mauer and the club are said to be committed to keeping the superstar at catcher.
• One high school player moving up some draft boards is catcher Jordan Weems, from Columbus, Ga. The Red Sox and Blue Jays could be interested.
• Two prospects omitted from Monday's column on baseball's best prospects are the Giants' Brandon Belt and the Indians' Drew Pomeranz. Belt started the season with the Giants, hitting .192 in a cameo, and isn't believed far off from returning. Pomeranz has been likened to former Indians star Cliff Lee.
• Top Red Sox shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias is only up while Marco Scutaro is on the disabled list, and the expectation is Iglesias will be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket once Scutaro or another reinforcement is ready. The Red Sox want Iglesias to show he's ready as a hitter before bringing him back for good. One major league source said he thought it was "highly unlikely'' the Red Sox would trade the prospects it would be needed to acquire Jose Reyes as a rental.
• Royals rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer is impressing folks already. He slammed a liner of the wall in right-center field against Oakland over the weekend that opened more eyes. Royals GM Moore, who doesn't like to overstate things, said, "He's a good looking player.''