We wouldn't keep going back to the Vernon Wells trade if it weren't so absurd. It was absurd at the time, and, somehow, it only looks more absurd ten months later, with Mike Napoli having terrorized opposing pitchers with the Rangers, and with Wells having completed one of the most disappointing seasons since the summer of 1816. The newest nugget to cause something of a stir appeared in a Sunday column by Peter Gammons, reading:
About a year after former general manager Tony Reagins confided that he had a pretty good idea that when he traded Mike Napoli to Toronto that the Blue Jays would likely flip him to Texas [...]
One of the many criticisms of Angels GM Tony Reagins at the time was that he allowed Napoli to land with a division rival. Now, according to Gammons, Reagins had a hunch that was the way things would play out after he sent Napoli to Toronto. It wasn't a guarantee, but Reagins understood it to be the likelihood that, by moving Napoli in the Wells deal, he would be paving the way for Texas to get its hands on the slugger.
Now, the rest of this post is going to operate under the assumption that Gammons is correct. Gammons might not be correct. Who knows? I guess Reagins knows, but I don't know. If this is wrong, then, okay, nevermind. If this is right, then proceed.
What does it mean that Reagins figured Napoli would end up with the Rangers? What does it add to the story that Reagins shipped Napoli to the Jays while knowing that the Jays didn't have much use for him, but that the Rangers did?
The most popular interpretation I've seen is that this is just further evidence of how little Reagins and the Angels' front office thought of Napoli as a player. That they weren't worried about Napoli joining the Rangers because they didn't think he was very good. So Mike Napoli could go to Texas. Who cares? How much could he possibly do?
Here's the thing about that, though: we don't need any further evidence of how little Reagins and the Angels' front office thought of Napoli as a player. There's no room for further evidence of how little Reagins and the Angels' front office thought of Napoli as a player. Because the Angels traded Mike Napoli, along with Juan Rivera, for Vernon Wells, and almost all of Vernon Wells' contract.
That says everything about how Napoli was valued. Here's what the Angels would've needed to give the Blue Jays in order to land Wells and his contract:
That's it. Nothing. Maybe a low-level minor leaguer, just because the commissioner's office frowns on players being given away. But the Angels didn't need to include Napoli and Rivera. They did that because they wanted to. They did that because they wanted to clear payroll space, and didn't care to look into other possible ways.
The Angels basically handed Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays. There is no more illuminating indication of how little he was valued. It doesn't say anything new that Reagins assumed Napoli would land with the Rangers; we already knew the Angels didn't think Napoli was worth much. That was established by the original trade.
It's also worth pointing out that, while Reagins figured Toronto would send Napoli to Texas, he figured that would be a trade, and a trade that returned equal value. The Rangers would add Mike Napoli, but lose something else. If Reagins didn't think much of Napoli, it wouldn't matter. On the off chance that Reagins thought Napoli could be something, then he would've figured the Rangers would lose something of value to get him. It's not like the Rangers were going to add Napoli for free.
All in all, I'm not sure this new information adds anything. I guess it adds some color, and it makes Tony Reagins appear less naive, but in terms of the Angels' valuation of Mike Napoli, it doesn't add anything we didn't already know. The Angels didn't care for Mike Napoli. The Angels didn't care for Mike Napoli one bit. That's just part of what makes the whole thing so amazing.