The Blue Jays have made what would amount to a pretty hefty offer to Vernon Wells, due to become a free agent a year from now, as Yahoo's Tim Brown puts it - and it was Brown who broke this last night:
|FRANK GUNN/CANADIAN PRESS|
|Vernon Wells: Financials pointing up.|
Toronto and its baseball franchise are deflecting Carlos Delgado flashbacks, and general manager J.P. Ricciardi is reliving his formative years in Oakland, during which Mark McGwire was traded and Jason Giambi was allowed to walk. Not long after Ricciardi left for Toronto, Miguel Tejada left the A's for the same financial reasons.
According to one baseball source, Ricciardi has floated to Wells a proposal of seven years and $126 million, the average annual value of which would exceed Soriano's contract with the Chicago Cubs (eight years, $136 million) by $1 million.
Ricciardi would not comment and Wells' agent, Greg Genske, would only say, "We have yet to have meaningful discussions," about a contract extension.
Ricciardi struck out on adding pitching targets Ted Lilly and Gil Meche at last week's winter meetings, but the Wells question overshadowed the entire proceedings. I claim no special knowledge here, but I've dealt with agentspeak over the years, and that quote from Genske is pretty much equivalent to a 'no, thanks ... the real game hasn't even started yet.'
ESPN's Buster Olney says as much this morning in an Insider piece, writing that Wells' price could well reach the vertiginous level of $200 million if he goes on the market at the end of the 2007 season:
When the Jays' honchos met earlier this week to consider the offer made to Wells, the numbers must have been jarring to the executives. Six weeks ago, a $75 million offer to Wells would've sounded a little light, but not unreasonable -- and now reasonable has climbed to $126 million. Seven years, $18 million a year.
If Wells hits the market next fall, when he's eligible to become a free agent, he'll get offered a deal of $150 million. At least.
The White Sox don't have a center field solution, and they would probably bid on him. The Red Sox would definitely bid on him. Tom Hicks, as impetuous an owner as there is when it comes to free agents, would bid on Wells, knowing they could bring him home to Texas. The Yankees, freed by a lot of contracts set to expire after next season, might bid on him, to at least drive up the price on the Red Sox and perhaps to move Johnny Damon to left field and Hideki Matsui to DH. The Mets want to trade for him now, and would bid on him. The Dodgers would bid on him.
With those financial monsters involved, Wells' deal, as a free agent next fall, might be closer to $200 million than $100 million.
If nothing else, the Jays have put the ball in Wells' court, as they always had to. Next move is his to make. As Jeff Blair puts it over at his Globe blog, there are plenty of options from here.