Archive for Vernon Wells
In 2007, Vernon Wells became something of a punchline. In his first season after signing a seven-year, $126 million extension with the Blue Jays, he hit just .245/.304/.402. That 85 OPS+ was a far cry from the performances that earned him the extension: a 118 OPS+ in the previous four years. The mockery came to us all too easily.
(Also in 2007: the first time I can remember the “your name’s Vernon” chants in the bleachers. Then again, that was my first year sitting in the bleachers with any frequency.)
After that stumbling block of a 2007 season, Wells came back to produce a 123 OPS+ in 2008, and then a 125 OPS+ in 2010, with an 86 OPS+ in 2009 causing further mockery. Normally it’s not necessary to run down a player’s performance like this, since we can all load up Baseball Reference. But it seems that people have completely forgotten about Wells’s positive contributions and mock only the mediocre and poor ones.
Why shouldn’t we hate the Vernon Wells trade and the $13 million it will cost the Yankees? There are quite a few reasons.
The Yanks are paying $13 million for good reason. The most common reaction I saw to the Yankees picking up $13 million of Wells’s contract: “He wouldn’t get that on the free agent market.” Of course he wouldn’t. He’s also not a free agent. But given his performances the last two years, how did the Angels get the Yankees to pay even $13 million? The answer lies in the distribution.
According to NYDN’s Mark Feinsand, the payments break down in the Yankees’ favor. The Angels will cover $9 million this year, leaving the Yankees on the hook for $12 million. That means the Angels will cover $20 million in 2014, leaving the Yankees to cover just $1 million. It gets better, though: because Wells’s average annual value is $18 million, the Yankees will actually get a $2 million luxury tax credit next year. So yes, taking on $13 million is too much, but it’s what the Yankees had to take in order to get the Angels to cover $20 million next year. It seems like a positive on the whole.
Platoon potential. The Yankees have a weakness against left-handed pitching, especially from the get-go. The addition of Youkilis could help, but he alone will not replace the production of Russell Martin and Nick Swisher against lefties. With Teixeira and Jeter out to start the year, they’re even more vulnerable. For his part, Wells did crush lefties in 2011, to the tune of a .851 OPS — and he was generally terrible that year. For his career he shows much stronger numbers against LHP, so he could help fortify that all-lefty outfield.
He’s healthy for now. After his abysmal 2007, Wells underwent surgery on his shoulder. Who knows how long that was bothering him during the season — he actually produced a .910 OPS in April and had dropped all the way to .735 by the end of May. After his poor 2009 he underwent wrist surgery and came back to produce a quality 2010 season. In 2011 and 2012 he missed 84 combined games with various injuries. Perhaps he can still produce league average numbers in a full, healthy season.
Whenever a team takes a risk on a player, the big qualifier is always whether he will prevent the teams from making other moves in the future. If the $12 million hit the Yankees take this year prevents them from making an upgrade at the deadline, then it’s easy to pan the deal. But in 2014 the deal will actually improve their budget situation. Combined with his platoon potential and his production when healthy, this could turn into a positive for the Yankees.
Seeing those positives is difficult at this point, given Wells’s recent history. On the whole, the trade isn’t likely to work out. There’s just too much working against the 34-year-old Wells at this point in his career. But there are some things to like about this trade. If they can squeeze a few quality months out of him, then it should work out just fine. It’s not like he’s replacing world beaters in Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco.
8:30pm: Joel Sherman says the Yankees will pay nearly all of that $13M in 2013, meaning Wells will not count towards the $189M payroll limit in 2014. Money assumed in trades does not get spread out according to average annual value for luxury tax purposes.
7:56pm: Heyman says the Yankees are indeed paying Wells $13M over the next two years. Truly unbelievable. Reeks of desperation and panic.
7:35pm: The Yankees and Angels have reached an agreement on the money in the deal, reports Heyman. The league still has to approve everything, but it’s basically a done deal.
4:57pm: David Waldstein says the trade is not expected to be finalized tonight, but it will happen as some point. MLB has the sign off given the amount of money changing hands. Tomorrow seems like a safe bet.
4:40pm: Buster Olney says Wells will approve the trade while Mike DiGiovanna notes his locker is already being cleaned out in Anaheim’s clubhouse. Sounds like there are still some minor details to work out.
4:10pm: The deal is close enough to being done that the Yankees are reviewing Wells’ medical information according to Scott Miller. So I guess this is really happening.
3:51pm: Mark Feinsand says the Yankees would surrender a low-level prospect for Wells.
3:33pm: Via Jeff Passan: The Yankees are in talks to acquire Vernon Wells and a trade could happen as soon as today. The Angels would be eating a whole lot of the $42M owed to the outfielder over the next two years. Wells has a full no-trade clause and it’s unclear if he would waive it to come to New York. We heard the two sides talked trade back in December.
Wells, 34, has had a strong spring — 13-for-36 (.361) with a double and four homers — but he’s been terrible during his two years in Anaheim: .222/.258/.409 (82 wRC+) in 791 plate appearances. He has hit .266/.313/.481 (119 wRC+) against southpaws the last two seasons, but he’s been far below-average against lefties in three of the last four years (134 wRC in 2011 being the exception). If the Yankees give up a fringy prospect and the Halos eat enough salary to make him a ~$2M per year player, it would be not horrible but still pretty bad.
11:23am: Jon Heyman says the Angels would need the eat “almost all” of the $42M owed to Wells through next season for the Yankees to take him. They aren’t close to a deal or anything.
10:00am: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees and Angels discussed Vernon Wells at the Winter Meetings. The Halos have a glut of outfielders after signing Josh Hamilton, though they prefer to move Wells or (non-outfielder) Kendrys Morales rather than Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo.
Wells, 34, has been abysmal during his two years with the Angels, hitting just .222/.258/.409 (82 wRC+) in 791 plate appearances. The Yankees were presumably looking at him for his right-handed bat, which he’s used to hit .266/.313/.481 (119 wRC+) against southpaws the last two seasons*. Wells is owed $21M in both 2013 and 2014, and Rosenthal says the Angels know they’ll have to eat most of that to facilitate a trade. If the Halos take a fringy prospect in return and eat enough salary to make him a ~$2M per year player, it would be merely bad instead of horrible.
* That’s better than I expected, but here are his wRC+’s by year from 2009-2012: 55, 67, 134, 88. One of those things is not like the other.
Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees were one of three teams Vernon Wells would have waived his no-trade cause to join. The Rangers and, obviously, the Angels were the other two. Wells grew up in Arlington, so it’s no surprise why he would have gone there, and I can only assume he would have come to New York for the chance to win pretty much every season. Either that or he really enjoys the “You’re name’s Vern-non clap clap clapclapclap” chant from the creatures.
Anyway, the Yankees had no need for a guy like Wells, who I’m not sure is an upgrade over any of their three starting outfielders. Oh, and that contract. Yikes.
According to the tireless Jon Heyman, the Blue Jays are fielding offers for center fielder Vernon Wells. Of course, as the Yanks are ever looking for an adequate center fielder, some fans have proposed kicking the tires on this one.
On the surface it’s not a terrible idea. While the Jays probably aren’t too keen to trade Wells to a division contender, the Yanks could use a steady presence in center field. But is Wells really the answer? Probably not
The first problem is that Vernon Wells is set to make a lot of money. Last year, he signed a seven-year, $126-million contract that, from the get-go, promised Wells, then 29 and now 30, far more money than he is actually worth. He may opt out after 2011, but over the next few years, his salary structure looks like this:
His salary is so low up front because the Blue Jays owe him a $25.5 million signing bonus. In fact, his contract is nearly guaranteed to ensure that Wells won’t activate the opt-out clause. Can you imagine a team paying a 33-year-old center fielder more than $63 million over three seasons?
And then there is the problem of production. Wells doesn’t cover that much ground in center, and his career offensive line of .283/.332/.480 just isn’t that good. His career OPS+ of 108 is better than what Melky or Brett Gardner can do, but it’s not $100 million better. In the end, if the Yanks are going to spend this much on a player, Mark Teixeira would be a far, far better investment.