|"What do you mean we just signed Josh Hamilton?"|
I received a text from a friend (kudos Tmags) a few minutes ago that the Yankees are about to acquire Vernon Wells from the outfield laden Los Angeles Angels.
My immediate response was "Why?!" Is Wells better than a platoon of Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco?
This is not the 2002-2006 Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays that was one of the best players in the game. He could hit for average (for a time), power, steal a handful of bases, run down any ball in the outfield from his perch in centerfield, and had a rifle of an arm. The Blue Jays rewarded their star after the 2006 season by giving him a 7-year, $126MM extension.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, the Angels will send Wells and a large sum of cash (Two years and $42MM remain on the contract.) to the Yankees. No names have been mentioned concerning who would be sent to the Angels, but that will certainly depend on how much money accompanies Wells to the Bronx.
The 3-time All-Star has a no-trade clause and could make the whole situation moot. However, he has no role with the Angels and would be, according to Passan, in the Yankees every day lineup. At least until left-fielder Curtis Granderson comes back. The right-handed hitter could then split time with all three starting/left-handed hitting outfielders and lefty DH Travis Hafner.
The deal doesn't make a lot of sense for a number of reasons. To take on a one year deal would be one thing, but to have Wells under contract next season (no matter how much money the Angels send) makes no sense whatsoever. Injuries and age have zapped him of much of his power, speed, and flash that was so much a part of his game.
The big cash on Wells' contract didn't kick in until 2010-a mere $15MM+ the first year- and escalated upward over $20MM annually after that. Unfortunately for all concerned, the injuries set in long before the new deal did.
A bad shoulder hampered Wells' play in 2007 and limited him to a .245 batting average and .402 slugging. His 16 home runs were the lowest total since he became an every player. Wells' missed 54 games in 2008 with a broken wrist, but managed to put up an .840 OPS.
2009 was another down year caused by lingering wrist issues that required off-season surgery. He had a mini resurgence in 2010 (31 HR's, over .800 OPS), but it has been downhill since.
When 2011 started badly, the Blue Jays felt it was time to rid themselves of the fifth player chosen overall in the 1997 MLB amateur draft. They found a partner in the Angels, who dealt outfielder Juan Rivera and catcher Mike Napoli to Toronto in January, 2011.
What followed were two sub-par seasons; Wells hit 25 home runs in 2011, but both years produced a sub-.700 OPS. Brian Cashman wasn't satisfied with his current cadre of reserve outfielders - veterans Boesch (may have oblique injury), Francisco, Juan Rivera, and youngsters Ronnier Mustelier and Melky Mesa - and evidently feels he has nothing to lose by going to Wells once too often.
UPDATE - 5:20 PM : Angels' beat writer Alden Gonzalez asked Wells if he would waive his no-trade clause. Wells said "possibly" and flashed a big grin. Wells added,“It’d be a huge change. I don’t think it’s ever easy saying goodbye, but at the same time, if this were to happen, it’s a good group of guys over there. I’ll just get to know a new family.”
Angels' GM Jerry DiPoto was noncommittall when queried by Gonzalez.