The Yankees traded for Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, today. It is a relatively low-risk trade [monetarily] that might allow the Yankees to break even next year.
But the real question is, was it worth it?
When trading for Vernon Wells, you are trading for the name as much as the production – after all, this is a guy who has averaged 23.5 home runs per year over 11 full seasons. He had 25 of them in his last full season 2 years ago.
On a Bombers team now lacking in power with the injuries to Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez, that is nothing to sneeze at.
But in an injury and bench-ridden season in 2012, Wells only had 11 home runs. There is real risk that his power has been sapped.
Mark Simon of ESPN reports that the average Vernon Wells fly ball went 274 feet last year. In comparison, Astros middle infielder, Jose Altuve’s went 293. Altuve had seven home runs in 576 at bats.
Wells may be moving to Yankee Stadium, but if his power is diminishing that much, they will have to move the walls even further in to make a difference.
If his power is gone, there is not much left Vernon Wells can offer.
Outside of the RBI produced by himself on his home runs, he only had 18 others cross the plate during his at bats. 2011 was not much better – 25 home runs only yielded 66 RBI with a powerful Angels team around him.
His situational numbers have been dreadful.
With runners in scoring position, Wells batted a miniscule .118; with anyone on and 2 outs, he battled only slightly better, .132. He was not much better in clutch situations in 2011 – his batting average with men on and 2 outs was .168. Barely over half of his HRs that year (16 to 14) were with runners on base.
Vernon Wells is not just losing his power, he is losing any sense of being clutch. Those are not great characteristics heading to the most scrutinized place in the world, New York.
So why is this such a big deal? After all, according to Mark Feinsand, there may be no charge of Wells on the 2014 team salary.
The answer is two-fold.
First, whether he was at the initial cost of $6.5 million, or now, the whole $13-13.5M on 2013, if the Yankees truly have pulled the purse strings a little tighter this year, it limits any sort of mid-season deal they could have made.
That means if the Twins Justin Morneau, or the Cubs Alfonso Soriano, or a host of others to be named later, become available over the coming months, perhaps the Steinbrenners will not give Brian Cashman the leeway to make a salary addition of that magnitude.
Second, you may now be taking at-bats away from a younger, cheaper, and possibly better option.
The Yankees just added former Tigers outfielder, Brennan Boesch. Making less than 1/10 of Wells’ contract (a little over $1.1M) he has similar numbers to Wells last year.
While his power numbers have never been to Wells’ height, he still had 12 home runs last year in 470 at bats and added 54 RBI. If we look back to 2011, he showed he was capable of hitting for a good average (.283) and OPS (.799) that would be a bonus as an injury replacement or depth on the Yankees.
Even more, he has shown quite a bit more clutch hitting than Wells.
Despite the off-year in 2012, Boesch battled .279 with RISP (39 of 52 RBI), and that rose to .302 with 2 outs.
While he does not have anywhere the career statistics of Vernon Wells, he looks like just as strong of a candidate to be able to contribute to this Yankees team, was already on this team, and will be taking a considerably smaller chunk of the pie with his salary.
But even if it is not Boesch and it is a younger Yankees farm hand, or just someone to be added later, Wells will be taking at bats from someone who probably has a better chance to contribute than him.
After all, if he could produce off the bench, why would the Angels have been so willing to eat that much of his salary just to get rid of him?
All this has shown is the desperation of the Yankees and the ill preparation of Brian Cashman. It is just a reach for star power over an actual contributor.
And that has been the theme of this Spring Training for Cashman. Once A-Rod went down and Teixeira seemed like he would be missing a chunk of this season, the first names the GM went after were retired “names” like Derrek Lee, Chipper Jones, and Scott Rolen. Somehow Cal Ripken did not get a call.
Established names? Yes. Retired? Also, yes.
That this was the best he could come up with is an indictment to the lack of preparation or the failure of scouting to be able to locate and add depth to this lineup. Could the Yankees have foreseen this many injuries to their stars? No. But for an aging lineup, they had to know a time would come that some would break down.
It was not Jeter, nor Rivera, nor Pettitte, but it was Granderson, Teixeira, and A-Rod. We are just in Spring Training. What does this season hold if there is this much trouble with depth before Day 1?