Steer Completely Clear of Vernon Wells

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 26, 2012 03:30 PM | Comments: 37
Acquisitions, Analysis, Commentary, Statistical Analysis

The Phillies filled their centerfield void by acquiring Ben Revere, bolstered the bullpen with Mike Adams and shored up the rotation with the cost-effective and underrated John Lannan. While these moves likely represent the bulk of their offseason activity, the Phillies have been linked to a wide array of corner outfielders given the obvious uncertainties in those posts.

They went hard after Cody Ross but balked at his lofty demands. They supposedly offered Josh Hamilton a short-term deal with a high average annual value. They have previously been linked to either Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra, and that link will only grow stronger with the Snakes’ recent signing of Ross. There were reportedly discussions between the Phils and Cubs regarding Alfonso Soriano earlier in the offseason as well.

Some of these players make more sense than others, but the available corner outfielder the Phillies should stay completely away from is Vernon Wells. Unfortunately, the Phillies have expressed interest in the former Blue Jays all-star, though the extent of their interest remains unknown. Let’s hope it is nothing more than executives tossing a name around while brainstorming, because Wells has been one of the worst players in the league over the last two seasons and is signed to the very worst contract in the sport.

Think that’s hyperbole? Over the last two seasons, 205 players have amassed 750+ plate appearances, and Wells boasts the following ranks:

• .258 OBP, 2nd-Worst (Miguel Olivo‘s .248 is the worst)
• .218 BABIP, Worst (2nd-Worst is at .238, 20 points higher)
• 13.4% Line Drive Rate, Worst (2nd-Worst is at 15%)
• .289 wOBA, 12th-Worst (Worse than Revere, Darwin Barney and Ryan Theriot)
• 82 wRC+ tied towards the bottom with Placido Polanco and Mark Ellis

If only he was as good at baseball as he is at this thing.

Wells offers no discernible platoon advantage either. Last season, he had a .295 wOBA vs. lefties and a .296 wOBA vs. righties. The year before, his wOBA split heavily favored lefties at .366/.247. The year before that, the results were the opposite, with a platoon split heavily favoring righties at .384/.277. There is no telling if Wells could help in a platoon role and he certainly isn’t a regular starter anymore with those numbers.

On performance alone, Wells isn’t worth an extended look, and that’s before getting into his contract or the cost to acquire. The Angels will foot most of the bill but they may need to replace most with “virtually all” to make something work.

Unlike Soriano, who is still productive (~3 WAR average since 2010) and worth $5 million per season, Wells hasn’t produced enough to entice a team to pay him much of anything. He isn’t a bounce-back candidate in the same vein as Michael Young.

No sane team is going to absorb Wells’ salary like the Angels did a couple of years ago. Back then, Wells was at least coming off of a 31-homer, 126-wRC+ campaign, and looked to have gotten past the injuries that sapped his productivity. Even if he wasn’t worth his contract, teams had some interest in him at a good fraction of that remaining obligation.

Now, it’s hard to imagine any team offering him more than $2-$3 million if he was on the free agent market, meaning the Angels would have to pick up 90% of the tab to facilitate a trade. Or, perhaps they could pay less of his salary if they didn’t get a prospect or player in return, and an acquiring team had flexibility to take a $5 million flier.

The only way Wells makes any sense for the Phillies is if he costs under $2 million and not even a C-level prospect in return. That doesn’t seem likely since the Angels would really have no motivation to just give him away, even though he has absolutely no spot in an outfield consisting of combinations of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo. Anything more in salary or players, though, should be a deal-breaker. He has been that bad and the above numbers prove that isn’t an exaggeration.

If he was readily available on the free agent market, it might be worthwhile to try him out on a minor-league deal worth $1 million at the major-league level. That, however, isn’t the type of player you guarantee equal or more money to, in addition to giving up organizational talent, which is what would happen in a potential Phils-Angels trade.

My goal isn’t to shoot down any and every idea the Phillies may come up with, especially as they relate to the corner outfield positions, but Wells is unequivocally not worth pursuing unless he is essentially free. Even at that, he wouldn’t be any better than the internal options already on the Phillies roster. He is the very definition of someone to avoid.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

  • Posts: 0 Mhard

    Phillies should trade for Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton.

    • Posts: 0 chuck schreiber

      Duh!! You think??

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    ES im not impressed with Wells either. If anything i would rather take Soriano depending on who they want in return.

  • Posts: 0 teach

    Frandsen and Galvis will be the late inning defensive corner outfielders that they need. Run and catch the ball they can do well.This team is ready for war. No mo tickering is needed! Please stop the BS, this team is fine and ready for the season. Rubin take a vacation ,job well done . The only thing that must be done but won’t be done is give Charlie his walking papers and let Rhino blaze!

    • Posts: 0 wbramh

      Who is going to hit for average on this team? By average, I mean who is (or is still) a bona fide .300 hitter?
      The team couldn’t score last year and their best average hitters going into the 2012 season were Polanco and Pierre. And what if injury-prone Rollins, Howard and Utley get hurt again or have to be platooned (again) to give them enough rest to make it through the season? Howard already can’t hit lefties, so who are the power hitters on the team? Again, Josh Hamilton (even though he’s also injury-prone) would have been another 100+ RBI guy and one who is not a bad lefty hitter to boot. The Angels now have three 100+ RBI men back-to-back-to-back in their lineup and they can afford it when one of them has the inevitable slump. Revere has never hit a home run in his big league career. How about a non-steroidal Galvis – how many is he going to hit, and can he hit for average with the juice in his veins? Assuming two of the team’s three aces bounce back from sub-par years, how do the Phils win games by a score of 4-3 instead of losing them by the same score?
      On the bright side… Offensively, I’m hopeful about the pickup of Michael Young, albeit a risk after his sub-par year. It was a worthwhile gamble based both on cost and who was available this year. and he’s a great clubhouse addition to any team. Defensively, They likely found their set-up man in Adams but I don’t have as much faith in Lannan as a 4th or 5th starter in place of the traded Worley.
      But again, where are the runs that were sorely missing last year? No doubt, Cliff and Doc would like to know that answer, too.

      • Posts: 882 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        “The team couldn’t score last year and their best average hitters going into the 2012 season were Polanco and Pierre.”

        The fact that these two were also two of worst hitters overall over the past few years should really keep someone from ever inquiring about batting average again.

        As for the runs they were “sorely missing”, after the all-star break they showed they can play at a 95-win pace despite ranking only 8th in the NL in scoring. And in 2011 they won 102 games even though they were 7th in scoring.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Teach i dont know that either Frandsden nor Galvis plays the outfield.

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      Frandsen has played 14 games in the outfield professionally (all in the majors), with 2 errors in 16 chances.

      Galvis has never played the outfield professionally.

      • Posts: 0 teach

        I think both should try the outfield in the spring . If it doesn’t work there will be a ton of guys to get before the season begins. forget about Well’s and comp.Just relax until march guys.

  • Posts: 0 CS

    Thoughts on Jeff Francour from the royals?

    • Posts: 0 chuck schreiber

      Yeah..NO Should do

      • Posts: 882 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        Agree, with many many exclamation points.

  • Posts: 0 Skip W

    The Yankees pick up Matt Diaz. What is going on in RAJ’s cabeza?

  • Posts: 0 CS

    Hope youe kidding. Diaz isn’t anything we don’t have.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Eeesh S-man guess Frandsden wont be playing the outfield unless some emergency situation arises. Oswalt did better…

  • Posts: 0 Jack Nydick

    Maybe Glen Wilson is available. He’s been out of the majors for a while, but can’t be worse than Wells.

  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Gerardo Parra would be an excellent addition to this club. He may cost more than we want to pay, but I believe that he has an upside worthy of strong consideration. Plus he is young and yet to hit his prime.

    The Phils would be reckless to go after Vernon Wells.

  • Posts: 1048 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    Not sure how many OFers the Phillies are looking to carry, but if they want to add another one, here’s an option for a cheap LH bat with a little pop, and would be a good defensive replacement for guys like Ruf or Nix or even Brown, if necessary.

    Rick Ankiel.

    • Posts: 556 Bruce

      Avatar of Bruce

      Well…since the one time pitcher now outfielder was released last July by Washington, i suppose he could be had cheaply. However, he is another LH bat and utility player (I don’t know if he is good defensively in the OF) that I think the Phillies do not need. I’m hoping Amaro is now leaning toward giving Ruf and Brown ample opportunity beginning with Spring training to show that they can play regularly in the OF and contribute offensively.

      • Posts: 1048 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        Why would another lefty hitter be problematic?

        Against LHP the Phillies can field a lineup of:

        Ruf (1B/LF)
        Mayberry (1B/RF/LF)
        Young (3B/1B)
        Rollins (SS)
        Ruiz (C)
        Frandsen (3B if Young is at 1B)
        Utley (who, for his career, doesn’t have pronounced splits)
        Revere (hits LHP/RHP similarly)

        Against RHP, who throw 70% of all MLB innings, the Phillies would sport a lineup of:
        Rollins (SS)
        Revere (CF)
        Utley (2B)
        Howard (1B)
        Ruiz (C)
        Brown (RF/LF)
        Young/Frandsen (3B)
        Nix (RF/LF)

        The problem here, as Corey Seidman outlined on Beerleaguer the other day ( http://www.beerleaguer.com/beerleaguer/2012/12/double-platoon-would-limit-manuels-late-game-options.html ), is that if you’re platooning one or both corners, you have to be prepared for pitching changes. For example, if you start Mayberry and Ruf against a tough LH starter, what do you do when the opposition brings in a tough RHP relief pitcher in the 7th? If you PH for Mayberry, who is not a good hitter against RHP, you need to replace him in the OF. Your options are Nix who is average defensively, and Brown, who is below average defensively. On the other hand, if start your LH batters against a RH starter, your pinch hitting options become Mayberry and Ruf, one or both of whom would have to stay in the game defensively. Mayberry would be okay, but do you really want Darin Ruf to be your late inning defensive guy in left?

        So, the option is to either add another OF, a guy like Hairston or Ankiel or whomever, or you can hope that the Phillies keep Ender Inciarte on the team and he plays a good enough defensive OF that he can cover as the late-game defensive replacement.

        Personally, I kind of like Ankiel because he’s got one of the best OF arms in the game, and that’s just fun to watch. He can’t hit lefties, and even against RHP is below average, but in the right role at the right price (think Juan Pierre-type contract) I wouldn’t mind them taking a flyer on him.

  • Posts: 0 Rob h

    You want galvis and frandsen to play outfield in the late innings? That’s crazy, frandsen can barely play 3rd as it is and galvis probably isn’t any better than we already have. I’m sure if they are worried about defense in the outfield there is someone in-house that is defensively gifted, if not one can be had for very cheap. Galvis should come in for young to play 3rd in the 8th 9th inning depending on when young bats that game in the late innings. I don’t know why everyone is so in love with frandsen, last year was the first year he’s ever shown anything. He is Wilson Valdez pt. 2, except he doesn’t pitch, very easily replaceable and not worth very much.

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      “[Frandsen] is Wilson Valdez pt. 2,”

      Valdez is a better fielder but much worse hitter. Frandsen is much closer to Greg Dobbs part 2:

      Dobbs through age 30: ..271/.316/.425 (89 wRC+) in 1005 PAs
      Fransen through age 30: .262/.322/.364 (83 wRC+) in 836 PAs

  • Posts: 0 Nina Hartley

    Bring in Soriano! He would crush the ball at CBP.

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      Wrigley is much easier for right-handed hitters than CBP is. Soriano’s numbers (even if you don’t account for aging) would likely take a hit when moving to CBP.

      • Posts: 882 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t like Soriano for the right price, as long as that price doesn’t include something crazy like Dom Brown

  • Posts: 0 Betasigmadeltashag

    I do not know they need to do anything if and Otis a big if Utley and Howard are healthy all year Ruf and brown and JMJ can produce if used properly And you can talk saber metrics all you want and splits there are 2 certenties JRoll will lead off and if healthy Howad will play everyday

  • Posts: 0 CS

    So what would be a fair trade for Soriano?

    • Posts: 0 c schreiber

      MiniMart and Del Ennis, plus the Cubs pay ALL his salary and Soriano plays at Reading. RAJ, please don’t.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    I previously posted, I cannot believe Wells is only 34. Actually, he just turned 34 but has played the past few years as if he is 45 and injured.

    That being said, he did have some amazing years from 2002 for a 9 year stretch.
    Up until 2010, his average was .290, he hit on average 25 hrs and knocked in 89 runs, scoring on average 86 per season (this is a 9 year stretch). He had 1 injury stopping season (2008) where he played in under 135 games for only the second time during that 9 year period. Sounds pretty consistent, sounds appealing?

    Then he signed a superstar contract in 2010 and was traded west. My point is this, it does sound like what he suffers from is all mental, not physical. It sounds like if he can get his head together and start playing once again for the game instead of just the money – it might not be a bad idea to look a little deeper into this former AS, SS & 3 time GG winner who also happens to be a right hand power hitter. Of course, LAA would have to pay a MAJOR portion of his $21 mil contract to make this deal a little more appealing.

    • Posts: 882 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      brooks, it’s not 2008 that would worry me. He actually hit pretty well that year (.300/.343/.496).

      What worries me more are the two years that came before and after 2008:
      2007 – .245/.304/.402 (83 wRC+)
      2009 – .260/.311/.400 (84 wRC+)

      His last two years are actually right in line with 2007 and 2009.

      His wRC+ is a handy way to summarize each year, and this is how it’s been since 2002 when he first became a regular (100=league average):

      95, 133, 106, 102, 128, 83, 118, 84, 126, 79, 84

      Which can be summarized like this:

      4 good/very good years: 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010
      3 average years: 2002, 2004, 2005
      4 well below average years: 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012

      Is it possible he could still put together a decent year of at least average hitting? Yes, I think it’s possible, but the chances are pretty slim, and the cost of acquiring him/paying him would have to be very low to be worth a shot.

      • Posts: 145 Eric Seidman

        Avatar of Eric Seidman

        In other words, basically what I said in the article ;-)

      • Posts: 882 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        lol – yep.

      • Posts: 0 brooks

        I averaged out 9 straight years and yes, 2008 was not bad, just shortened due to injury.
        Although I would argue about what you are deeming average years. 2002, his first full year in the majors he had 100 rbi and 23 hrs to go along with an average of .275 — a little above average, especially for a rookie.

        2004 & 2005, he won his only 2 Gold Glove awards, hit 23 & 28 hrs respectively. I’d say (if we were micro-analyzing the seasons individually) slightly above average years. I mean, if we are calling Jimmy Rollins 2012 a very good year does that include a .250 batting average?

        No dispute, 2007 stunk. 2009 was not a good one either (15 hrs in 630 official atbats?)

        Regardless, bottom line is he worth $21 mil? Of course not. Is he worth say even $5 mil with LAA picking up the bulk of the salary owed on his contract? No. The cost would be heading in the right direction for serious consideration though!

      • Posts: 2005 Brooks

        Avatar of Brooks

        Sorry, 2007 he also won a GG.

      • Posts: 882 schmenkman

        Avatar of schmenkman

        I think we mostly agree, but on a couple of general points:

        When a player is 34 and has been below average in 4 of the last 6 seasons, I don’t think a 9 year average is that informative any more. For example, the projection systems do that in a more sophisticated way, considering age and recent trends. The only one published for the Angels so far is by Bill James, and has him hitting .244/.297/.429 next year, which would be somewhat below average.

        By “average” I meant his overall hitting stat wRC+ was 95 (or 5% below the league average, which I considered close enough to be called average). Certainly good for a rookie, but still average overall.

        Also, the same stats that make for a good year at the plate by a shortstop would not be a good year for a corner outfielder. It is much much tougher to find good hitting shortstops. For example in 1990-2012, the average shortstop had a wRC+ of 85 (15% worse than average), while the average right fielder had a 106.

  • Avatar of "Big Ed" Delahanty

    Wells+phillies=waste of time.

    • Posts: 0 c schreiber

      Agree, Big Ed. The only move that I see would make sense is Upton or Stanton. Upton, if somewhat cheaply procured and Stanton sell the farm to get him. Would love to see Giancarlo batting behind Howard. Any other moves of discussed players forget and just go with what we got and hope Brown and Ruf blossom.

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