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
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.