Brian Cashman Has a Vernon Wells Problem

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles AngelsIf the rumors do indeed come to pass (and it looks like they are going to), Vernon Wells will be moving across country to join the New York Yankees. The Yankees have been searching for an outfield bat with some pop throughout the Spring and apparently GM Brian Cashman. The Angels have been trying to dump Wells since they decided to shoot themselves in the foot, acquiring the outfielder at the steep cost of Mike Napoli, which meant the gears for a deal where properly greased. But the big question is why would the Yankees want a player the Angels are so desperate to get rid of?

First things first, we should probably discuss why Los Angeles was so desperate to dump Wells on the first stooge they could find. Wells has raked in just over $42 million dollars from the Angels since being acquired from Toronto before the 2011 season. In that time frame he’s hit a whopping .222/.258/.409 in about 800 at-bats while selling out entirely to hit homers, of which he’s hit just 36. In other words, Vernon Wells is almost exactly as useful in the batter’s box as Marlins’ pitcher Carlos Zambrano, a career .238/.248/.388 hitter in just under 800 at-bats.

Vernon Wells also offers almost nothing defensively or in the way of stolen bases and he’s practically allergic to walks. He’s also due another $42 million for the next 2 seasons, which at this point, is entirely a sunken cost for Los Angeles. They have far superior outfield and DH options to consider and watching Wells sit on the bench or flail about at the plate any longer would have been the equivalent of setting that $42 million on fire.

Which brings me to my other question: why would the Yankees want this inoperable tumor on their team? And why the hell are they (reportedly) agreeing to pay $13 million of the $42 million remaining on Vernon Wells’ contract? The other outfield options can’t be that unappealing, can they?

The only thing I can really come up with is that maybe Cashman believes that Vernon Wells’ big spring is more fact than fiction. The former Angel is hitting .367 with 4 homers which are both numbers that need to be taken with a grain of salt. But if Cashman believes those numbers are a sign that the oft-injured Wells is finally healthy, maybe he can be a solid contributor, at least until Curtis Granderson returns. At that point Wells becomes a DH candidate and a highly compensated backup.

Brian Cashman has now acquired Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch, and Wells in the past 3 weeks. None of those outfielders are going to carry you to a division title, but at least Boesch and Fransisco still have serviceable skills. Boesch is a warm-bodied lefty with a bit of a power stroke and Francisco’s speed and defense offer a different dimension to the Yankees, one I was hoping they would embrace.

For the past couple of decades the Yankees have relied on the offense to hit the ball out of the park in order to win. It’s a classic late-90s baseball strategy and it’s one that has become a bit outdated in an era without jacked-up sluggers and tiny ballparks.The 2012 Yankees was the epitome of this philosophy as they scored more than half their total runs via the long ball.

With the losses of Nick Swisher (free agency), Alex Rodriguez (injury), Mark Teixeira (injury), and Curtis Granderson (injury) the 2013 Yankees were never going to be able to be that type of team. But they do have the potential to be an excellent pitching, speed, and defense team. The starting rotation is going to be solid behind Sabathia and Kuroda as is the bullpen. The defense should also be solid with potential Gold Glovers Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner manning things up the middle. The Yankees will also assuredly have more speed in the lineup too, with Gardner, Ichiro, and Eduardo Nunez filling in for Jeter at shortstop.

But they also have an odd assortment of players, like Wells, who are liabilities and that Yankee magic that has revived veterans like Raul Ibanez in the past may be spread too thin. I mean, will guys like Travis Hafner step up, or will he struggle to stay healthy on his way to a .230 line again? Can Kevin Youkilis regain the magic that made him the Greek God of Walks? Is Eduardo Nunez going to be competent enough on defense to survive at shortstop? Will a rotation full of veterans stay healthy enough to carry the team?  Can any of the injured players come back quickly and regain their All-Star form? Or is this a redux of the 2012 Phillies season, which was derailed by age and injury?

For Brian Cashman’s sake, he better hope that pixie dust hasn’t run out just yet, because if it does there are going to be an awful lot of uncomfortable questions about Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and why they Yankees couldn’t spend money on them when they had $6.5 million to give Vernon Wells.



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