As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, Josh Hamilton just signed a five year, $125 million contract with the Angels. This means that for the second year in a row, the Angels will be set to head to spring training with an outfielder to spare. Even though Tori Hunter will no longer be with them, they will still have Hamilton, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, and Vernon Wells. Even though I have to fight the urge to raise my hand and yell “I’ll take Mike Trout!” I think we can all acknowledge that he’s definitely not going anywhere. (Unless I kidnap him.) I know a number of Indians fans like Peter Bourjos, and while he’s certainly an intriguing choice, it sounds as if he’ll come at a high price. Even though he’s been under-utilized in Anaheim, the Angels are demanding pitching in return for the 25-year-old outfielder. Since that is also one of the Indians’ needs, I doubt they would match up on a trade for Bourjos or Trumbo (whose cost is also rumored to be pitching). Even though the Angels may be willing to part with 1B/OF Kendrys Morales, it sounds as if they’d prefer to find a taker for Vernon Wells. Would it be worth it for the Indians to consider Wells? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
- He’s a right-handed bat. Even though the Indians just signed Mark Reynolds, and received Drew Stubbs in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, they could still probably use another right-handed bat in the lineup. (Particularly one with some pop.)
- Likely to come cheap. The Angels’ demands are reportedly high for Bourjos and Trumbo, but Wells probably would not cost much in terms of prospects or everyday players.
- Angels will eat salary. Wells is owed $21 million in 2013 and $21 million in 2014, which is absolutely absurd and totally not worth it for a 34-year-old outfielder whose numbers have tanked in the past couple of years. However, the Angels likely realize they’ll have to eat much of that in order to get rid of Wells. A big-market team receiving a lot of cash from a television deal may be able to swallow enough to make it worthwhile.
- May benefit from a change of scenery. In 2012, Wells hit just .230/.279/.403 with 11 home runs in 243 at-bats. However, with 505 at-bats in 2011, Wells managed to hit 25 home runs with a .218/.248/.412 line. During his last season with Toronto in 2010, he hit .273/.331/.515 with 31 home runs in 590 at-bats; he was also good for 3.6 WAR. He could very well be past his prime, but it’s possible that he could come close to replicating his 2010 season in a different city. Even if he could hit 20+ home runs, it would still be an improvement over most of the Tribe’s 2012 lineup.
- Last two seasons were BAD. Those on base percentage totals in 2011 and 2012 were simply dreadful; he saw the drop in home runs last season, but that was probably due in part to the drop in at-bats.
- Fell off a cliff. The seven year, $126 million deal Wells signed with the Blue Jays was not a good deal. However, he still managed to have at least a .700 OPS each season until 2010, when he was traded to the Angels. To me, it seems more like he’s just getting old and he’s declining. I guess there’s a small possibility that Anaheim just didn’t suit him.
- Hasn’t had much value for the past several years. Wells was worth 3.6 WAR in 2010; he hasn’t had a WAR above 2 since 2006, when it was 6.0. I guess it’s a positive to say the only year he had a negative value was in 2011, when it was -0.8.
- Put him in the lineup and pray. I’m getting tired of year after year, saying “oh if they bounce back, it will be awesome” I know it’s how things work when you’re a small market team, but I’m getting kind of tired of it. The odds that a 34-year-old Vernon Wells bounces back to an .800 OPS (or even a .700 OPS) is a lot to wish for.
Now that the Indians have Reynolds, they’re not completely devoid of right-handed power. My one fear though, is that Hamilton signing with the Angels creates a ripple effect that negatively impacts the Tribe. Now the Rangers need an outfielder, and they may jump into the Nick Swisher sweepstakes. Michael Bourn was always beyond the Indians’ means, but the same could quickly happen with Swisher. If I were Antonetti, I think there are only two reasons that I would even consider Vernon Wells: 1. The Angels pay most of his salary and are willing to take almost nothing in return, and 2. Wells is the option of last resort. That means that the Indians miss out on other viable outfield options, and it’s pretty much down to another sweepstakes/tryout off the scrap heap like we saw in spring training last year, or Wells.
I’d obviously prefer Trumbo or Bourjos, but there may not be a fit in regards to the Angels’ asking price. Of course the Indians could use Justin Masterson as a trade chip, but then they’d still need to find someone to plug into the rotation.