Analyzing Wells’ Recent Years And Why The Trade Is Not So Bad

Throughout his career, Vernon Wells has been a beacon of inconsistency. In 2004 and 2005, Wells was barely an above average offensive player, but in 2006, Wells managed to put up a 128 wRC+, 32 home runs, and stole 17 bases. He earned a 7 year $126 million deal because of his production in a contract year. The extremely volatile hitter has since produced ISO’s and OBP’s that have at times fluctuated around .100 points between seasons. In the end, he’s produced a 104 wRC+ over his career, barely average.

At the age of 34, it’s hard to see what the Yankees liked when they decided to pick up $14 million of his contract yesterday. In his two years with the Angels, Wells hit just .222/.258/.409 in 791 plate appearances. Since 2006, his LD% has dropped from 18.3%, to 16.8%(2007), 17.3%(2008), 14.8%(2009), 15.9%(2010), 12.3%(2011), 15.7%(2012). That low line drive rate is accompanied by a declining average on those hits. In his career, he’s hit .723 on line drives, but in 2010 he hit just .691, in 2011 .635, and in 2012 .656. When line drive rates or batting average on these hits fall so dramatically in the matter of a year, you start to think there is bad luck involved, but when it happens over the course of many years, player decline is a serious consideration.

There are very few things to like about the outfielder, and that’s what has everyone scratching their head over this trade. When it comes to splits, the right-handed hitter doesn’t even have decent splits against left-handed pitchers. In 2012 he hit for just an 88 wRC+(75 PA) against lefties, in 2011 a 134 wRC+(172 PA), in 2010 a 67 wRC+(128 PA), and in 2009 a 55 wRC+(172 PA).

The Yankees have a lot more resources to look at than we do, and I’m sure they liked something if they were willing to take on all that money. For one, the outfielder is destroying the ball in Spring Training. In 41 plate appearances, Wells has hit .361/.390/.722 with 4 home runs and 2 stolen bases. Perhaps the Yankees feel that this is an indication of a change in his approach at the plate, or maybe he’s healed properly from a number of injuries to his hamstring, groin, ankle and thumb since 2011. For an idea on his swing changes, see the video comparisons below.

wells101213

From 2010 to 2012, Wells moved much further away from home plate. If you look at his back foot, you’ll see that the toe almost touches the batter’s box in 2010, while in 2012 he’s no where close. In 2013, he seems to be standing even further away, which is noticeable in how far he has to extend his hands and lean into the batting zone. Another thing is his crouch, where he takes a much more athletic stance in 2012 and 2013.

The Yankees may feel that his drop off in line drive hits is a product of something he changed mechanically, maybe they think that moving away from the play will help him. Yet as he enters his mid-30’s with a long history of injuries, it’s hard to imagine 6 years of  line drive decline isn’t age or health related.

But a change of scenery should help Wells. Not that Anaheim isn’t a great place to play baseball, but it’s much easier to pitch there than to hit. Over the last three years, Statcorner has graded Angel Stadium an 89 for homeruns from right handed batters (100 being average), with Yankee Stadium earning a 111. The other ballparks of the NL West are also unkind to right handed hitters, with O.co earning an 89 and Safeco earning an 84. Rangers ballpark was the only one above average, with a 115. In the AL East, outside of Yankee Stadium, Tropicana rates the lowest at 92, followed by Fenway with a 102 (although the extra base rate was a 125 thanks to the Green Monster), then Camden at 115, and the Rogers Center with a 119.

In 2011, the splits may have gotten into Wells’ head, since he produced only a 57 wRC+ at home, and a 100 wRC+ on the road. What Wells does in his journey back to the AL East will still be dependent on how well he hits the ball, and with a declining LD%, it’s hard to imagine he can revert to his golden years in Toronto.

$14 million is about $14 million more than I have, and sounds like a lot of money, but the Yankees have enough money to throw around as long as it doesn’t affect the 2014 budget. In this case, it will actually add $2 million to the Yankees’ $189 million budget next year. As the dust starts to settle around this trade, more and more of it makes sense, and perhaps we’ll see something from Wells soon that’ll tell us why the Yankees liked him.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

35 thoughts on “Analyzing Wells’ Recent Years And Why The Trade Is Not So Bad

  1. Dropped Third

    He's not costing us prospects, money towards the 189m budget, or playing time for superior players (All our options suck). The 13 million they are spending towards his contract will be close to a wash because the WBC will be paying Tex's salary as long as he is injured. For every month he is injured the Yankees will avoid paying 3.5 million. It really is a pretty low risk move and one that although probably does not up grade the team, does not make them worse. There is a chance Wells might be "rejuvenated" from the trade to YS3 and we can get 30-50 games of decent production out of him till we get healthier IF were lucky. If he completely sucks cut him, nothing ventured nothing gained (even if the venture is old and shitty I guess).

    • We're going to have to live with that specter.

  2. uyf1950

    Wouldn't that be something if the Yankees actually get a $2MM +/- credit towards their payroll number for the 2014 season If the Daily News article is correct. So not only would it not cost them anything towards the luxury tax but actually the opposite. Amazing, I new I should have taken creative accounting in college.

    • Mike

      The good news: Plan $189 has been upgraded to Plan $191.

      The bad news: Plan $191 includes Vernon Wells.

      • guest

        Not really. they can cut Wells next year and only be on the hook for 1 million and the angels are on the hook for 20 million. They still get the 2 million credit.

        • chris

          Very true. He is a placeholder until Grandy gets back. If he hits at all then that is a bonus. No negative implications for 2014 and no prospects given up.

  3. roadrider

    As the dust starts to settle around this trade, more and more of it makes sense, and perhaps we’ll see something from Wells soon that’ll tell us why the Yankees liked him.

    Ha, ha! This deal smacks of a desperation move brought on by the non-action of the front office during the off-season. I could care less about the impact on the 2014 budget or that this ridiculous deal will save $2 million through some fancy book keeping on the part of the Angels and Yankees. That's just money in the Steinbrenner's pockets. I don't root for their bottom line I root for the team and the team is in real trouble if they have to resort to measures like this. I don't care what Wells hit in ST. Yuniesky Betancourt had even better numbers you know – want to sign him too?

    If there was $14 million to spend I'd have spent it on Russell Martin (yes, I know he would have cost $3-4 million more over two years and had an impact on the 2014 payroll).

    I was already disinclined to throw away $199 for an Extra Innings subscription to watch this bunch of cast offs and has beens and this deal makes that a certainty.

    • Then you should read some of the other, earlier posts, Phil.

      • roadrider

        Huh? And why are you putting my name in your post – I object to that.

  4. Andrew

    TL;DR version: The Yankees' brass liked Wells's spring training numbers. Also, Mike likes cherry-picking stats with no justification. (In particular, I'm referring to the very weird argument you make about Wells's 2011 home/road splits, since Wells' 2012 home-road splits were exactly what you'd expect — .662 OPS at home and .705 OPS away.)

    If that's the case, I have two questions:

    1) Why didn't the front office also like Ronnie Mustelier's spring training numbers? (.324/.378/.588)

    2) Are you seriously suggesting the Yankees are stupid enough to start making $14 million decisions on the basis of spring training?

    If this qualifies as "Not So Bad," I seriously wonder what the front office would have to do to earn your disapproval.

    • Mike Eder

      If you consider home/away splits cherry picking then you're going to have a problem reading any sort of statistical analysis. The reason I didn't use Home/Away splits from 2012 is because he had a total of 119 plate appearances on the road. But in the end, no matter what his splits say, it's easier to hit in YSII and the AL East.

      I didn't once suggest that the Spring Training stats are the reason why the Yankees liked Wells, but I do think the way he played had something to do with their decision. I also provided a GIF to show you how he's changed mechanically this Spring, and hinted at this being one reason the Yankees liked him.

      As for earning my disapproval, the Yankees have a ton more resources than we do to analyze this stuff, so who am I to judge them negatively? I am just listing possible things they may have looked at. Mechanics/Spring/Splits all have something to do with these decisions. When it comes down to it, there are a few things to like about Wells, not many, and for what amounts to a positive in the 2014 budget, that's not such a bad deal.

      • Andrew

        This is probably pointless, but here goes:

        1. No, I don't consider home/away splits to be cherry-picking. I consider the fact that you IGNORED Wells' most recent H/R splits while citing those from *two* years ago to be cherry-picking. If Wells's 119 road PA in 2012 are too small a sample size — and they are — then why on earth would you cite 274 PA from 2011?? I know why: because it support your (frankly, insane) argument that — and seriously, I'm quoting you here — "In 2011, the splits may have gotten into Wells’ head, since he produced only a 57 wRC+ at home, and a 100 wRC+ on the road."

        P.S.: OPS+ is park-adjusted.

        2. You're either lying or splitting hairs when you say that you "didn't once suggest that the Spring Training stats are the reason why the Yankees liked Wells." Let's scroll up the screen and quote you directly, again:

        "For one, the outfielder is destroying the ball in Spring Training. In 41 plate appearances, Wells has hit .361/.390/.722 with 4 home runs and 2 stolen bases. Perhaps the Yankees feel that this is an indication of a change in his approach at the plate, or maybe he’s healed properly from a number of injuries to his hamstring, groin, ankle and thumb since 2011."

        That, my friend, is the definition of "suggesting that Spring Training stats are the reason why the Yankees like Wells."

        3. "As for earning my disapproval, the Yankees have a ton more resources than we do to analyze this stuff, so who am I to judge them negatively?"

        This is perhaps the most unintentionally funny thing I've read this week. Um, dude, I hate to clue you in here, but yourself as one of "The Yankee Analysts"! This article had the word "Analyzing" RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE (and the url). So, if you're going to pretend that you're analyzing, then yes, I would expect that you should actually "analyze this stuff." If I want mindless homerism, I'll turn on 1010 or something.

        If you "lack the resources" to disagree with the Yankees' evaluation of players, then you're essentially saying "there's no point reading this site; we're just going to mindlessly cheerlead everything the front office does." Somehow, I doubt that's what Brien, Jason, and the gang had in mind for this site.

        • Mike Eder

          To your first point, Wells has accumulated 791 plate appearances with the Angels. No amount of home or away splits will prove any point with such a small sample size. I went with 2011 because it was double the sample size, and I don't have the tools to grab a park-adjusted stat between multiple seasons.

          On your second point, Spring Training tells a lot about a player. Their triple slash means very little, but how they achieve it is something to explore. Wells has made adjustments and is hitting the ball very well. That's it. I wouldn't go around picking up every player batting over .350, but when you see changes to batting mechanics like that of Domonic Brown, there are changes in expectations.

          And on three, this is the point of the whole post. There are far too many fans that want to hate this trade for the sake of the name Vernon Wells. My analysis is trying to figure out what the Yankees saw in him, and I guarantee I've missed a lot. Most bloggers and sports writers have already come out and said this trade is dumb, but I have no interest in making this sort of declaration. I don't write to tell you why the team is stupid or smart, I write because I want to know why the professionals make these decisions. It would be incredibly arrogant of me, or any writer, to call this move stupid. The way it's shaped up, it doesn't look so bad since it doesn't hit their budget in 2014. Time will ultimately designate how this trade looks.

          If you think my stubbornness in refusing to call the professional scouts and analysts that made this decision stupid is cheerleading, you've missed the entire point of my article.

          • Santiago

            "My analysis is trying to figure out what the Yankees saw in him, and I guarantee I've missed a lot."

            Or maybe there was nothing there? Because, as Andrew pointed out, your analysis didn't come up with much to like. You could make the same outlandish assumptions about Mustelier or Boesch only neither of them would cost $13m.

    • Duh Innings

      Mustelier could still make the team like this:

      Starting Ten – Cervelli C Rivera 1B Cano 2B Youkilis 3B Nunez SS Suzuki LF Gardner CF Wells-Boesch R/L platoon RF Hafner DH

      Bench – Stewart BC Nix B2B/SS Mustelier 1B/3B (Wells backs up at LF, Suzuki CF)

      When Jeter returns my guess is Nunez is either sent to AAA or not and if not Nix is DFA

      When Granderson returns my guess is Hafner would be DFA unless he channels his past glory.

      If/when Teixiera returns, Rivera would be DFA.

      If/whenRodriguez returns before September Mustelier would be sent back to AAA as he has options.

  5. Duh Innings

    Roadrider you are gonna have a boring or far less interesting life April through OCTOBER and don't you EVER say you're a Yankee fan again if this team makes the postseason even as a wildcard team. Don't watch the postseason because you don't deserve to. Pay the $199 (about $33.17 a month) and root for this team!

    I am intrigued by this team. I honestly have no idea what the hell they will do offensively. It's kinda fun.

    'Know what's funny in a cool way? The Yanks could have as many as EIGHT homegrown players in the starting lineup like this: Cervelli C Rivera 1B Cano 2B Nunez 3B Jeter SS Mesa LF Gardner CF Mustelier RF.

    • roadrider

      Listen Duh Boy (and that's being generous considering your typical postings) – I can assure you that my life will be infinitely more interesting that yours irrespective of how many Yankee games I watch.

      And learn how to read, will you? I did not say I wouldn't root for the team, I said I wouldn't pay $199 to watch all of their games (OK, the ones not blacked out or otherwise unavailable due to Commissioner Bud's inscrutable blackout policy). I will certainly watch (and even attend some) the 18 games they play against the Orioles (since I live down that way), the ones on MLB Network, ESPN and Fox and I do have an MLB Game Day Audio subscription which I will use as well (I do enjoy listening to Ma and Pa Pinstripe make asses of themselves on live radio).

      My point is the converse of Hal's. He (quite rightly) points out that he doesn't need a $200 million payroll to win the WS (of course, he will have a $200 million payroll this season – but who's counting?). My point is that I can follow (and root for) the team without spending another $199 which I consider an appropriate response to his non-investment in the team this past off-season.

      Of course, I doubt you can follow even that simple reasoning so feel free to flame away with more moronic replies which I will most likely ignore.

  6. Duh Innings

    All homegrown if Shelley Duncan is DFA or released and the Yanks pick him up to be the DH haha.

  7. Frank S.

    "I was already disinclined to throw away $199 for an Extra Innings subscription to watch this bunch of cast offs and has beens and this deal makes that a certainty."

    Ahhh, the very defnition of "bandwaggoner." Where were you when Andy Stankiewicz was manning second base? Rooting for the Blue Jays? Save your money and watch tennis and golf this summer. I'll be relishing Mo's last season, and DJ marching towards the all-time top 5 in hits, and, possibly, another World Championship (pennants aren't won or lost in March).

    • roadrider

      OK stupid, where were you during the Horace Clarke, Ray Barker, Dooley Womack years? Not even born I would guess. I was rooting my little 10-year old ass off for those guys and taking every loss personally.

      I don't need to prove my bonafides as a Yankee fan to you or anyone else. I joined the "bandwagon" back in 1961 and have never gotten off. I do reserve my right to not spend any more money than I think watching the team is worth when I can see all 18 games they play against the Orioles and all the MLB Network, ESPN and Fox games they will be on. I can also listen on my Game Day Audio subscription. Sorry, but if Hal won't invest in the team I feel completely justified in not shelling out money to watch all of their games on TV.

      PS: FYI I was rooting for the Yankees in the Stanky the Yankee years. So why don't you swallow a big dose of STFU

      • formerGM

        I've been a Yankee fan since the same time as you….

        Our difference, is that I grew up…..

      • Frank S.

        Very intelligent response. But, unlike you, I don't swallow.

  8. formerGM

    There is no way to spin the Vernon Wells deal other than foolish….for 13 million dollars, I would have taken Slade Heathcott and pocketed the money….

    The Yankees brass have just proved how stupid they think their fans are…..

    Hal and Hank are standing around counting their 100 dollar bills and they say…"Vernon Wells will put asses in the seat"….

    Yes, Huge Asses……and guess what…..It's not going to be me……Perhaps you?

  9. formerGM

    I believe their is medical help for your condition. Call Hal Steinbrenner and ask him who he used….

    • roadrider

      Good one but Hal is just bullshitting – this guy really has the disease.

      • 10th Inning Stretch

        In one post, you say Half won't invest in the team, but in another, you reference the Yanks' $200 million payroll. He's investing a lot more than most other teams.

  10. steve

    i haven't been able to figure out who we traded? Is it just a PTBNL?

  11. This feels like "The Yankees did something really, really stupid, so lets try to find a way to justify it" I don't think we'd be talking up Vernon Wells spring training numbers if Texas traded for him. We'd be (rightfully) cackling.

    Sometimes really, really stupid is just really, really stupid.

    • Andrew

      Don't forget that the Rangers are going to trade Olt for Joba Chamberlain!

  12. ben

    What a poor analysis. I thought you were a sabermetrics guy? Since when do disciples of Bill James base any conclusion on a small sample size? 41 AB's in Spring Training warrants the Yankees paying this guy this kind of money, when they refuse to pay A.J. Pierzynski or Russell Martin? With the direct result of the Yankees having no major-league starting catcher?

    As to your point that "the Yankees have more resources than we do." Does their being a multi-billion dollar sports franchise give them the ability to change the laws of mathematics? Vernon Wells stinks. This was a desperate move made by a team that overestimated its ability to shed depth in exchange for payroll relief. Now we have neither. Hal is a bad owner. That's all there is to it.

  13. lazlosother

    I don't like the trade at all, but…. There have been some pretty good points made here. He costs $ this year, not next. Next year is what matters for the salary cap. While 12 mil. seems awfully steep for what he will likely contribute it won't break the bank. Maybe NY does see something, maybe his good spring is due to an adjustment in his approach. I don't think anyone here is saying that he was acquired because of his spring stats alone. The Yanks have had some successful reclamation projects, love to see it happen again. They didn't give up anything but $, they could eat that and bring up a youngster if he implodes.

    At any rate, what is done is done. Now I have to hope that I was wrong wrong wrong. There, I'm calmer now. With the pitching they have I doubt NY will be out of it. There aren't any perfect teams in the AL east at this point.

    God I wish the season would start.

  14. Clueless Joe

    i think the most interesting part of the season is we are going to find out a lot about joe's ability to manage a team stripped of its super stars…he had a bunch of no names in florida and did pretty well in winning manager of the year…and we do have a very solid and formidable pitching staff to keep us close hopefully until some bats start coming back…can you name the starting team for the SF Giants the last two out of 3 years they won (impressive if you have 5 names outside of panda and posey)…maybe this could be the first real TEAM we have had in a long while…what if, just maybe, this is one of the most enjoyable teams we will root for in the past decade…with bunts, and sac flies, and 3-2 nail biters, and grit and determination from a group trying to prove something…what if we actually relish every win because no game this year will be a guaranteed victory based on our line-up…for some reason, i keep thinking about the Daily News Headline "Clueless Joe" when Torre was hired…things looked pretty bad then too…but i think they turned out pretty well vs expectations

  15. guest

    I would just like to make one note. As a coach, I have come to realize that players are not just what their stats are. They are affected by many things that the public has no idea of what is going on with them. The people around them influence them more than you think. The clubhouse can be a comfort or hell depending on the individual. As much as we try to go only by stats, cause that is all we have as the public, there are many private things going on which maybe the team or GM or owners may only know,and we miss that analyst. We all need to remember that while this is fun, there is a host of information not open to us. Is Tex hurt worse than we are being told? Is A-Rod more of a mess because of the PED investigation and will miss the whole year? Over the years we have been kept from the truth about a player many times.

  16. Brian

    I wonder if the players think they are stuck in a real life version of Major League and come together to surprise us all? Except i don't think there will be any tear away posters of Hank or Hal haha. Sorry, someone had to inject a bit of humor. Y'all are exacerbating your ulcers too much.

    This looks to me like the Yankees are doing what NBA teams do, acquire expiring contractsto make a run at the guys they project will be available later on. And remember, it's not for this year or next, it's really for 2015 and beyond. Why do you think they are ok with some two year contracts, especially this Wells one? We've been spoiled. Face it we have. Every year for the last 15 or 20 years we have been the favorite or among the favorites to to win it all and that's awesome. What a great time to be a Yankee fan. But for the first time in a long time we are in 'rebuilding mode' not 'reloading' mode. You don't think Bryce Harper (a lifelong Yankee fan) is going to test FA in a few years with Boras as his agent (corect me if im wrong on the agent thing)? The Jeter/Mo/Andy Era is ending soon. We have some young guys we hope can break through but the FA classes of the next few years look better than what was available this offseason.

    So I preach patience grasshoppers. Enjoy this gritty year and maybe next as best you can. Eat dirty water dogs and teach the kids about what it's like to be a Yankee fan through and through. I guarantee the Mets fans would still trade rosters with us in a heartbeat.

Comments are closed.