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.

About Michael Eder

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. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. "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).

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.