The Phillies Have Shown Interest in Vernon Wells
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that the Phillies have indicated some interest in current free agent outfielder Vernon Wells. Wells was released by the Yankees last week and will earn $21 million in 2014, $18.6 million of which will be paid by the Angels. The remaining $2.4 million will be picked up by the Yankees. It is the final year of a seven-year, $126 million contract signed with the Blue Jays prior to the start of the 2008 season.
Wells hasn’t been a useful regular since 2010, his last year with the Blue Jays. In the three ensuing seasons, two with the Angels and one with the Yankees, Wells hit a combined .226/.267/.387 with -0.1 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference. Among the 226 hitters who have racked up at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of 2011, Wells’ .285 weighted on-base average is the ninth-worst. He has been outhit by offensive legends such as Daniel Descalso, Placido Polanco, and J.P. Arencibia.
Along with the declining bat, Wells has become more and more of a liability on the bases. He stole 19 bases in 27 attempts (70 percent) since 2011, a far cry from the 54 he stole in 72 attempts (75 percent) between 2006-10.
Wells, however, still has limited utility as part of an outfield platoon or as a bench bat. He posted a meager .697 OPS against lefties last season, but that was much better compared to his .580 OPS against same-handed pitching. Traditionally, Wells has performed well against southpaws, posting an .851 OPS against them as recently as 2011.
The Phillies already have two right-handed hitters who should be utilized in a platoon situation in John Mayberry and Darin Ruf. But as mentioned here, Mayberry has taken progressively fewer of his plate appearances against lefties since 2011. The Phillies, with their current front office and coaching staff, just don’t pay attention to match-ups, so it is unlikely they would use Wells to their fullest advantage.
The Phillies’ interest in Wells has been mocked across the Internet as Wells is another 35-plus past-his-prime player, seemingly a commodity for the Phillies. But he represents virtually zero risk, so GM Ruben Amaro would be wrong not to at least investigate. If the Phillies do end up signing Wells to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, he could perform well enough to merit a job on the bench. This would result in the Phillies either trading Mayberry or simply cutting him. Contracts signed to avoid arbitration are non-guaranteed, so the Phillies would only have to pay about one month’s salary of Mayberry’s total $1.5875 million salary.