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.

Brendan Ryan 1313 .079 .265 .262
Yuniesky Betancourt 1221 .142 .242 .273
Clint Barmes 1318 .112 .274 .275
Darwin Barney 1714 .091 .270 .278
Robert Andino 1027 .084 .291 .280
Kurt Suzuki 1273 .118 .253 .281
Alcides Escobar 1888 .084 .297 .281
Cliff Pennington 1331 .093 .292 .283
Vernon Wells 1249 .161 .232 .285

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.

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  1. Ryan Sommers

    January 19, 2014 07:19 PM

    I disagree Bill, everyone please upvote

  2. schufan

    January 19, 2014 07:35 PM

    He’s not zero risk As with Delmon Young, the risk is that he would play. And play a lot for a team clueless enough to value him and desperate enough to rely on him. The combination of a .270 OBA, poor defense, mediocre baserunning, and extreme age all in one package? I have been wondering why the Phillies hadn’t already jumped all over the only available candidate who may be meaningfully worse than Mayberry.

    • Bill Baer

      January 19, 2014 07:42 PM

      The Phillies signed Delmon Young to start. They have Brown in left, Revere in center, and Byrd in right now. Wells wouldn’t start; he’d simply occupy Mayberry’s spot on the bench. If he performs well enough in spring training to merit a job over Mayberry, then that’s exactly what you want.

      • Bubba0101

        January 19, 2014 10:49 PM

        Im with you Bill. What could it hurt bringing him in on a minor league deal and seeing how he does in the spring? If Mayberry is only around to pinch hit and Wells can do it better then screw it, why not? Nothing good is going to happen to this team until after the 2015 season anyway and they just need to keep some butts in seats until then. Give Wells the good juice like they did in NY last year and lets see how many pinch hit homers he can smash.

      • schufan

        January 19, 2014 11:39 PM

        Wells has been one of the worst players in baseball the last three seasons. Who needs to see if he has anything left, or has a hot 50 AB in the spring? We know who he is. Can’t get on base, can’t field, can’t really run, has a little pop. We don’t need any more of those. No more Delmons, no more Wiggintons, no more Yunieskys. Time to try to be a real major league organization for a change.

  3. VoteForDelmon

    January 19, 2014 08:27 PM

    Outfielder? Check. Useless? Check. Six letter name beginning with a consonant and ending in “-on”? Check.

  4. Thomas

    January 19, 2014 09:07 PM

    He could also backup first, second AND third base!!!!

  5. Bob

    January 20, 2014 12:21 AM

    Looking at the stats on Fangraphs, Wells was better in LF and had a lower K% last year. All other stats Mayberry was better. If you believe that players trend downward with age, then your looking at more decline from Wells. Unless, that is, you think Wells has plateaued. The only way I could see signing Wells to replace Mayberry is if you can allocate the 1mm in savings to sign a better players. Otherwise, it appears that Mayberry will have a better season and be more valuable.

  6. Ryan

    January 20, 2014 08:27 AM

    RAJ must have to take extraordinary measures to get fired. He’s going to save a million dollars over Mayberry while getting older and worse to do what?

  7. Major Malfunction

    January 20, 2014 02:03 PM

    Zero risk and zero value. Actually, as the article states, he’s less than zero value.

    Just think about that. A player that is actually worse than zero, who was released even though what he is still owed is north of $20m, and the Phillies are considering him. Not to sound outrageous, but I could guarantee you could find more capable talent holding open auditions at CBP one weekend.

    I just don’t understand how in baseball the cliche of “low risk, high reward” continues to get thrown around. You might use that with someone who hasn’t met their potential (i.e. head case) in their 20s….maybe. Using it on a has-been that hasn’t been in at least 5 years that THREE teams have walked……no ran….away from just doesn’t seem palatable or believable.

    Yes, keep inviting these Goodwill drop-offs to spring training. The other teams are shuddering and wondering how they will effectively combat the Phils.

  8. Just Bob

    January 20, 2014 02:35 PM

    Title of this post should have been ‘Less Than Zero’

    The only way this makes sense is if Amaro is trying to making the resigning of Mayberry look like a solid move by comparison and/or if the Phils want to move Mayberry & try to save $1M+.

  9. edwin

    January 21, 2014 03:42 AM

    Nothing to see here keep moving

  10. Mark66

    January 21, 2014 12:56 PM

    Considering Wells would be THE biggest mistake the organization could make. Anyway you analyze his numbers it spells disaster. PERIOD. There are just too many other options to consider. DISASTER.

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