Trust In Cash: Vernon Wells And Getting Through Early 2013

Like us on Facebook here

Monday April.1, 2013

Our own Chuck Booth predicted that Mr. Wells could be wearing pinstripes this season and low and behold, Chuck was right.  Now, to see if Wells can bridge the gap for the Yankees until Curtis Granderson returns.

Our own Chuck Booth predicted that Mr. Wells could be wearing pinstripes this season and lo and behold, Chuck was right. Now, to see if Wells can bridge the gap for the Yankees until Curtis Granderson returns.

By Nicholas Rossoletti (Yankees + Trade Correspondent)

There have been few moments as divisive for Yankees fans over the past year than last weekend’s trade for Vernon Wells.  While I will get to the trade analysis of the Wells deal, I find it incredibly interesting the conversations and general disdain Yankee fans are currently showing for the management team in the Bronx.  

The Yankee universe took to social media after the announcement of the trade.  A large contingent were calling for Brian Cashman’s job, which I’m sure is not anything unusual for the General Manager of the Yankees.  It did get me thinking about where the team is coming into the season.

Vernon Wells Highlights – Parental Guidance is Advised:

The strategy for the Yankees the last four seasons has always been to keep the championship window open for Jeter and Rivera. In 2009, they did just that, but this season will be the end of that window.

The strategy for the Yankees the last four seasons has always been to keep the championship window open for Jeter and Rivera. In 2009, they did just that, but this season will be the end of that window.

There have been few moments as divisive for Yankees fans over the past year than last weekend’s trade for Vernon Wells.  While I will get to the trade analysis of the Wells deal, I find it incredibly interesting the conversations and general disdain Yankee fans are currently showing for the management team in the Bronx.

 The Yankee universe took to social media after the announcement of the trade.  A large contingent were calling for Brian Cashman’s job, which I’m sure is not anything unusual for the General Manager of the Yankees.  It did get me thinking about where the team is coming into the season.

There really is no misconception of who these Yankees are coming into this season.  They flew past being an aging team several years ago, and now, they are just flat out old.  This was always going to happen.  This was the design.  Every time the Yankees opened their check book to an aging free agent or to keep one of their own core pieces, it became inevitable.

 Most championship windows last five or six seasons.  By strategic planning, aggressive spending and exceptional talent that was developed by the Yankees over the course of years, this championship window has been open for the better part of two decades.

To be upset about the age of the Yankees at this stage of the game is more than a little silly.  The management style from the winter of 2009 to the present was always to open one more championship window for the Derek Jeter/Mariano Rivera lead Yankees.  Quite frankly, the management team has done a terrific job at doing just that.  

From 2009-2012, the Yankees have not won less than 95 games. Over the course of that four year stretch, the Yankees have won 60% of their regular season contests, had four postseason appearances, three trips to the championship series, one pennant and one world championship.

 The biggest complaint during this last four years that really any fan of the Yankees can muster is that they “only” won one World Championship and one American League Pennant while losing two other championship series to the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.  Complain about those results to a Cubs fan and you may well get punched in the face. 

So now we find the Yankees in perhaps the last year of this championship window, yet it feels different.  When the late-90’s dynasty ended, fans watched as some of their favorites walked away from the game or changed uniforms, but the core of the team was still young enough to compete for a long period of time.  

When the mid-2000’s incarnation of the team broke up, there was still the feeling that one more window could be opened.  The Yankees still had Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez.  

Now, we know this is it.  Rivera has announced that this will be his last season.  Jeter is rehabbing a broken ankle from five months ago and will not be ready for the start of the campaign.  Rodriguez is a pariah, outcast and worst of all, severely limited by aggressive hip injuries.  

Here come the mighty Yankees, limping into the ring.  Rumors are swirling around last place finishes and the end of an era.  While this may not be the Yankees we are used to, I don’t think signing them up for a 70 win season is appropriate just yet.

First, lets deal with the issue that is in front and center of the media circus (both social and otherwise) this week.  Vernon Wells, once a stable run producer during the mid-2000’s for the Blue Jays, is now a member of the New York Yankees.  To say that Wells has seen his best years come and go is accurate.  Over the last two seasons, the decrease in Wells’ play has been fairly staggering.  

In 2010, Wells put up 30 Home Runs with a .242 ISO and a Slugging % of .515.  He was a 3.7 WAR player during that campaign.  While that in no way justified paying Wells the amount of money the Blue Jays were paying him, it was certainly a far cry from the player we have seen the last two years.

In 2011, Wells saw a large decrease in his BB% from a slightly below average 7.7% to an atrocious 3.8%. Additionally, his BABIP dropped to .214.  Meaning Wells wasn’t walking and the balls that he was putting into play weren’t turning into hits.  As such his average and on base percentage were predictably both very low.

 His power, however, while clearly decreasing, did not decrease by the same margins as his ability to get on base.  In 2011, Wells hit 25 Home Runs with a .194 ISO, which is still a very good power bat.

Last season, Wells BB% and BABIP showed signs of regressing to his career mean.  He was back walking at a 6.1% and his BABIP was at .226, which is improved but still fairly depressed.  One has to wonder if a full complement of at-bats would show an increase from that depressed BABIP if only just on a luck basis.  Wells BABIP during 07-10 was in the .260-.290 range generally.

 While age can cause a player to lose speed and decrease base hits,  it is hard to believe a 50-60 point drop in BABIP is based purely on no longer being able to “leg out” ground ball singles.  Losing bat speed might be an issue as far as being able to “square up”  pitches.  hittable

For the third season in a row, Wells saw a decrease in his ISO and Home Run totals although he was worth slightly more WAR at .4 to the .2 in 2011.  Both numbers are discouraging, however, it is worth asking the question, could Wells have rebounded from a terrible 2011 had he had a regular compliment of Plate Appearances as opposed to the half measure he was given in 2012?

This is the question that has to concern Yankee fans.  I happen to believe the real Vernon Wells is somewhere between what we have seen the last two seasons and in 2010.  His average seems somewhat depressed based on his BABIP and that will allow for his AVG and OBP to increase if given a normal sample size of Plate Appearances (I generally can’t put too much weight on the 2012 numbers based on the short sample size of 262 Plate Appearances).  

His power will probably land somewhere in the .170-.200 ISO range, which is fine for a spot starter/fourth outfielder.  Is Wells a 3 WAR player? No, he isn’t.  Generally, teams don’t eat $29 million dollars and trade 3 WAR players a week before first pitch.  What is Vernon Wells then?

He is the answer to the following question: “Can we find a depth outfield bat that someone is willing to sell at a loss to replace Granderson for six to eight weeks?” I believe Wells is probably a 1 or so WAR player at this stage in his career.

He should replace Raul Ibanez fairly well in the Yankee Universe. Ibanez was a similar player last year to what Wells could be this year.  In 2012, Ibanez was .9 WAR player with good power, who can take plate appearances and not seem completely over matched.  

Wells will hit for less power than Ibanez as Ibanez’s ISO of .214 is probably an unrealistic jump for Wells, but Wells will also play a better left field than Ibanez (meaning he won’t look like bees are chasing him when taking a route to a fly ball).  

Yankee fans have ben very upset that the team would “choose” to spend money on a player like Ibanez instead of trying to bring back fan favorites like Ibanez, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher or Eric Chavez.  I do not take such a stance on this issue.  Martin has been romanticized by the Yankee world to a fairly ridiculous degree.

 Martin put up a wOBA of .316 last season and his wOBA has been below average for three of the last four seasons.  Offensively, Martin is not really much to write home about.  His defensive ability provided a boost to his WAR.  At a 2.0 WAR for the 2012 season, he was tied for the 11th most valuable catcher in baseball.  

While its tough to walk away from a borderline top ten catcher, the Yankees are preparing for a world where Gary Sanchez will be getting regular major league Plate Appearances as soon as perhaps 2014 depending on the coming season.  As such, it makes little sense to pay Martin a premium to block Sanchez especially if you feel you can replace the Wins he provides at a lower cost.

Swisher was another player who would be blocking the Yankees best, cheap young talent during his mid-30’s.  If you are this Yankees team, paying Swisher $14 million a season to block Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin is just not a very smart decision.

I won’t sit here and marginalize Swisher’s contributions.  He was a 3-4 WAR bat in that can make a good lineup great with his fantastic walk rate and fair power presence.  That being said, comparing paying Swish $14 million a year for four years to paying Wells for essentially one year is a poor comparison.  The Yankees never intended to pay Swisher for his age 33-37 seasons.  

As for Ibanez and Chavez, hindsight is 20/20 on those calls.  Both players were nice bench pieces with Chavez actually being a 1.7 WAR player.  Ibanez is also romanticized for his post-season heroics when in reality his contribution was slightly about replacement as noted above.  

While I liked each player, the decision to let them walk was made prior the Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson injuries so criticizing the Yankees for not resigning them and then spending on Wells isn’t fair.

 The desperate place the Yankees find themselves in due to those injuries is far different from their November/December state.  (As a sidenote: For those who consistently bash the Yankees as “old” and “brittle”, Teixeira and Granderson are each 32, which is hardly ancient.  Each injury is a fairly random injury.)

As for the season that we are entering, let’s wrap up this week’s column with a look at the team that everyone is predicting to fall off a cliff.  The pitching staff is intact for the most part with Phil Hughes missing one turn in the rotation and hopefully being back for his start on April 11, 2013.  David Phelps has looked very good in his recent starts and his live stuff provides hope that even if Hughes missed more than one start the Yankees staff would be far from a lost cause.

 The lineup will be significantly worse for the first month and a half of the season, which may doom the Yankees to missing the playoffs.  “May” being the key word here. The Yankees need Wells and Lyle Overbay to be around replacement level during the first month, and they need the pitching to keep them in games.

There are warts on every team in this division.  It’s just that the Yankees’ issues have taken front and center stage during Spring Training. Granderson will be back by mid-May as he is right on schedule with his rehab (and thankfully, his injury is a broken forearm and not a wrist injury so I don’t believe we have the same concerns with long term power sapping as Tex).  

Tex is obviously a far different issue that needs to be monitored closely and still may require surgery so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yankees continue to shop for replacement first baseman all season long.  If both players are back by June and the Yankees have managed to hang around the division race, this season will be far from the lost year everyone is fearing.

Martin was a very nice catcher for the Yankees, but his price tag combined with the presence of Gary Sanchez in the system left the Yankees with little choice but to part ways with Martin.    Martin was a very nice catcher for the Yankees, but his price tag combined with the presence of Gary Sanchez in the system left the Yankees with little choice but to part ways with Martin.

Martin was a very nice catcher for the Yankees, but his price tag combined with the presence of Gary Sanchez in the system left the Yankees with little choice but to part ways with Martin.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade and Yankees Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter. Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.

He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love. The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball

“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~ Al Gallagher, 1971

a    nicholas rossoletti

Please e-mail me at: mlbreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback. You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook. To subscribe to our website and have the Daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Like us on Facebook here

Posted on April 1, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I might be in the minority in terms of Yankee fans who likes the approach by management. This team needs to rebuild and it is the perfect time with all the injuries. The team is old and will be left behind by all the young lions in the league.

    I didn’t like the trade for Wells. I thought it was ununnecessary and desperate but understood why it was done.

    I think it the team stays the course with patience in the youth they can build a new foundation for the years to come.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,864 other followers

%d bloggers like this: