The Case for Vernon Wells

When Vernon Wells was acquired from the Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal that sent catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera to Toronto, fans were both ecstatic and cautious. After watching Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre ink multi-year contracts including eight-digit money figures, the Angels decided it was their turn to make a move in a true act of desperation to remain a legitimate playoff contender in the competitive AL West.

Wells has been horrendous to say the least in 2011. Nearing the tail-end of his prime, he has produced a .197/.234/.332 batting line to go along with just 7 HRs and 25 RBIs. Needless to say, he has appeared in just 49 games translating to 205 PAs, but that is still a healthy bit of sample size with little to no production. And as he prepares to collect a $23 million paycheck at year’s end, it’s time to see change.

You ask me, “Are we going to see change, and if so, when”? This question can have a complicated answer. According to ESPN MLB Park Factors from 2010, The Rogers Centre, Wells’ former home, was the fourth most hitter friendly ballpark in the major leagues behind U.S. Cellular Field, Coors Field, and Yankee Stadium. Scroll down the page and you’ll see that Angel Stadium of Anaheim is all the way down at twenty-three, proving to be one of baseball’s most pitcher friendly parks.

While ballpark factors can be a large part of the story, it isn’t all. It is evident that Vernon Wells has been very unlucky in 2011, posting a .209 BABIP and .135 ISO to date. The BABIP shown is .76 ticks below his career average of .285, and his ISO is down as well by a drastic .58 points.

As mentioned previously, Wells is entering the tail-end of his prime and beginning his journey down the downhill slope. He went from one of baseball’s most hitter friendly parks to one of baseball’s most pitcher friendly parks. But we also see that Vernon Wells has been flat-out unlucky in 2011. So, what can we expect from him in the remainder of the 2011 season?

My best guess-timate is production from somewhere in between his spectacular bounceback 2010 campaign and his outright awful 2011 season. A .240/.300/.430 type line seems about right in final form, and as you can see, that is not worth $23 million dollar money or even half for that matter. The bottom line is that the Halos’ made an incredibly irresponsible acquisition in an act of desperation, and it’s going to be extremely hard rid themselves of arguably baseball’s most crippling contract.