(I wouldn't be smiling if I had that bad a year in 2012. Courtesy of the AP)
One of the bigger pieces of weekend news that I touched on yesterday was Ken Rosenthal's report that the Yankees and Angels discussed a possible trade for outfielder Vernon Wells at the Winter Meetings. The move makes sense for Anaheim, who now has a logjam in their outfield with the recent signing of Josh Hamilton, and in the loosest terms it makes sense for the Yankees, who are still heavy on left-handed hitters, many of them with significant platoon splits, and could use another right-handed power bat to take DH at-bats or spell Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
The problem is that Wells completely sucks now. Ever since he signed his big contract in Toronto his career has been completely flushed down the toilet, evidence by a .285 wOBA/79 wRC+ season in 131 games in 2011 and a .296/88 campaign in 77 games this past season. He doesn't walk much, his power has dipped big time in the last 3 years, and defensive metrics paint him as an inconsistent defensive outfielder at best. Oh, and he's still owed $42 million over the next 2 seasons. There's seemingly nothing about Wells that looks useful for the 2013 Yankees, but damnit I'm going to try to find something.
Let's start at the plate. Wells' overall offensive profile over the last 2 years is ugly. He doesn't strike out a whole lot, which is a positive, but he also doesn't hit for a high average, which is problematic considering Wells also doesn't walk. His BABIP the last 2 years has been .214 and .226, almost identical to his actual batting average (.218 and .230), and not surprisingly that has led to 2 straight seasons of sub-.300 OBP. At age 34, there's probably some natural skill deterioration in there, and lost bat speed is tough to make up for when you're a hitter who doesn't draw walks.
But what about platoon splits? With the Yankees only being interested in Wells as a 4th OF to play for Ichiro or even Brett Gardner against lefties, there could be some value if he can still hit left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case with Wells. His OPS (.671) and wOBA (.295) were actually worse against LHP last season than against righties. Granted, that was in a sample size of just 84 plate appearances and his numbers in 2011 were much better (.366 wOBA, 134 wRC+ in 172 PA), but 2010 and 2009 were both just as ugly as 2012 so it doesn't appear as though Wells is of much use against southpaws.
The other big factor to consider with Wells is that albatross of a contract. The Yankees are already up to their eyeballs in bad or potentially bad longterm deals and are certainly not looking to add payroll for a player who's below replacement level. With Wells still having 2 years remaining on his deal, he would have to be on the books for 2014, a less than desirable scenario for the Yankees and their luxury tax avoidance goals. The Angels made a big mistake trading for Wells and that contract before the 2011 season, and it wouldn't make much sense for the Yankees to take any of it off their hands.