There were a lot of Angels in the outfield in 2012. Even Ryan Langerhans managed to log 1.1 innings in left field. Despite having seven other outfield eligible players available throughout the season, Vernon Wells played 77 games after having his career worst -0.8 rWAR (Baseball-Reference wins above replacement) season in 2011. Oh and Wells made $26,187,500 for his effort that year. With only 262 plate appearances and 589.0 outfield innings in 2012, Wells just didn’t have the opportunity to post another negative WAR, though his 0.5 rWAR hardly justified another $21,000,000 headed his way.
Luckily, a career best 5.5 rWAR from Torii Hunter and an otherworldly 10.7 rWAR from Mike Trout helped hide the lack of production from one of baseball’s highest paid players. Helped hide. Wells hit .230/.279/.403 in 2012 which was up from his 2011 numbers but he still OPS’ed the same as Brock Holt and Drew Pomeranz (small sample, I know, but it’s fun).
With Hunter having basically two feet out of the door after not getting a qualifying offer from the Angels and interest from the Yankees and Red Sox, Wells will likely be the fourth outfielder once again but to a younger crew…
Dipoto said the Angels will go with a younger and much cheaper starting outfield of Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos next season, with underachieving Vernon Wells, who is owed $42 million over the next two years, in reserve.
Another 300 plate appearances from Wells will be tough to watch even if he’s hidden behind Trumbo or Kole Calhoun or whichever warm body gets playing time ahead of him. For some archaic sentiment, Wells’ massive salary will command some playing time regardless of actual performance.
The other, far-fetched and wishful thinking solution is to hide Wells on another team’s roster. Of course, finding a trading partner to ship off Wells would almost certainly involve taking back another horrifying contract or eating most of the $42,000,000(!) still owed. There is no way to hide Vernon Wells from Angels fans for the next two years. Just because you might not be able to see him doesn’t mean there won’t be a note at the bottom of the Angels Cot’s page detailing how much cash he’s depositing from Anaheim banks.
Maybe the Wells criticism has gone too far, I rarely think to myself. In those times, I head over to the Baseball Reference Play Index and the feeling quickly subsides. Today’s example is a sample from 2007 to 2012. Wells accumulated a 6.7 rWAR over that time after his career best 6.0 rWAR in 2006. From 2007 to 2012, Wells shared the same value as Aaron Rowand, Sean Rodriguez, Daniel Murphy and Milton Bradley. Except those players did it with between 1,770 and 680 fewer plate appearances.