Could Vernon Wells For John Lackey Work?

By MJ Lloyd

I love some good unfounded rumors. I mean, that’s what Twitter is for, right?

Let’s take a quick look at the one the L.A. Times Angels beat writer, Mike DiGiovanna, tossed out there on the Internets…

With the Angels starting a series Tuesday night in Fenway, it was a timely off-the-cuff rumor to make up. At first glance, it even makes sense too. Two teams trading their inconceivable (not sure I know what that word means) contracts left over from previous front office regimes. Both Vernon Wells and John Lackey have two extremely overpaid years left after 2012.

Lackey signed his 5-year, $82.5 million deal in 2010, after leaving the Angels, and threw 215.0 innings of 4.40 ERA ball. Not the former “ace” the Red Sox thought they were getting but he had value. Then 2011 was a disaster. Also dealing with personal issues, Lackey made 28 starts with a mind-numbing 6.41 ERA before having Tommy John surgery. On Sunday, Lackey through 45 bullpen session pitches. He should be good to go in 2013 but who knows what kind of pitcher he’ll be.

Wells, on the other hand, is a known commodity. He’s not good at the baseball. Wells hasn’t sniffed a .300 OBP in his two years with the Angels and is now a bench player. He’s also owed $11.5 million more than Lackey over the course of their miserable contracts ($40MM-$32.5MM). The highlight of Wells tenure with the Angels was getting GM Tony Reagins fired for trading for him.

Why would the Red Sox make this deal? Well, they’ve used 14 outfielders this season and Carl Crawford and his massive contract want Tommy John surgery. Cody Ross is leading the way with a 2.5 fWAR (Fangraphs wins above replacement) and Jacoby Ellsbury had his career year in 2011. Unfortunately, the answer to the question “is Vernon Wells the solution to your outfield woes” is always “no, not even a little.”

Even if the Angels picked up the ~$12 million difference in the contracts, I don’t see how the Red Sox could make this deal. Lackey should still have some value eating innings in a mop-up role or might be a back of the rotation starter after the surgery. You have to gamble on that instead of hoping Wells suddenly recognizes a strike zone and gets his OBP near .275 again.

But it was a fun trade scenario to think about.