Vernon Wells and the Fourth Outfielder Spot
I have learned during Jerry Dipoto‘s so far short reign as GM, to not take to much stock in the quotes he gives to the media. He’s very sly that GM of ours. Take the Josh Hamilton signing for example. Less than a week before Dipoto had intimated to Alden Gonzales that the Angels were satisfied with the current makeup of their lineup. We toiled away on Twitter/Facebook/Myspace/Freindster about what the Lineup was going to look like. We weren’t impressed. We weren’t excited. Then Jerry trotted out his newest expensive toy. That Dipoto, what a character. There is one thing he hasn’t faltered on since becoming GM however, and that’s his insistence to not trade one Peter Bourjos.
To cool to drool. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
What does this rambling have to do with Vernon Wells you might ask? Well for starters, thank you for reading the title. Secondly, Dipoto’s stubborn inability to move Bourjos, even when his playing time was more sporadic then Haley’s Comet, showed a lot of faith in a young player who has most of his value tied up in his ability to play top notch defense (You know, the other half of playing baseball). It also reads like a giant “neener neener” in the face of old school stalwarts who champion veterans and the intangibles they bring to the organization. Take that Gus Lovell.
The first casualty to this new fangled thinking is Vernon Wells. I don’t really have to get into what Vernon “Too blessed to stress” Wells has meant to us fans since Tony Reagins traded for him in a knee jerk reaction to missing out on Carl Crawford (Which, in hindsight, not so mad about missing out on that guy). He’s underwhelming, underachieving, under….well, you get the point. He had a good June, power wise, in 2011 putting up a .526 slugging and hitting six home runs. He wasn’t worth the $1.75 million he made that month, but he was at least better than serviceable with an .821 OPS. Since then, a whole lot of meh.
Mercifully, last year he got pushed out of his starting role by one Mark Trumbo and a well timed broken thumb. Angels fans rejoiced, Wells’ bank account didn’t care. Wells cared though. And to his credit, let his emotions do the talking in an interview that I can’t find (Seems the internet doesn’t care about Wells either). He had been a starter since his final callup to the big leagues. I can’t imagine what was going through his head as the days leading up to his recall from the disabled list tick tocked their way down to zero hour. But Wells went and did what he was supposed to do, he took his place on the pine, cheered on his teammates, and when it was his turn to play put up these numbers in August and September:
What? You expected maybe a .300/.400/.600 slash line? Let's not forget who we are talking about here people. These numbers are not $21 million a year numbers, but they are certainly worthy numbers for the guy who is backing up your starting outfielders. No one, hold on let me be more assertive here, NO ONE, there that's better, is opining that Wells should be a regular. But, given that Kole Calhoun, who prior to last year had not been above A Ball, is our other solid option as the fourth outfielder, it would probably serve the team better to have Kole down on the farm instead of wasting away on the bench. Let his future performance dictate whether or not he should be a bench player. Wells on the other hand, has earned the "Orlando Palmeiro" spot on the roster.
I wish I could be more uplifting about good ol' Vern, but I can't. He's been a disappointment, and his contract is immovable since Tony Reagins doesn't have a job as a GM anymore. But, when trade talks started popping up about Wells, the first question that people asked was "How much money will the Angels have to eat?" That statement, should be all the evidence anyone needs. It's not Vernon's existence on the team that is the problem, it's not the infuriating pop ups with men on second and third (OK, that is a problem), it's the money. Wells will be a decent to good fourth outfielder for the next two years, both of which will almost certainly be as an Angel. And that's all any of us can really ask for, and frankly, we should get used to it. Besides, Arte's the one that has to pay him, not you. Unless of course he raises the beer/hot dog/sushi/ticket prices. Then, Get rid of Wells and as much of the money he's owed as you can Jerry, and do it quick.