Vernon Wells

Change Of Persepctive

A year or so ago everyone in Yankeeland was screaming about the trade of Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. Pineda was headed for shoulder surgery and Montero was a big league catcher. Now Montero has been demoted to the minors while Pineda is apparently throwing 95-mph in extended spring training.

I said it before and I will say it again, you can’t judge this trade until years have gone by. I think the fairest thing to say about it is that Montero simply didn’t fit the 2012 or 2013 Yankees. Sure, his bat looked like a huge asset, but where was that bat going to play? You can read this post about Montero’s demotion, I think it makes it very clear that he is not a viable big league catcher. The Yankees obviously were never going to come right out and say that, but they did tip their hand back in September of 2011 when they had Austin Romine fly across the country at the last minute so they could avoid putting Montero behind the plate. So, I think the Yankees did a smart thing and cashed in on Montero when his value was at its peak. They got a very good pitcher, who got hurt, and a very good prospect, who also got hurt. Both are on the way back and we may yet see a day when people say the Yankees “won” this trade. One thing is for sure, if Montero had been in pinstripes the past 14 months and posted the same .252/.293/.377 line he has with Seattle, plenty of fans would have screamed about how overrated he was. GM’s really do have a thankless job.

****

I think it was a very good sign that Curtis Granderson looked like Curtis Granderson again last night. There are too many nights when the Yankees simply have too many dead spots in the lineup. Ichiro has doing nothing. Gardner is about what we expected him to be (maybe a little low in the OBP category). Wells was amazing in April, but has cooled considerably in May. So has Travis Hafner. The Yankees need Granderson just like they need Teixeira. The subs did some amazing things over the first quarter of the season, but it is time for the stars to earn their paychecks.

The Emperor Has No Clothes-UPDATED

I think Greg summed up the feelings of Yankees’ fans nicely tonight when he commented on an old post, “Vernon Wells, sigh”. It certainly nailed my feelings. I have to admit, I had no idea at first why the Yankees would be interested in Vernon Wells.

Look at the player. Wells hit .230/.279/.403 last year and .218/.248/.412 the year before. He is a righty, but managed to put up a worse OPS against LHP in 2012 than RHP. (Though in 2011 he was significantly better against LHP) His defense is still good, but is any of this worth $13 million over the next two seasons? Clearly not. So, why would the Yankees do this? I can think of two reasons and they are not “happy” ones.

First, the Yankees need to keep selling tickets and Vernon Wells is a name much more likely to do so than say Thomas Neal or Ben Francisco. I don’t like this reason because Neal and Francisco offer potential, something Wells really doesn’t anymore. With the addition of Wells, one of those guys is probably either going to the minors or getting released and that is a shame.

The second reason is more depressing. I suspect the Yankees have realized that Mark Teixeira’s injury is more serious than they hoped. They have looked at moving Youkilis to first and finding a replacement to play third but that hasn’t proven fruitful. So, they are going to move Juan Rivera to first base, leaving them with an opening for a righty outfielder. Wells fills that need and he only costs the Yankees a missed opportunity to see what Neal or Francisco could do. Because Teixeira got hurt in the WBC, his salary will be covered by their insurance once he has missed 30 days. Furthermore, the Yankees can structure Wells’ remaining salary so they pay most of the $13 million this year and not in 2014 thereby avoiding a big hit in their quest to get below $189 million. If Teixeira misses half the season the finances will essentially balance out.

The 2013 Yankees have been undone by their age and the attempt to cut the payroll of the 2014 Yankees. It would be better if the Yankees had simply admitted that and sacrificed their record this year by using as many young players as possible to see if any of them could be valuable in the future. Instead, they are going to keep trying to patch together a solution and fans should expect some rough sledding in the season ahead.

UPDATE- 3/25@12:05pm- I still don’t like this trade, but this article from Mark Feinsand explains how it can actually help the Yankees payroll-wise in 2014. Basically, Wells will earn $21-million in 2013 and 2014. But his original deal was for seven years and $126 million, so for luxury tax purposes the deal counts as $18-million a year. If the Angels pay $29-million of Wells’ remaining salary  the Yankees for luxury tax purposes would be responsible for $7-million despite the fact they will actually pay him $13-million over the next two years. The Yankees could then split the Angels’ payments to Wells as $9-million in 2013 and $20-million in 2014. By doing so, they would actually receive $2-million in credit against the luxury tax threshold in 2014. Basically, its an accounting exercise.

So, this explains why they didn’t spend this money earlier in the offseason to bring back Russel Martin. They could never have anticipated the Teixeira injury and the insurance money it brings them. If Mark misses two months, the Yankees will essentially get the $13 million they spent on Wells back in insurance. And, by structuring this deal the way outlined above, the Yankees could actually improve their 2014 payroll situation.

Perhaps then we should view this as a lousy baseball move, but a great business one?