By now every New York Yankees fan has heard the news that the team has acquired Vernon Wells. Much of the reaction has one of bewilderment or dismissal. However, adding Wells is a no-risk move by the Yankees and Brian Cashman. That’s right; this was a good move by the Yankees. Once you stop laughing and before you hit the back button allow me to explain.
The Yankees entered spring training with the hopes of having an outfield of Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner with Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, Melky Mesa, Thomas Neal and Zoilo Almonte battling it out for the fourth outfielder spot. Obviously, the Yankees didn’t expect Granderson to suffer a broken forearm on his first at-bat this spring. The Yankees didn’t expect Mark Teixeira to suffer a partially torn tendon sheath in his wrist. Injuries happen to every team and sometimes teams have to make move to fill holes created by those injuries because they lack upper-level depth in the minors to adequately replace the injured personnel.
The Yankees lack the upper-level Minor League depth to plug in for Granderson and Teixeira and that has left Cashman looking for help to make sure the Yankees are competitive. Sure, Cashman can tell Joe Girardi to use Melky Mesa or Thomas Neal but would that be an upgrade on the field? Would that necessarily make the Yankees better? The answer is no. Mesa is a good baseball player. He has four of the five tools needed in a player. The missing tool just happens to be contact. He isn’t going to suddenly become a .260-.300 hitter facing MLB pitching. It doesn’t work that way. Mesa can still play a vital role on the Yankees but he might not develop into a Major League player.
Vernon Wells was the best available player to plug the hole. He is a right-handed bat, something that recent pick-up Brennan Boesch is not. Wells is not far removed from a somewhat decent season, hitting 25 home runs in 2011 and 31 in 2010. He managed only 11 home runs last year but also was dealing with injuries and inconsistent playing time. I’m not saying Wells will suddenly be a 30 home run threat but he could be a useful piece.
Wells will make just under $14 million from the Yankees. All of that money will be paid out this season which will mean Wells will not count against the luxury tax threshold for next season and aside from benefits will essentially be a free player next year. If he has anything left in the tank it could be a steal.
Had Granderson and Teixeira not gotten hurt the Yankees probably would not have traded for Wells. There would have been no need for him. However, with Juan Rivera most likely to see time at first base and the outfield if he makes the team, the Yankees needed depth. Injuries made this move necessary and the Yankees certainly could have gotten a player much worse than Wells.
Adding Wells is not the end of the world. In fact, Cashman’s track record with low-risk/high-reward types like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki have paid off pretty well in recent years. Even Kevin Youkilis looks like he might be another find with five homers this spring and a revamped swing. Why not take a chance on Wells and see what he has left? This move is a no-cost/high-reward one for the Yankees and could pay-off in a big way for the Yankees.