For the better part of two years, Vernon Wells was relegated to being to a fourth and sometimes fifth outfielder for the Angels. Now, when the trade becomes official, he will likely be the Yankees’ Opening Day left-fielder, according to a story on ESPN New York.
In the story, a source with knowledge of New York’s plans was quoted as saying “He will be the every day left fielder.” When Curtis Granderson comes back from his broken forearm, Wells will slide into the fourth outfield spot and hit mostly against lefties, where he still has success.
Wells, 34, will actually be one of the youngest members on this year’s team – there are 8 other players who are older. He also represents the righty-bat that GM Brian Cashman has been searching for all offseason. With lefties in Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield, Wells provides some balance.
Much is being made about the $13 million the Yankees will owe Wells, but in actuality, it doesn’t sound too bad. Yes, it’s not cheap for a guy who will eventually be on the bench. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reports that most of Wells’ money will be put towards the payroll for this season, so the goal of a $189 mil payroll in ’14 is not obstructed.
Also, the Yankees will receive insurance from the WBC because of Mark Teixeira’s injury. Teixeira makes roughly $4 mil per month, so the Yankees will essentially save $6-7 mil should he come back in late May.
Wells also can play all three outfield positions, which gives the Yankees much needed flexibility with their lineup. He has looked good in spring training so far, hitting .361 (13-for-36) with four home runs and 11 RBIs. Scouts say Wells is in better shape, and looks different than in years past.
Perhaps the Yankees catch lightning in a bottle here? Perhaps Wells can reclaim some of what he used to be with Toronto? Whatever plays out, he can’t hurt a team that has seen over $70 million worth of superstars injured. With guys like Brennan Boesch, who may eventually platoon with Wells as a lefty-righty combo, and Ben Francisco, the Yankees depth is a lot less scarier than it was yesterday.
The reaction from fans on social media has been largely negative. People are wondering where this money was when Russell Martin was on the table. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. When Martin was still available, A-rod wasn’t under the knife, Derek Jeter was rehabbing smoothly and Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira were mainstays in the middle of the lineup. A change of scenery may be just what Wells needed; It seemed to revitalize Ichiro.
The trade will become official tomorrow when Wells takes his physical down in Tampa, Fla.