Now that there has been nearly 24 hours to let the Vernon Wells trade absorb into our brain cells, perhaps it’s time for a little analysis of what this trade means for both sides. First I’ll detail Wells and the Angels and then in the next part, I’ll talk about what the Jays received in return.
I do want to say, as many Jays’ fans are saying, that I like Vernon Wells. He didn’t live up to his contract, but I don’t blame him for signing it, I blame ownership or J.P. Riccardi or whoever was responsible for signing him to that contract in the first place.
Wells was a team leader and an incredible influence in the Toronto community and the Canadian community at large. I’ve always loved his deadpan sense of humour and his ability to make any interview entertaining (as evidenced by his numerous encounters with Cabbie on The Score). Even his play on the field was much of the time at a level rarely seen within this franchise.
As a move to better the franchise, however, I cannot be happier. It’s nothing personal, but as a fan I’m thrilled at the potential for this deal to open up a kind of Jays’ team that can contend on a yearly basis with the giants of the AL East.
About a week ago when talking about the four most important and polarizing position-players on the Jays, I talked about what I expect to see from Wells going forward. I think it still holds true now, although it will be interesting to see if playing in Anaheim helps or hurts his numbers.
Here’s what I said at the time:
“Wells had a nice bounce-back year in 2010 after an ’09 that had fans of the team and pundits alike calling for his head on a platter. He finished with a solid if not spectacular slash line of .273/.331/.515 and hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2006, a year before signing the massive extension. He recorded the second-highest WAR rating of his career at 4.0 and although he was still below average defensively, he managed to improve greatly over his previous two seasons, perhaps showing he was healthier than in previous years.
“However, there are some troubling things about Wells’ 2010 that are worth mentioning.
“Vernon got off to a torrid start. Between Opening Night and May 9th, Wells compiled a .339/.406/.661 line to make for a 1.067 OPS. He’d hit 9 homeruns and had driven in 25 in only 33 games. He compiled a walk rate of 9.8% during that time.
“From May 10th through to the end of the year, however, Wells had a much more pedestrian .255/.310/.475 line for a .785 OPS. He hit 22 more homeruns while driving in 63 and saw his walk-rate drop 27.5% to 7.1%.
“If I was a betting man, I’d say the second set of numbers is more likely what you’ll see from Wells in 2011 and beyond.”
I don’t appear to be alone in thinking Wells will regress in 2011 and beyond. Bill James predicts a drop to a .269/.328/.467 line, which in terms of slugging percentage is quite a severe drop off; and James also formed that prediction before the trade and I would imagine his park adjusted numbers will suffer in Anaheim.
According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, Angel Stadium ranked ahead of only Safeco Field in Seattle and Tropicana Field in Tampa in 2010 in the runs category at 0.864 of the league average, Rogers Centre ranked 8th at 1.058.
In home runs, Angel Stadium ranked 23rd at 0.825, while Rogers Centre was 4th at 1.358; and in hits Angel Stadium ranks 24th, while Rogers centre ranks 11th.
Those factors will not help Wells, although you could make the argument that a potential switch to a corner outfield position and the switch from turf to natural grass could help him stay healthier.
Overall, I really do see Wells’ numbers regressing to a .255/.310/.475-ish line. I will admit, that on-base percentage is significantly less than his career .329-mark, but that is also helped by a .280 career average, and I don’t see Wells achieving that number in Anaheim.