One of the greatest things about writing for a blog like Yanks Go Yard is the ability to put your opinion out there about the dealings of all things Yankees. However, an important aspect of writing like this is that a person needs to take accountability for what is written, particularly if what was written turns on to be wrong. With that said, here it is: I was totally and completely wrong about Vernon Wells. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
Back in February, in of the of the first games of Spring Training, Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch, resulting in a broken arm. Shortly thereafter, I speculated about the potential moves that the Yankees could make to replace him. This, in full, is what I wrote about Well:
“Another option that has been floated around has been Vernon Wells, and I cannot say this emphatically enough: no. Just, no. To start, he is signed through 2014, which would mean that a 30-game solution now becomes a two year albatross, and the Yankees have quite enough of those going around. To trade for Wells would be an overreaction of embarrassing proportions. In an astoundingly low 77 games in 2012, Wells only hit .230/.279/.403 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI. For that sort of production, the Yankees could use any raw prospect in their system and avoid the trade and roster move associated with a move. That said, here is the interesting part: in 2012, Wells’ Rtot/yr was a 6; while he was horrific as a center-fielder and right-fielder (-32 and -12 in that metric, respectively), he was serviceable as a left-fielder, with a 10 rating in 67 games. For comparisons sake, Ryan Braun came in with a 1 rating in Rtot/yr at that same position in 151 games in left field in 2012; Raul Ibanez had a 2 rating in 40 games. All in all, the benefits of this move would in no way outweigh the negatives- contract, offensive production, wasted roster spot- that trading for Wells would accomplish. Again, I actually cannot put into words have ridiculous and awful a move this would be for the Yankees, it’s worth pointing out because it will inevitably a topic of conversation over the next few days.”
I fully and totally admit that was beyond wrong. What Brian Cashman and his team saw was an increased bat speed on Wells that likely has resulted in his renewed offensive ability. Through this past weekend, in 169 Pas (154 ABs), Wells has batted .286/.343/.506 with an OPS+ of 126. With 10 homers and 23 RBI, Wells has provided a crucial need that goes beyond replacing Granderson: helping a depleted lineup that has the Yankees dipping way down into the minors (hello, Austin Romine and Preston Claiborne) score some runs. While the pitching has been solid, a question was whether the Yankees would score enough runs to be competitive, and Wells has been a huge part of that.
Defensively, Wells has held his own, too. His total zone fielding is 9 runs above the average, even if his WAR is still a bit on the low side with a 1.4. However, his 14 RAR has proved valuable in the outfield. Both of those are much higher than his past two years with the Angels (though some of that might be helped by the smaller dimensions in Yankee Stadium, as well as being flanked by a superb defensive fielder in Brett Gardner, whose speed reduces the amount of ground that Wells must cover). Wells also has yet to make an error in 38 games in the outfield- not to mention a very odd turn at third base for an inning.
The bottom line is that the Yankees have far surpassed the gloom and doom predictions that were written for them this past off-season, and have still managed to more than tread water as they are down to their third line replacements in some areas- shortstop, catcher, third base. A huge part of that success has, without a doubt, been the contributions of Vernon Wells. Even if his production cools off considerably from the torrid start that he had this past April and May, I think most Yankees fans, not to mention the Yankees themselves, would sign up for that. With Ichiro Suzuki struggling, Wells provides an important alternative to the outfield. Additionally, his bat could help balance out the lineup as a DH if the oft-injured Travis Hafner is unable to go, or when facing a lefty, where the left-handed Hafner has historically struggled. YGY’s own Hunter Farman asked the question earlier in the week, “Were we wrong about Vernon Wells?” I absolutely was. And for the Yankees, that it a great thing.