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March 25, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Yankees Trade for Vernon Wells

by R.J. Anderson and Sam Miller

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American League
National League

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Signed INF-R Ronny Cedeno to a one-year deal. [3/23]

Cedeno had a better season at the plate than you might think. He posted career-highs in various categories, including both components of OPS, and True Average. Although Cedeno didn't take an intentional walk in 2012 he still managed to set a new best in walk rate, too. This could be nothing or it could be an important piece of progress. Cedeno has always struck out more than you'd like because his swing features more muscle than you'd expect from a poor-hitting middle infielder. 

In a sense, Cedeno isn't much different from Tyler Greene, who the Astros are now rumored to be shopping. Marwin Gonzalez, a Rule 5 pick from last offseason, will split time with Cedeno at short. R.J. Anderson

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Acquired LF-R Vernon Wells from the Angels. [3/24]

When the Angels traded for Vernon Wells, the headliners were Mike Napoli, who would go on (after another swap) to slug .552 for division rival Texas, and the roughly $86 million that Wells was owed, all but a reported $5 million of which the Angels agreed to pay. The throw-in, basically, was Juan Rivera, who wasn't all that popular in Anaheim, whose defense didn't fit the Angels' new outfield-range mindset, and who was owed a few million that the Angels were glad to be rid of. The throw-in turned out to be too steep a price on his own for Wells: 

  • Wells, 2011-2012: .222/.258/.409, 791 PA
  • Rivera, 2011-2012: .252/.306/.379, 860 PA

Wells tacked a bit of extra value on with his glove, which played well in left field, but this one goes down as a disaster in every possible way. For the Angels, it's the end of a pretty lousy era, the Tony Reagins era, which started with a five-year Torii Hunter signing and ended with a Jered Weaver five-year extension, but which produced little in between. With Bobby Abreu, Joel Pineiro, Scott Kazmir, Gary Matthews, Jr., Jeff Mathis, Brian Fuentes, and Fernando Rodney all off the books, and Wells at least out of the lineup, the only remnants of his tenure are a few extensions, like Weaver's, that still look good, and a few draft picks, like that of Mike Trout, that might at least earn Reagins a few free drinks in the Anaheim area for decades to come. 

The Yankees shouldn't expect much. Wells' first year, which was insanely bad, at least offered some hope that it was merely the unluckiest BABIP stretch ever, and that Wells' good health might produce a year worth paying for still. Year two was just as bad, though. Is there hope? Here he is talking about rebuilding his swing with top hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo

“He’s awesome,” Wells said. “I finally have a load in my swing, which will be fun.” He says getting loaded early on pitches will help him catch up to more hittable pitches and lay off the garbage, and stay shorter in the rest of his swing.

Actually, that was from before the 2012 season. Our mistake. This winter, 

"My off-season was geared toward getting back to what I'm capable of doing," said Wells, who batted .273 with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2010. "That was my goal coming into spring, to get my swing back to where it's supposed to be."

For years, Wells was probably underrated a bit because of his excessive contract; we all looked at him and saw only waste and burden, not a pretty good ballplayer worth at least a portion of that money. Now, though, he is probably overrated because of that contract. We don't know what the Yankees will be paying of it—$13 million over two years, reportedly—but if he had been a free agent this winter, like Delmon Young, it's hard to imagine he'd have earned more than a million bucks or perhaps an NRI. Instead, he carries with him at least a little bit of the glow—or, at least, the truckloads of cash—that herald the star he once was. —Sam Miller 

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Acquired 1B-R Nathan Freiman off waivers from the Astros. [3/23]

Freiman better not get too comfortable. As per the Rule 5 requirements, Freiman must spend the season in the majors, either on the active roster or the disabled list, or otherwise be put on waivers and—should he clear—be offered back to the Padres. Oakland seems to be thinking, Why not give this massive human being a look-see in case he might fit in as a platoon player. Fair enough. Just don't expect him to make the final cut. Freiman has a lot of raw power with a strength-based swing. His strikeout rate is going to spike in the majors and he's not capable of playing other defensive positions. Give the A's credit for having a sense of humor: they traded Chris Carter to the Astros, and Carter is arguably the top reason Freiman became available on waivers. —R.J. Anderson 

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Acquired INF-R John McDonald from the D'Backs for a player to be named later or cash considerations. [3/20]

A small move and an effective upgrade. Pittsburgh used Josh Harrison as its backup shortstop last season, and had a number of less-talented defenders lining up to take the gig. McDonald is a better defender than almost all of them and an equal hitter to Harrison—that's not saying much but whatever. If Brandon Inge makes the cut the Pirates will have two good defensive subs on the bench, and while they may not offer a ton in pinch-hitting value, it would be interesting to see how Clint Hurdle used them. —R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Vernon Wells,  Ronny Cedeno,  John McDonald

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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I keep seeing the word "desperate" tacked onto the Wells acquisition. Glad it didn't show up here. It seems way too easy to allow history to dictate the analysis of the trade; Wells' contract has been a running joke for years now. Truthfully, the Yankees needed a right-handed outfielder that can hit bombs. That ballpark allows for him to do that more effectively than in Anaheim. There's potential value for the Yankees, and $6.5mil a year isn't absurd for that franchise (I say that without any knowledge of luxury tax or other financial penalties they might incur). Often I'm happy for an excuse to harangue the Evil Empire, but I won't on this one. They're a smart front office, and they might have made fools of many analysts.

Granted, if he is a complete bust, no one is (likely) going to come back to this comment to tell me how stupid I am.

Mar 25, 2013 08:57 AM
rating: 1

And reports of creative accounting may make this even more attractive to the Yankees as at least one report will have this move yielding a CREDIT against the luxury tax in 2014.

Mar 25, 2013 09:56 AM
rating: 0
Adam Hobson

It sounds like the idea behind this is that Wells has an average anual contract value of $18 million which is what is used to calculate the luxury tax. However, money paid from another team is subtracted from that amount. Since Well's contract is back-loaded, it sounds like the idea is that the Yanks would pay $12 million of their share of the $13 million in 2013 and only $1 million in 2014. This would leave the Angels paying $20 million in 2014, meaning that for luxury tax purposes Wells contract will count as a $2 million credit for the Yankees ($18 million aav - $20 million payment from Angels).

The actual figures are unconfirmed, but the CBA-logic behind them is sound.


Mar 25, 2013 10:34 AM
rating: 3

Indeed, thanks for elaborating. I hope the complexity of contracts and the increased complexity of the luxury tax/spending caps don't lead baseball down the NBA/NFL world, where players' value is most correlated to their contract terms and not their skill.

Is Wells the first example of an MLB player traded as much for his ability to game the salary restrictions as for his ability to play baseball?

Mar 25, 2013 11:31 AM
rating: 0

The Red Sox did a similar thing when they acquired Bill Hall a few years ago. I don't recall the particulars, but he was a multiyear deal from the Brewers and somehow when the Sox picked him up the Mariners were paying more than the AAV and it ended up as a credit.

Don't quote me on the details, but it was generally very similar to Hobson's description above.

Mar 25, 2013 14:11 PM
rating: 1

I haven't been able to find anything about what the Angels are getting back from the Yanks (besides saving the $13 million).


Mar 25, 2013 09:13 AM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

The worst part of the Wells deal is it took at-bats away from players like Trumbo and Bourjols.

Mar 25, 2013 15:05 PM
rating: 3

I disagree to some extent, especially in regards to the last 2 seasons. Trumbo has averaged 542 ABs in his last 2 campaigns, so I don't really think he's having any ABs taken away...as for Bourjos, I would say the acquisition of Pujols was actually his biggest downfall last year. It left Trout, Hunter, Trumbo, and Morales as the 4 best players to fill the OF and DH spots. Last season, Bourjos was most likely just the significantly better late-game player(pinch-runner/defensive replacement/sac bunts/more versatility in the OF), so any spot starts went to Wells, especially against a lefty.

Mar 25, 2013 17:25 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

Generally, a player gets 700 a year in full-time duty and Trumbo and Bourjos were both under that.

I don't think Pujols had much to do with Bourjos since he was going to play 1B while Morales DHed. The only way Pujols affected Bourjols is by forcing Trumbo to fight for playing time in the outfield.

However, Wells and Hunter large contracts definitely seemed to make the Angels play them more than Bourjos, especially with Bourjols' slow 2012 start.

Mar 26, 2013 20:41 PM
rating: 1
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