Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vernon Wells Will Save The Yankees Money

Although it's been known for more than nearly two days now, the Yankees have finally made the trade for Vernon Wells official.

My initial thoughts on the acquisition were the same as most people's, landing in the "WTF" category. Wells has had an OPS+ at or below 91 in three of the last four seasons, with a very nice 127 thrown in there from his last season with the Blue Jays in 2010. Vernon's batting line of .218/.248/.412 in 131 games in 2011, followed by .230/.279/.403 in 77 games last season, is quite troubling as well. So what would possess Brian Cashman to want to pay the guy around $13 million over two years, on top of giving up a couple of prospects?

"Is it Satan?"

Sure, Wells has had a nice spring, hitting .361 with four home runs and a double in there. But come on... it's Spring Training. How many of his 41 plate appearances were against pitchers that will actually play a significant role with their team? I'm willing to bet that it's not a lot. David Phelps, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, and Brett Marshall are the top five pitchers as far as innings pitched for the Yankees this spring, and only one of those five will be in the starting rotation (at least a healthy one), and I don't see any of them playing a big part out of the bullpen either (again, a healthy one). That tells you how much the "top" pitchers have thrown this spring. So forgive me for not seeing Wells' numbers in the Cactus League and getting all giddy about this trade.

But there are a couple of things to keep in mind regarding this deal, the second of which is not something to disregard.

One, the players the Yankees gave up were low-level prospects. And the word "prospect" is used pretty loosely in their cases. The first guy was acquired in the AJ Burnett trade with the Pirates last offseason, and that is outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Cayones hit .228/.374/.291 in 200 plate appearances with Short Season Stanton Island last year, and that's includes drawing twice as many walks in 2012 than he did the year before (33 to 15). The second guy the Yankees gave up for Wells is Kramer Sneed, a pitcher the Yankees drafted with the 32nd pick in the 2010 draft. Sneed had an ERA of 5.37 in high-A Tampa last season, and almost walked as many batters as he struck out (38 to 40). So I think the farm system is going to be just fine without those two.

"Let's go, the team doesn't need us anyway."

Secondly, and this is the key... the team will save about $2 million towards the Luxury Tax in 2014. Although, in reality, the team will end up paying Wells a little over $2 million next year, as far as the Luxury Tax is concerned Wells is not only free, but the Yankees will basically get paid to have him on the roster.

You see, Vernon's contract is for $126 million over 7 years, making the average annual value $18 million. That $18 million is what counts towards the Luxury Tax. Meanwhile, the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it so the money the Yankees receive from the Angels does not get averaged between the two years remaining on Wells' contract, and can be allocated however the teams wish. So while the Angels will give the Yankees $9 million for Wells in 2013, they will give the Yankees $20 million for Wells in 2014. Take the contract's AAV of $18 million for 2014, subtract the $20 million the Yankees will get from the Angels, and voila... the Yankees will have freed up $2 million to help them reach their goal of $189 million.

"So what have you got to say now, punk?"

The only questionable thing about this trade is how much Wells will help or hurt the team this season. When it comes to money, though, it doesn't matter. The Yankees weren't going to lower the payroll to the point where they'd save anything, and it's not like they're hurting on the financial side of things. So in my opinion the only place Wells can hurt the team is on the field, and that's by playing poorly... a definite possibility. But at this point the Yankees are screwed anyway, so why not make a move like this. People are calling it the ultimate sign of desperation, but to be honest... the Yankees are desperate.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)