New York Yankees’ Acquisition of Vernon Wells Is Utterly Pointless and Just Atrocious

The New York Yankees have acquired outfielder Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night. The Angels will pay $29 million of the $42 million owed to Wells for the last two seasons of his contract.

The piling injuries looks to have pushed the Yankees to the point of desperation, and in their desperation they turned to a player they fully didn’t understand.

Wells came to a similarly desperate Angels team in 2011 as a massive salary dump by the Toronto Blue Jays when Anaheim missed out on the likes of Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

He struggled mightily in two years with the team, posting a .222/.258/.409/.667 line with an 86 OPS+ along with a WAR of -0.3. He was the odd man out with the emergence’s of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo and the signing of Josh Hamilton.

This trade is just utterly pointless, and quite frankly, insane. To say Wells is bad is an understatement. He has consistently been one of the worst and most overpaid players in baseball for the past several years. Over the past six seasons, he’s been barely worth over one win over the replacement level. PUTRID. In terms of dWAR, he’s also been a waste in the outfield.

Honestly, with the amount of injuries to key players on offense, especially Curtis Granderson, the Yankees clearly needed to make a move, but is this REALLY the move they had to make?

There are plenty of other options the Yankees could have pursued, in both the minor league system, and in free agency. Clearly, rather than being smart and pursuing cheaper free agents or bringing up less touted but useful prospects from Triple-A Scranton.

With Granderson out, the Yankees could have paid either Ronnier Mustelier or Melky Mesa the league minimum to play LF. Either would be likely to produce better numbers than Wells, with less of a risk to take.

This is just the latest move in an offseason where the Yankees have spent a lot of money on the wrong people, when they could have just spent. They let Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh for 2 years and $17M, leaving a massive hole catcher, but they’re willing to pay Wells and Ichiro Suzuki both $13M?

One has to wonder what the people in the Yankees’ front office have been thinking this offseason. There is no rhyme or reason to their insanity, and their foolishness could lead the Yankees to their worst season since 1993.

Brian Cashman, Randy Levine, and the Steinbrenner Bros. are running the team into the ground, and this is just the latest of their senseless transactions.

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Enough.

Throughout the entire offseason, especially in the past month, the media has once again regurgitated its usual talking points when talking about the Yankees: too old, too slow, albatross contracts, injuries, other teams are much better, etc.

This year it’s even worse, with the massive amount of injuries to the Yankees: Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, Alex Rodriguez, Clay Rapada, and Curtis Granderson. Most of the media has responded with doomsday predictions for the Yankees’ franchise, saying their time is over.

It’s so ridiculous. The media has written the Yankees’ obituary Guess what people: It’s March! There has yet to be a game to be played in the regular season. Everyone is 0-0. It’s a long, long season: 162 games from April to September. Injuries happen. They will heal eventually.

And guess what, folks? The Yankees still are strong. They have one of the best rotations in the American League, led by CC Sabathia, a truer than true ace. Crafty veterans Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, even in their advanced ages, are still reliable. Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps will spend all year long trying to earn the last spot in a potential playoff rotation. Mariano Rivera, the greatest reliever in history, is back, baby! The rest of the bullpen should be very good and shutdown.

Even with the injuries, the Yankees’ offense should find some way to get it done. Jeter and Granderson will be back by May. Teixeira should be back by June, just gotta be careful with him.

Remember this: In the 2011 season, 45 “experts” on ESPN predicted the Boston Red Sox would handily win the American League East, with only a few picking the Yankees to make the playoffs.

This year, it’s no different. The Toronto Blue Jays are this year’s Red Sox with all the acquisitions they’ve made. Sure, they’ll be competitive and perhaps VERY good, but I’m not ready to crown them as anything until they prove to be healthy, which many of their players (old and new) have not been the last few years.

During these times we have to remember that baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint like football. Injuries will happen, injuries will heal, injuries will happen to other teams. Yankee Universe should not lose hope. The Bronx Bombers just need to find a way to weather these injuries for the first month or so until people come back. If they can survive, they will be able to put it together and make it back to the playoffs.

Don’t panic, Yankees fans. Not yet.

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My full predictions for the 2013 MLB season

On Easter Night, Major League Baseball’s season will kick off with a Sunday Night showdown between the Texas Rangers and their instate rivals, the Houston Astros, who will make their grand debut in the American League after 50 years in the Senior Circuit. Every other team will begin their quest for the World Series on April Fools Day or April 2nd. Gonna be an interesting year, so who will come out on top in October? Here’s my predictions for who will:

American League:

AL East:

New York Yankees: 91-71

Tampa Bay Rays: 90-72 (Wild Card)

Toronto Blue Jays: 87-75

Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

Boston Red Sox: 73-89

Why: Despite being ravaged with injuries to key players, the Yankees will ride their strong rotation and bullpen, led by the return and final ride of Mariano Rivera, to another AL East crown. David Price will lead the best pitching staff in baseball back into the playoffs. Toronto will fall short of massive expectations thanks to injuries and miss the playoffs. Baltimore will (for now) prove to be a one year wonder. Boston will not improve much with an atrocious back end of the rotation.

AL Central:

Detroit Tigers: 98-62

Chicago White Sox: 84-78

Cleveland Indians: 81-81

Kansas City Royals: 72-90

Minnesota Twins: 63-99

Why: With their starpower, Detroit should win this comfortably.

AL West:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 99-63

Oakland Athletics: 93-69 (Wild Card)

Texas Rangers: 84-78

Seattle Mariners: 64-98

Houston Astros: 52-110

Why: Anaheim has arguably the best lineup in the majors. Oakland will prove to not be a one year wonder and return to the playoffs on more strong hitting and clutch hitting. Texas will take a step back with all the losses they’ve had. Seattle and Houston will be feasted upon

National League:

NL East:

Washington Nationals: 102-60

Atlanta Braves: 96-66 (Wild Card)

Philadelphia Phillies: 76-86

New York Mets: 71-91

Miami Marlins: 61-101

Why: With young guys continuing to improve, Washington and Atlanta could have top notch offenses in a limited NL. Washington will take it based on stronger pitching. Philadelphia will continue to slide with age and injuries not on their side.

NL Central:

Cincinnati Reds: 97-65

St. Louis Cardinals: 93-69 (Wild Card)

Pittsburgh Pirates: 85-77

Milwaukee Brewers: 77-85

Chicago Cubs: 59-103

Why: Cincinnati and St. Louis will duke it all year once again, with Cincinnati coming out on top, but not until the last few weeks. Pittsburgh will at long last finish with a winning record, with hopes for the future.

NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-70

San Francisco Giants: 89-73

Arizona Diamondbacks: 82-80

San Diego Padres: 74-88

Colorado Rockies: 64-98

Los Angeles’ star power will not fail them this year, and like in 2011, the Giants hit or miss offense will fail them, despite another great year from Buster Posey.

Awards:

American League Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After being snubbed following a historical rookie year, Trout will lead his team to the playoffs and continue to put up outstanding overall numbers.

American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers. Verlander will outbeat Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and David Price to capture his second Cy Young award

American League Rookie of the Year: Jurickson Profar, INF, Texas Rangers. Only 20 years old, the latest Curacao product will establish himself at some position in the Texas lineup and produce.

American League Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays. Best manager in baseball, and he proves it time and time again every time the Rays lose key players, the latest being workhorse James Shields to Kansas City

American League Comeback Player of the Year: Mariano Rivera, RHP, New York Yankees. In the final year of a legendary career, Mariano has some unfinished business after tearing his ACL last May.

National League Most Valuable Player: Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds. For three straight seasons Votto has led the NL in on-base percentage. With Pujols and Fielder in the AL and Ryan Howard’s career slowing down, Joey V is clearly the best at his position in the Senior Circuit. Only playing 111 games last year, he looks to be healthy.

National League Cy Young: Matt Cain, RHP, San Francisco Giants. Cain will finally prove to be able to be truly an elite pitcher and completely step out of Tim Lincecum’s shadow and become the Giants’ leading man.

National League Rookie of the Year: Travis D’Arnaud, C, New York Mets. Coming over the in R.A. Dickey deal, D’Arnaud will impress quickly and give the Mets a sign of hope for the future.

National League Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers. Mattingly will finally get the Dodgers into the playoffs and will this award for comanding this $213 million Hindenburg to success.

National League Comeback Player of the Year: Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies. An Achilles tear in the 2011 NLDS limited him to 71 games last year. Now healthy, he shouldn’t have a problem getting back to the 30+ HR, 100+ RBI plateau

MLB playoffs:

AL Seedings:

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 99-63

2. Detroit Tigers: 98-64

3. New York Yankees: 91-71

4. Oakland Athletics: 93-69

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 90-72

AL Wild Card:

5. Tampa Bay over 4. Oakland: David Price will out-duel Jarrod Parker to clinch a date with the Angels

ALDS:

3. New York (AL) over 2. Detroit, 3-2: The Yankees will finally get past the Tigers in their fourth try in eight years led by pitching that’s just better than Verlander and Co.

1. Los Angeles (AL) over 5. Tampa Bay, 3-1: The Angels get to the ALCS by disposing of the Rays with the power of their offense.

ALCS:

1. Los Angeles (AL) over 3. New York, 4-2: Anaheim’s mighty offense just too much for the aging and tired Bomber crew.

ALCS MVP: Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim

NL Seedings:

1. Washington Nationals: 102-60

2. Cincinnati Reds: 97-65

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-70

4. Atlanta Braves: 96-66

5. St. Louis Cardinals: 93-69

NL Wild Card:

4. Atlanta over 5. St. Louis: Braves get revenge over Cards for last year and 2011 collapse to get to the NLDS

NLDS:

2. Cincinnati over 3. Los Angeles, 3-2: Exciting series by two talented teams, but strongest bullpen comes through

1. Washington over 4. Atlanta, 3-2: After long, grueling season and series, the Nats finally get their due and advance to the NLCS

NLCS: 1. Washington over 2. Cincinnati, 4-3. Entertaining series goes down the finish. Nats clinch first ever trip the Fall Classic in 7 at home.

NLCS MVP: Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington Nationals

World Series: Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 4-2. The Nats’ strong rotation will silence  the Angels’ powerful offense to win the franchise’s first championship and the Nation’s Capital first World Series championship in 89 years.

World Series MVP: Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals

Each Teams’ Flaws Leaves American League East as Wide Open as It’s Ever Been

“You know, Susan. You just CAN’T predict baseball!”

Yes, I just quoted notoriously obnoxious Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling, but it couldn’t be more true, especially this coming season.

It was a very eventful offseason for the American League East. The Toronto Blue Jaysmade the biggest splash, beefing up to try to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years when Joe Carter galloped around the bases to deliver Canada’s second consecutive World Championship.

The Boston Red Sox retooled in the winter following their worst season since 1965, and took the Blue Jays’ former manager, John Farrell, and brought him back to New England.

The Tampa Bay Rays, because of payroll restrictions, traded season veteran and gamer James Shields to Kansas City and brought Wil Myers, who appears to be the real deal and Tampa’s future franchise player (along with Evan Longoria)

The Baltimore Orioles did very little to improve on their return to relevance in 2012, but appear to fully trust their skipper Buck Showalter and their shut down bullpen and look to welcome young studs Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Manny Machado (already had his taste of the show last fall)

And then there’s the two-time reigning division champions, the New York Yankees. Needless to say, their offseason was a disaster, losing their temporary closer, catcher, and right fielder to free agency and worst of all, three stars who would have been in the Opening Day lineup.

The media is already writing the New York Yankees’ obituary, with the same tired “too old, too many injuries.” talking points. But reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Bronx Bombers remain a threat in the American League, despite their age and injuries.

For one, the three men who have carried this franchise to five championships in the last 18 years are all back and healthy. Mariano Rivera returns for his final ride after having his 2012 cut short. Andy Pettitte and his health will be key to the Yankees’ rotation. Most of all, as long as his ankle holds up, Derek Jeter should have no trouble being his usual consistent self, even at soon to be 39.

While the Yankees don’t have age or overall health on their side, their strong pitching led by CC Sabathia should be able to keep the Yankees competitive.

What helps the Yanks’ chances even more is the state of the AL East. Looking at things objectively, it’s very clear that each team have strengths to boast about and serious flaws that could turn fatal.

We already know about the Yankees. The current injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira leave them with their weakest lineup in almost 20 years. The concerns are very real and justified. But injuries will eventually heal and people will step up in this marathon of a baseball season.

Moreover, there aren’t many teams in the American League (besides Detroit) that can match their strength in pitching arms. As long as their top three of Sabathia, Pettitte, and Kuroda and their 8th-9th combo of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera are healthy, they could outpitch almost any team in the majors.

Meanwhile, their arch-nemeses the Boston Red Sox have completely retooled their lineup, adding the likes of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and David Ross. They also added Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan to be their 9th inning man. However, if Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz can’t rebound from a poor 2012 to lead a train-wreck of a rotation, they’ll easily miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

Returning for the upstart Orioles are long time O’s Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts. If they’re healthy it makes Baltimore’s offense better. Everyone from the second best bullpen in the AL and is still here. The only question is if they can still be successful in 1-run ballgames or in extra innings (29-9 and 16-2 records respectively) or if they don’t need to be. Plus, their rotation has to be better (21st in MLB and 9th in the AL in ERA) or last year may just be a fluke. But, Buck Showalter is the perfect skipper for this team and they will still be a thorn in the big dog’s side.

Tampa Bay, however, boasts arguably the best manager in the game, Joe Maddon. Despite losing James Shields, they still have possibly the best pitching staff in baseball. Fernando Rodney won’t have another season with an ERA under one, but he’s still automatic in the 9th along with the relievers before him. The reigning AL Cy Young recipient David Price leads a very young but immensely talented rotation. However, the offense lives and dies by Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Like the Yankees, their hitting could stall if both those guys get hurt.

Finally, we got the Toronto Blue Jays, who bulked up in the winter, adding Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle from the Miami Marlins, taking a low risk/high reward signing on previously suspended Melky Cabrera as a free agent, and adding NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. It seems the Blue Jays, like Red Sox were in 2011, are everybody’s pick to win it all this year.

However, if we learned anything from Boston in 2011 and Miami in 2012, it’s never to crown a champion before the games are played. Toronto was historically plagued by the injury bug last year, using TWELVE different starting pitchers. Over the span of five days, they lost three different starters to injuries: Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchinson.

Other prominent injuries included catcher JP Arencibia, Brett Lawrie, and of course, franchise player Jose Bautista. Even players they added have injury histories. Jose Reyes has a long one, especially relating to his legs, suffering injuries to his calf and hamstrings during his time in New York, so playing on the Toronto turf for 81 games has to be somewhat of a concern. Josh Johnson also had somewhat of an injury history in Florida, but he has looked stellar in Spring Training.

Although many media members have fallen in love with the Blue Jays and have completely counted out the Yankees (even the Red Sox), it’s clear the American League East is the most wide open perhaps ever. Every team has a good chance of winning it or taking a wild card berth, but any of them can go down in flames if their weaknesses are not overcome.

Currently Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees as the favorites to win the division and Tampa Bay to get a wild card berth: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/dc/

NYY: 91-71 (AL East champs)

TB: 87-75 (Wild Card berth)

BOS: 84-78

TOR: 84-78

BAL: 74-88

It’s pretty realistic to say the winner of the division may not win more than 95 games, because they will spend the whole summer beating each other up. Remember: It’s a marathon, so don’t be encouraged or discouraged by the Yankees’ CURRENT situation with their injuries. The Yankees are more than alive in this race.

The Yankees Need to Trust Their Young Guys Rather Than Pick from the Scrap Heap

This week’s acquisition of outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco, recently released from their respective squads, means only one thing concerning the New York Yankees’ attempts to improve their roster: They continue to be content with picking from the scrap heap rather than trust their young upcoming prospects.

In the offseason, starting catcher Russell Martin and starting right-fielder Nick Swisher, along with important bench pieces in Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez all left to free agency. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson have all suffered injuries and will be out for at least a month a half (In A-Rod’s case, perhaps the entire year).

With no ML starting catcher, no regular CF (Brett Gardner will switch from LF to the 8 spot for Grandy), and half the infield gone, the Yankees are in dire straits, and have done a very poor job to replace them.

With Teixeira and Rodriguez out, former Red Sox nemesis Kevin Youkilis looks to carry the load at 1B and 3B along with Eduardo Nunez and returning Yankee Juan Rivera. Rivera, Matt Diaz, and the recently signed Boesch and Ben Francisco will compete for the 4th outfielder spot. The catching duties will be apparently shared between Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

I don’t think I have to pull up any numbers to make it clear that all these guys are mediocre at best. Even Youkilis struggled in 2012 with both Sox squads, hitting .235 with a 99 OPS+, both career lows. Injury plagued for the last couple of years, he could still be a good pickup if healthy

But the fact is, the Yankees could have simply brought some youth up to help deal with these injuries rather than waste what little money they allowed themselves to spend this past winter.

Keith Law’s 2013 edition of his annual Top 100 prospects has four Yankees prospects on it. Catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and SladeHeathcott could have helped thew Yankees in their situation if they were ready but they all seem to be another year or two or perhaps three away.

As a result, the Yankees should look for help from less touted players, preferably right-handed to off-set the likes of Ichiro, Granderson, and Hafner. There are a few players in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that can easily fill the empty spots on the Yankees’ major league roster in the Bronx until those injured can return.

Of course, the favorite to help fill in the holes the Yankees have is Eduardo Nunez, a lazy choice at best. His 88 OPS+ is not nearly enough to make up for his atrocious, Chuck Knoblauchian defense. He is not the answer at 3rd base with both Teixeira and A-Rod out.

One guy that can fill some holes in both the OF and 3B is Ronnier Mustelier, a 28 year-old Cuban defector with just 150 games and 595 at-bats under his belt. However, he has impressed with the bat, putting up an impressive .324/.378/.488/.859 line with 18HRs, 96 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases in those games climbing up the system.

Despite being mediocre or average at best with the glove, Mustelier can still play both 3B and LF so Brett Gardner can take over CF with Ichiro in right. Mustelier’s hitting skills are too solid to ignore and more than deserves to come up with the big league club in April, especially over Nunez.

A guy who deserves a chance to become the Yankees’ 4th outfielder is Melky Mesa. Yes, that’s right. Another Melky. He is just 26 years old and broke out in 2012 at Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 23 HRs, slugging .480, stealing 22 bags, and putting up an .805 OPS. What you also get with him, however, is a long swing causing a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. Still, he’s still a very good option as a 4th OF and should win the job over the likes of Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera, Boesch, or Francisco.

Another OF option is Zolio Almonte, 23. He hit 21 HRs in 2012 at Trenton and could find his way to the big leagues if he continues to improve. He has played all three OF positions regularly, primarily right, but should have no problem if asked to play left at Yankee Stadium, as difficult as it surprisingly is. Like Mesa, however, he strikes out a lot and walks very sparingly.

If Nunez is not the answer (most likely) at utility infielder, another kid may be a better option. Corban Joseph, just 24 years old, could eventually find himself as the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees if Robinson Cano leaves after this year. Joseph has only played second in recent years but improved with the bat in 2012

If he ever (that is, EVER) gets healthy, a potential dark horse option for the infield eventually could be David Adams. He has been plagued by injury for much of his professional career, which caused a potential Yankee trade for Cliff Lee in 2010 to be killed.

Lastly, and most unlikely is the catcher’s spot. The job looks as if it will be shared by Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, two seriously flawed and poor at best MLB players. Both have absolutely no business starting for the New York Yankees. They’re both backups at ABSOLUTE BEST.

The best option the Yankees have right now at catcher may be another minor leaguer, 24 year old AustinRomine. He was limited last year due to back problems, and so far hasn’t fully developed his hitting skills. But between him, Cervelli and Stewart,Romine may be the best option defensively so it makes sense after dealing with Jorge Posada starting for over 14 years.

Sadly, it’s likely that these guys won’t be able to get a chance to help the club, as the Yankees continue to go with the scrap heap to fill their holes. Worked out sometimes and sometimes not. They basically replaced Johnny Damon with the likes of Randy Winn and Austin Kearns in 2010. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon somehow managed to replace Andy Pettitte’s production in 2011. Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez did well as bench pieces last two years.

But now should be the time for that to end, with the core players of this team aging and getting ready for the end of their careers (Mariano Rivera). The Yankees can’t plug their leaky holes with old vets anymore. There needs to be a youth movement in the organization, eventually centering around the likes of Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin.

But with those three two years away, less touted guys need to step in and help. Who knows? Ivan Nova did well in 2011 and David Phelps looks to make his mark now. There could be guys just like them waiting for their chance, but the Yanks need to give them it.