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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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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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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

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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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 

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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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 

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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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

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