Breaking news! Tell 'em, Susan:
#Athletics announce they gave acquired OF Casper Wells for cash.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) April 22, 2013
(She meant "have acquired") (...and here is the SJ Mercury News story)
That's right, Oakland has added a new player, and it's a player whom I've always sort of liked. You may remember Wells from his time with Seattle, but here's a complete run-down on who he is and where he's been:
It was a cold and windy night in November of 1984 when Mrs. Wells arrived at Grand Rapids Hospital to give birth to...wait, that's too far back. Let's fast forward a bit. Wells was drafted in the 14th round by Detroit in 2005 and made steady progress throughout the minors. In 2010, he got his first taste of the bigs and posted a .901 OPS in 99 Major League PA's. He came back down to Earth a bit in 2011, but was still an above-average hitter; during that season, he was sent to Seattle in the Fister-Furbush trade (yes, that is a real thing). His decline continued in 2012, as injuries limited his playing time and both his OPS+ and wRC+ clocked in at 98 (that's slightly below-average). He lost a roster battle with Jason Bay this spring and, since he was out of options, the Mariners had to pass him through waivers. Toronto picked him up, but for some reason they still went with Jose Bautista in their starting outfield and quickly designated Wells for assignment. He doesn't appear to have played at all this year.
So who is Casper Wells? He's a 28-year-old outfielder who bats and throws right-handed. He is a strong defender who can play all three outfield positions and has clocked in well at all three in small-sample defensive metrics (scouting reports agree with the stats in this case). He has a strong arm and has racked up 19 outfield assists in just 206 career games. The bulk of his time has come in right field, but he can shift to center in a pinch in the same way that Reddick can shift to center - that is, it's fine as long as that's just your backup plan.
While he's a good defender, Wells is a limited hitter. His main tool appears to be power; his Isolated Power was .242 in over 2000 minor-league PA's. His plate discipline is not great, though. In 2012, he walked in 8.2% of his PA's (about league-average), and he has shown steady improvement in that statistic over the last 3 seasons. However, he also struck out in 25.3% of his PA's, which is pretty bad (average is around 18.5%). He doesn't hit for a very high average, so between that and an average-at-best walk rate his OBP is unlikely to go much higher than .310. Wells is a good baserunner, but isn't a base-stealer.
Overall, Wells is an all-around player who doesn't do anything poorly. I would say that his strikeout rate is poor, but with an optimistic view of the world you could argue that he's just really good at striking out. Despite limited playing time and low batting averages, Wells is still favored by WAR; both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs suggest that he's been worth more than a full win in each of his three MLB seasons, and that his career stands around 4 WAR in only 224 career games.
What role will Wells play in Oakland? So far, the A's have moved Scott Sizemore to the 60-day DL to make room for him on the 40-man roster, and they're going to send Michael Taylor back to AAA when Wells physically arrives in the clubhouse. After that, it's tough to say. Yoenis Cespedes is expected to start a brief rehab assignment on Friday and could potentially be activated on Sunday, so Wells may only be here for a week. He's out of options, so if he gets squeezed out of the 25-man roster then he's probably gone. In the meantime, he fits perfectly into Oakland's roster scheme. He's versatile defensively, he's got some pop, and he's got something that should get A's fans a bit excited: platoon splits!
|Wells vs LHP, career (313 PA's): .264/.349/.489, 10.2 BB%, 26.2 K%, 132 wRC+|
|Wells vs RHP, career (343 PA's): .230/.287/.388, 5.2 BB%, 25.7 K%, 88 wRC+|
Those are pretty small sample sizes, so that could just be random variance. However, it's worth taking a flyer on the guy and trying him out in a platoon role. In the right hands, those splits could be exploited very effectively, and Bob Melvin has those hands. Oakland faces lefties Jon Lester on Wednesday and Wei-Yin Chen on Saturday, so there's a good chance that we could see Wells starting those games (they also face Felix Doubront this afternoon, but I'm assuming that Wells won't be here in time for that game).
All in all? This is a good move to add a solid bench player. He may not be here long, but I've been intrigued by Wells ever since I saw him homer in the Coliseum a couple years ago. I'd much rather have Wells than Taylor, and Shane Peterson doesn't fit the job description because Oakland was looking for a right-handed hitter. I like this move, and I'm excited to see Wells in an A's uniform.
P.S. Here is a plea from Lookout Landing for Wells to start in Seattle's outfield in 2013.