So, we're really going to do this whole "Vernon Wells returns" thing, aren't we?
Honestly, it makes my head hurt just thinking about having to write this, but since the Angels are insisting on continuing with this charade, I feel obligated to play along.
Yes, that's right, Vernon Wells is just days away from embarking on a rehab stint, barring any setbacks (I'm assuming "being Vernon Wells" does not count as a setback, though it probably should). That means inside of two weeks, the most-maligned Angel since the last time Kevin Jepsen appeared in a game will be assuming the role of...
Wait? What role is he going to occupy? Does anyone know? Seriously. That wasn't rhetorical. What the hell is the plan for Wells? The Angels have been suspiciously quiet about their intentions to integrate (or not) Vernon back into the Angels lineup. That is both a promising development and a bowel-quivering one because all options are on the table ranging from him being released to him being handed a starting spot again.
So what could/would/should the Halos do?
The Nuclear Option
The title sounds like it is bad, but it would probably be the most popular option amongst the fans. Did I say "probably?" I meant "definitely." I was just trying to be diplomatic. Wells had a season-plus to show what he could do and he did essentially nothing other than cost Tony Reagins his job and draw the ire of an entire fan base. The Angels haven't had him for the last several weeks and haven't missed him one iota. In fact, one could argue that they have taken off since he landed on the disabled list. Just because it would make the fans happy doesn't mean it is the best option though. So long as Mike Scioscia promises under pain of death not to use Wells as anything other than the last man off the bench, it isn't like it is going to hurt to keep Big Vern around. Besides, if the Halos are going to pay him, they might as well try and get a little something out of him.
The Worst Nightmare Option
Now for the flip side. In theory, the Angels, and by the Angels I mean veteran-loving Mike Scioscia, could buck conventional wisdom and give Vernon Wells his starting spot in left field back. This would likely come at the expense of Kendrys Morales with Mark Trumbo shifting to DH. This would also likely come with me developing a stomach ulcer. Unfortunately, it can't be ruled out because Scioscia is the same guy who saw fit to let Wells start the season as the full-time left fielder at the expense of Mike Trout starting the year in Triple-A. It certainly doesn't help that Wells was showing feint signs of life before he got hurt, posting a .273/.333/.412 slash line in the month of May right before he got hurt. With Jerry Dipoto around and seemingly willing to use his influence behind the scenes to get Scioscia to stop doing dumb things (like not playing Trumbo everyday), this option is hopefully incredibly unlikely.
The Reserve Option
The most sensible thing to do is just let Wells ride the bench. The Angels have scarcely used their final position player on their bench this season, be it Andrew Romine, Ryan Langerhans or Kole Calhoun. Whoever it is, they barely play. There is no reason Wells can't fill that role. Scioscia can give him a start or two or three per month to spell Morales and Hunter. Other than that, Wells' job will be to wait around and hope he can get promoted to fourth outfielder in the event of somebody higher on the depth chart getting injured. The only risk with this is that Wells could take a page out of Bobby Abreu's playbook and start bitching and moaning about his "unjust" relegation to the pine. If he starts making waves and upsetting the clubhouse chemistry, he'll force the Angels to explore other options for him. While that "worked" for Abreu, it seems highly unlikely that Vernon would stoop to that level. If there is one nice thing that can be said about Wells it is that he has been an endless source of optimism and hope in the face of his struggles. It is hard to believe that he has it in him to become a clubhouse cancer.
The Solomon Option
Let's split the baby. Wells may take a greatly reduced role like a man, but that doesn't mean he will like it. Nor might the club like having their incredibly hefty investment just sitting around collecting dust. While I'm sure Jerry Dipoto and Arte Moreno are familiar with the basic economic concept of a sunk cost, there is a natural human instinct to want to "get your money's worth." So if they want to play Wells more than once in a blue moon, they'll have to find some kind of limited role for him. The only conceivable role for him would be as a platoon-mate of sorts for Kendrys Morales. Wells has been better against righties this season, but in his career his wOBA is 26 points higher against southpaws. Even during his decrepit 2011 campaign, he still managed a perfectly acceptable .851 OPS against lefties. That could make him nice complement to Morales who has been less effective against lefties his entire career. To top it off, Wells could play left with Trumbo DHing on those days, thus providing a defensive boost as well. Granted, Mike Scioscia could be employing this same arrangement with Peter Bourjos instead of Wells, but it is an option.
The Showcase Option
Let's go ahead and pretend this is an actual option even though we all know my thoughts on the likelihood of Wells being showcased for a trade. The theory goes that if Wells looks good in a week of rehab games, he could then have a week to be showcased in the bigs before the trade deadline. That seems like an awfully short amount of time for any team to be impressed by a guy who has been one of the worst playings in baseball for the last season-plus. However, thanks to Vernon having one of the worst contracts in the history of history, he is a surefire candidate to pass through waivers in August, so the Angels could give him regular or semi-regular playing time for a week or two in August in hopes that some desperate team will take Wells and a teeny tiny bit of his salary off their hands with maybe a nothing prospect thrown in just for show. Even if this highly improbable scenario were to unfold, keep in mind that just a few weeks ago Wells said himself that he would be unlikely to waive his no-trade clause. So, there's that.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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