Toronto stuck with Wells, so Wells stuck in center

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Lost in Vernon Wells’ steep decline offensively is that he also looked significantly worse defensively this season, but new general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made it clear that the Blue Jays won’t be moving him from center field any time soon:

We don’t have any plans of that at all. We consider him a mainstay in center field. If Vernon was older, it might be more of a concern. He’s still a young guy and he also made some tremendous plays as well. There’s times he didn’t make great plays, but he also made a lot of tremendous plays. It’s just to the point that we expect it, so if he doesn’t come up with a ball or comes close, those are the ones that stick out like a sore thumb, because it’s rare.

That’s a nice way to spin it, of course, but not particularly close to reality. Wells was once a strong defensive center fielder, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 20.6 runs above average from 2004 to 2006. However, in the three seasons since then he’s rated 33.6 runs below average, including -18.2 runs in 1,357 innings this season. Naturally, when MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian asked Anthopoulos about Wells’ declining UZR totals the GM downplayed the stats:

We do some defensive analysis from a statistical standpoint, but those are certainly not fullproof at all. It’s just one tool. We certainly use our eyes as well. Some of the things we look at are just jumps and guys getting ready between each pitch. Those are little things that can make all the difference in the world. It’s not foot speed. It’s not routes. It’s not instincts. It might just be getting ready between each pitch. A split second one way or the other can really impact things.

Uh huh. When the Blue Jays signed Wells he was coming off a season in which he hit .303/.357/.542 with 32 homers and 77 total extra-base hits while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field. Now he’s coming off a season in which he hit .260/.311/.400 with just 15 homers, showed that he should probably be playing right field, and turns 31 years old next week. Luckily for the Blue Jays they only have to pay him another $107 million over the next five seasons.

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.