Was Vernon Wells a sign-stealer?

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The Angels ignored the huge red flag in Vernon Wells’ home-road splits when they took on $81 million of $86 million he was still owed by the Blue Jays in a January trade.  It seems pretty safe to say they regret it now.

Still, without additional information, writing off Wells’ 2010 splits as a fluke probably was the right call.  Wells hit .321/.363/.628 at Rogers Centre last year, compared to .227/.301/.407 on the road.  It was just a one-year thing for him, though.

Wells’ home/road splits by OPS:

2006: 1.038 home, .762 road
2007: .700 home, .712 road
2008: .849 home, .830 road
2009: .633 home, .779 road
2010: .991 home, .708 road

Wells also had the huge home/road split in 2006, but from 2007-09, he was actually better on the road than he was at Rogers Centre.  While Wells was grossly overpaid regardless, one year of bad splits wasn’t enough to signal that a collapse was imminent.

So, presented on it’s own, 2010 looks like just another fluke.  But what if Wells’ strong season was almost entirely the result of him often knowing what pitches were coming in his home games?  His 2011 performance suggests it may have been the case.  Wells has hit just .210/.243/.379 this season, making him a big liability even before his huge $23 million salary gets taken into account.

And the Angels are on the hook another $63 million through 2014.  If this is the real Wells and if he can’t bounce back at age 33 next year, then that’s a ton of money the Angels have simply flushed down the drain.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.