Vernon Wells hasn’t played much since coming off the disabled list because a) he’s been really bad since the beginning of last season, and b) the Angels have Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Torii Hunter in the outfield.
In what limited playing time he has gotten Wells is 0-for-15 with five strikeouts and zero walks, but manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t seem to be buying into the whole “he needs to play regularly to be productive” talk, telling Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:
You might not find a groove, but you have to have better at-bats. You might not get locked in, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to contribute. Vernon should be on some pitches and hit the ball hard even with limited playing time. … You have to be able to get it done. That’s the bottom line.
Scioscia is right, of course. Playing once or twice a week obviously isn’t ideal for any hitter, but Wells put himself in that position by performing horribly while getting everyday playing time last season and at the beginning of this season.
He’s hit .218 with a ghastly .249 on-base percentage and .405 slugging percentage in 685 plate appearances and 173 games for the Angels and the only reason they haven’t cut Wells already is that he’s being paid $21 million this season and is owed $21 million in 2013 and 2014.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.