It has already been said a lot as a joke, but the line that it isn’t like the Angels are going to get worse now that Vernon Wells is on the disabled list with a groin injury is actually kind of true.
Forgive me for taking WAR (Wins Above Replacement) so literally, but seeing how Vernon has been worth a -0.3 WAR, he is by statistical definition replaceable. Actually, if you want to get technical, the Angels not only don’t get worse, they might actually get better if they fill Wells’ spot with someone who is merely replacement-level (and that ain’t very good).
More Mark Trumbo? He is playing much better than Wells, that’s for sure, can’t complain about him getting more ABs, even if he might be a trainwreck in the outfield.
Move Bobby Abreu to left? Speaking of awful defense. Moving Abreu out of the DH still means finding another replacement in the lineup, though it could help get Callaspo, Izturis, Kendrick and Aybar in the same lineup on a regular basis, which has been a quality arrangement thus far this season.
Alexi Amarista? Hard to say since he is so new, but it isn’t like the little man is filling very big shoes (Amarista stature jokes will never get old, and I argue that they might actually somehow make the team better, I’m not sure how, but I believe it in my heart of hearts).
Reggie Willits? Yeah, I know, but over the course of his career he has contributed at replacement level or at least close to it. At least he won’t hurt the defense.
Chris Pettit or Jeremy Moore? Now we are entering “they could be worse” territory, but both have a bit of upside, so why not give them a look?
Mike Trout? OK, calm down. Rein in that imagination, because this isn’t an option and Scioscia even said as much in not so many words.
Nonetheless, you see what I’m going for here. The options to replace Vernon are, how can I put this nicely? Uninspiring? Mildly depressing? Indicative of the Angels lack of organization depth in the high minors? A textbook example of why you shouldn’t carry three catchers? Wait! I got it-
Not very good, but still good enough to be no worse than Wells was before the injury and possibly even a little bit better. What they aren’t, however, is real high on potential for quick and significant improvement.
When we talk about replacing Wells, we talk about replacing him in the short-term where, yes, they Angels will improve. The long-term, yeah, not so much.
You know which potential left fielder has the most potential to improve the Angel offense and defense at the same time? I’ll give you one guess. Go ahead, don’t be shy. You can do it.
That’s right! Vernon Wells.
What we’ve seen of Vernon this year hardly suggests that he’s an offensive breakout waiting to happen, but some of us still harbor big hope for Big Vern.
You could dip Reggie Willits in a lake full of HGH and he isn’t going to hit 30 homers.
No amount of taking extra fielding practice is going to make Mark Trumbo or Bobby Abreu good outfielders, much less not defensive liabilities.
Alexi Amarista isn’t going to make any All-Star teams (Well, that’s not true, I hear he is doing well in the voting for the Smurf Baseball League).
Wells is the only guy on the Angel roster who can do all of those things and that is why he was acquired in that ill-fated trade in the first place. We can bitch about how stupid that move was in the first place, but what’s done is done. But it is ironically due to that trade that the Angels are going to have to dance with the girl that brung ‘em, and hope for a speedy recovery from Wells since they now have no very little financial flexibility to replace his bat with another power bat in the lineup. And if you don’t think they need another power bat, just take a look at the most likely lineup without Wells:
Did anyone else start crying when they saw the middle of the order? Just imagine how much worse it is going to look on the night’s Amarista plays instead of Trumbo and Mathis plays instead of Conger.
This is why losing Wells, once you get past the joke about his start to the year, is such a bad thing. It may not have been happening quickly, but Wells was starting to round into form and give the Halos that sorely needed thump in the middle of the order (small sample size and all, but his ISO in May was .273).
But now, it is back to the drawing board for old Vern. Back to trying too hard to prove his worth. Back to dragging down the middle of the order, whenever it is he returns. Back to the fans pulling their hair out waiting for Wells to figure it out.