Vernon Wells’ Free Agent Value

In my Angels offseason in review article, I suggested that Vernon Wells might have gotten four years and $52MM at best if he had been a free agent this offseason.  Since the Angels essentially took on a four-year, $75.75MM commitment to Wells in the trade with the Blue Jays, they overpaid by at least $20MM – even if we leave Mike Napoli's positive trade value out of the equation.

I decided to conduct an informal poll on this topic.  I asked an assortment of team executives and agents what Wells would have gotten as a free agent this winter.  Three executives and three agents responded.  Here's what they said:

  • "At age 32 coming off a big year — but also realizing his previous three years were littered with injuries and inconsistency — I would think Wells would be in line for three-year, $36 million type deal.  He isn't as hot a name as Jayson Werth or even Jason Bay the year before but he still had a good year and has a performance history."
  • "Wells had a strong bounceback year last year and the market was WEAK for guys who can play center field…Wells would have commanded six years at $15-17MM a year for a contract anywhere from $90-102MM over the life of the contract."
  • "$50MM over four years from the Angels.  He had a nice year last year, plus I think the Angels got pretty desperate when everybody said no to them."
  • "I'd say Wells would have gotten a deal short of what Jason Bay received last year [four years, $66MM]. He’s still a decent enough player — but I can't see him doing any better than about one-half of the total package of what Werth received."
  • "I could see him being a $10-12 mil guy for maybe four years.  If you put on blinders to the contract, he is a 25 home run guy…inconsistent for sure, but still above average production."
  • "In the ballpark of three years, $40-45MM or four years, $50-55MM.  I assume Wells would probably have signed after Werth and Crawford.  Obviously same market as Beltre, but not sure the value is the same there."

I hadn't expected a consensus, but four years and $52MM does seem to be a fair estimate.  The Angels overpaid by about $24MM to get Wells, plus whatever trade value Napoli had.