Ferguson: Wells's return to Blue Jays would be a low risk

Scott Ferguson,
1/13/2014 10:42:07 AM
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For a fleeting moment on Friday when I saw that the New York Yankees had designated Vernon Wells for assignment, I wondered if the Blue Jays would take him back or even want him back. After all, the Jays are looking for a right-hand hitting platoon partner for Adam Lind. Wells fits the bill in that department, but outside of a solid six weeks or so sto tart with the Yankees last season, his numbers over the past two years with the Los Angeles Angels and in New York have been in serious decline.

Consider this, though: Last season Wells hit .281 against the Jays with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. At Rogers Centre, he batted .357 with two homers and six runs batted in. Granted, both are extremely small sample sizes, but the pride he showed facing his original team has to count for something.

Then, there is, of course, the economics. Of the $21 mill. Wells is owed in the final year of his contract, the Angels are responsible for $18.6 mill. It's possible, then, that after the Yankees' share is factored in, a team could get Vernon Wells for $500,000 for this season. He has said in the recent past, he will retire after this contract is up, so there isn't a major risk involved. In fact, it's the same situation the Blue Jays found themselves in with lefty reliever Darren Oliver last season and now Oliver has retired. The Blue Jays are hoping that after back surgery Melky Cabrera will return to form and play left field, but Wells would offer insurance in left and, as mentioned earlier, could split the DH duties with Adam Lind.

I don't know that it will happen, and actually doubt that it will, but there is another angle to consider and that's the Blue Jays' history of bringing back veterans over the years. I haven't done an in depth study on this, but I doubt any team in baseball has brought back more franchise veterans than the Blue Jays have. Just consider some of the names.

Alfredo Griffin, the Blue Jays shortstop in the late '70s and early '80s, was traded away to the Oakland Athletics for would-be closer Bill Caudill. Griffin was brought back as a free agent and collected World Series rings with the club in '92 and '93 as a utility infielder.

Tony Fernandez, who succeeded Griffin at short, was dealt to the San Diego Padres along with Fred McGriff in the franchise changing-deal for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. Fernandez was brought back in a trade in time to play for the World Series winners in 1993.

Dave Stieb, the franchise's first ace, was out of the game for four years when the Jays brought him back for a comeback in 1998 that lasted through the end of the season. Stieb went 1-2 with a couple of saves at age 40 in a swing role, before ultimately retiring for a second and final time.

Pat Borders, stalwart catcher and MVP of the '92 World Series, returned as a free agent for a brief stint in 1999 and actually added one more homer to his Blue Jays resume.

And there were others, Pat Hentgen returned as a pitcher and later as a coach. Lloyd Moseby returned as a coach, as did Pete Walker, who pitched for the team and is now the pitching coach.

It goes even higher up the ladder than that. Cito Gaston, who managed the Jays to both of their World Series titles and then was fired late in the 1997 season, came back as a hitting coach under Jim Fregosi and then managed the team again for two-plus seasons. John Gibbons, too, has managed the team twice and Paul Beeston has been with the Blue Jays on two separate occasions sandwiched around a brief time working in the commisioner's office.

All of this doesn't even include the rollercoaster journeys of lefty David Wells and the "Beeg Mon" Rico Carty, who both played for the Jays multiple times

The Jays have already brought back one storied veteran this season in Roy Halladay, who signed with the club for a day in the off-season so he could officially retire with the team that drafted him and helped forge his career.

I don't know what, if anything, Vernon Wells has left, but at worst he is a very cheap risk and, at best, another classy Blue Jays veteran who would look good ending his career in Toronto.

Players can begin filing for arbitration on Tuesday. The Blue Jays have three players eligible in lefty reliever Brett Cecil, swing starter Esmil Rogers and outfielder Colby Rasmus. Rasmus's situation is the most interesting, since he is going into his final season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. GM Alex Anthopoulos appears willing to let this one play off well into the season before deciding on whether or not to re-sign Rasmus to a long-term deal. Based on what the Blue Jays have done the last two seasons, that is probably the right decision.

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