Following Mariners fans like Jeff Sullivan, Dave Cameron and the new Lookout Landing guys on Twitter, I get the idea that "Casper Wells" is less of a ballplayer and more of a martyr; the victim of the kind of decision-making that led the Mariners to be where they are now.
Wells himself isn't particularly noteworthy as a ballplayer, but it's the circumstances that make him a cause célèbre among the Seattle Internet set.
First of all, he came to the Mariners from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade -- a trade that the Tigers won many times over. The Mariners were already hard-pressed to wring value from their return (Wells, Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin), and they ended up DFA'ing Wells and letting him go to Toronto for nothing. So that stings.
Worse yet, Wells has a defined set of skills (respectable power, good defense, ability to hit lefties), and he was "forced out" by veterans who offer a vaguer concept of value:
- Jason Bay (who can kinda hit, but can't play defense and has missed lots of time)
- Raul Ibanez (who can't hit and really can't play defense)
Those were the Opening Day backups for an incredibly injury-prone starting outfield, and sure enough, the day Wells went to Toronto, Michael Saunders got hurt. Now, Ibanez is hitting .161/.217/.304, and is "Taking Pride In His Defense" to new heights with plays like this:
(Man, if this Wells trade only serves to make me aware of that second GIF, it's already paid for itself and then some. I keep watching. I keep laughing.)
Apparently, Eric Wedge preferred Ibanez and Bay (who is carrying his weight so far) because he liked the cut of their veteran jibs, while Wells fell out of favor for reasons nobody has pinpointed. But then Wedge had to hold a closed-door meeting last week to yell at his players, which is something veteran leadership should have taken care of, one would think.
Listening to a podcast with Sullivan and Matthew Carruth, they went on pretty profane rants about Wedge's need to prove that he's making an effort when that horse was already out of the barn. A sample:
What (Wedge) needed to do was not be such a terrible and sh*tty evaluator of talent so this team might still have people like Casper Wells on it. Instead of having a stupid, pissy grudge match because, [falsetto]"OooOOOoooh, I don't think he's very good because he got vertigo"[/falsetto] after getting hit in the f---ing head, you ---hole! Jesus Christ!
It seems a little odd to get that worked up in a lather about a fourth outfielder, and Seattle Times beat writer Geoff Baker called out fans for their collective overreaction. But in a post intended to defuse the furor, it happened to explain previous roster machinations that wasted Wells' time in Seattle.
Wells never did me wrong the time he was here and I truly hope he revives his career in Toronto and can go on and have a solid MLB stint for years to come. But he didn’t do that in time to have that career in Seattle.
His time ran out when his minor league options ran out. Now, if you want to jump all over the Mariners for that, be my guest. The Mariners burned Wells’s final option last year in order to keep Chone Figgins when they had no real intent of playing him. That was the wrong move and I think I and every commenter out there both online and in print and on the ariwaves had the same thought. The Mariners actually united the blogosphere over that issue — something I never imagined possible.
I can see both sides of it. In a few months or a few years, the amount of keyboard-crushing over a spare outfielder on a losing team will likely seem silly. At the same time, when a team doesn't stop compounding its mistakes, something's going to be the last straw, even if it's trivial. Wedge and Jack Zduriencik are on the hot seat for a reason.
So that's how Wells' season started with a DFA. And since then, well, his season still hasn't started.
The Toronto Blue Jays claimed him from Seattle on April 10 because the Blue Jays basically claim every player without any real idea of how he might be used. Sure enough, they didn't have a use for him, and they DFA'd him five days later. By the time Oakland acquired him from Toronto, the Mariners and Blue Jays basically sat on Wells for three whole weeks.
Although the arrangement was ostensibly temporary, the A's actually played him. He made one start, appeared in two other games, and collected five plate appearances. Then Oakland DFA'd him when Yoenis Cespedes returned from the DL, and that seems fair.
Now it's the White Sox's turn, and it's funny that he's replacing Blake Tekotte, because they basically arrived to the 25-man roster in the same shape. A leg injury limited Tekotte to two plate appearances in Charlotte before he was needed to fill a spot in Chicago. I guess you could say Wells has seen 150 percent more action, and if you apply no further thought, perhaps you can trick yourself into thinking he's raring to go.
We haven't yet heard from Rick Hahn or Robin Ventura about their plans for Wells, but the Sox could offer him a legitimate shot at hanging around for a while. It doesn't make much sense to carry both Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks, and Brandon Short is the only right-handed outfielder in Charlotte, so Wells' bench spot might not be an ejection seat for once.
It's possible he could end up justifying the decision made by three other teams this year. Some guys peak at 26. But it's worth noting that even though 2012 was a down year for Wells, he hit lefties (.267/.364/.527) even better than his career line (.261/.345/.482), and the Sox could really use that one dimension.
Then again, the Sox might not want to cut him, anyway. As I said before, Saunders got hurt on the day Wells was sent to Toronto. And now on the same night the A's traded him to Chicago, they're battling the Angels in the bottom of the 17th as I finish this post. Coco Crisp left the game with a hamstring injury, and Chris Young strained a quad.
The ghost jokes are a natural byproduct of Wells' name, but now he's apparently earning them by haunting those who wronged him.