After establishing himself as one the AL's better outfielders from 2003 to 2006, Vernon Wells failed to produce at the dish in 2007 and again in 2009. Injuries almost certainly played a part in his rough '09 campaign, but with two off years sandwiching a productive 2008 season, there were lots of questions to be answered in 2010.
Fairly or unfairly for Wells, he will spend the rest of his time in Toronto with the burden of his massive contract hanging over his head day in and day out. That contract will be paying Wells over twenty million a season for the next four seasons. Needless to say, quite a bit of production will be expected from a player making such a lofty sum of money. That's understandable, but at the same time it's not as if Wells is writing his own checks either.
2010 showed us that Wells can still be an above average player. Whether he can keep that going through 2014 is a question to try and answer at a later time. For now the Jays fans and front office alike can relax a bit with a solid, healthy season in the books. Wells played in 157 games and made 646 trips to the plate, topping 150 games played for the second season in a row and sixth time in nine seasons since 2002.
Wells stormed out of the gate in April hitting .337 with eight homers and a monthly season high wOBA of .468. After April however, his production dropped in each of the next three months. Wells walk rate dropped from 7.9 percent of his plate appearances in April down to just 5.8 percent in June. His batting average dipped down to .240 and .236 in June and July. Only his continued power output allowed him to post above average wOBAs in May and June with isolated power marks of .222 and .250.
The decline hit rock bottom in July, a month that saw Wells go deep just once with a slash line of .236/.289/.348. At that point it was hard to have any optimism that Wells could get his act back together. August was slightly better, he still only hit .248 but he managed a .198 ISO thanks to three homers and nine doubles.
In September, Wells could do no wrong at the plate. He drew a walk in 11.8 percent of his trips to the plate, the third highest monthly mark of his career, and had more home runs, eight, than strikeouts, seven. He also tossed in a .298 batting average, .386 on-base percentage and had a .288 ISO.
The strong start and finish left Wells with some impressive end of season numbers. He topped 30 homers and 40 doubles for the third time in the same season finishing with 31 homers and 44 doubles. His 7.7 percent walk rate was almost a full point higher than his career average and the best rate since 2006. The .242 isolated power was the best mark of his career. His final wOBA of .362 was well above the league average mark of .321.
According to the defensive metrics, Wells had his best defensive season since 2007. Those metrics also suggest he might be better off moving to an outfield corner spot. Whether or not the metrics are accurate, Wells is definitely not getting any younger and a move to a corner spot would be nothing more than the usual fate of centerfielders reaching their mid-thirties. If he produces like he did in 2010 his batting numbers would be fine for a corner fielder and are excellent for a centerfielder in the meantime.
The Jays will have Wells on the payroll for the next four years and he doesn't figure to produce twenty million dollars a year of value but at this point two or three more seasons like 2010 will do just fine as the team tries to build a winner around him and the other veterans.