You have to pity Casper Wells. Since debuting in the major leagues in 2010, Wells has proven himself to be a solid major league player, managing a .246/.317/.435 line (110 OPS+) from 2010 to 2012 with 29 doubles, 25 homers, 80 RBI, and 6 stolen bases in 656 plate appearances with the Tigers and Mariners. His plate discipline is definitely a weakness as he has struck out 170 times against just 50 walks, but he’s a strong defensive outfielder with power who hits lefties well and is a deserving major league player, at least in a bench role. Yet since the end of spring training, Wells has been the most well-traveled player in baseball and not in a good way.
The Mariners designated Wells for assignment on March 31st and he was eventually claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays on April 10th. Just five days after acquiring him, though, the Jays placed Wells back on waivers just five days after acquiring him before he even got into a game with them. The Jays wound up trading Wells to the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations and Wells finally made his season debut on April 23rd for the A’s, going 0 for 1 after entering as a pinch-hitter. But after making just 5 plate appearances with Oakland, going 0 for 5, Wells was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for Yoennis Cespedes on the Athletics’ 25-man roster, and now he’s stuck in waiver limbo once again. Who will claim him next? Could the Rays be that team?
When Luke Scott went on the disabled list to begin the year, the Rays added the right-hand hitting Shelley Duncan to the roster in an attempt to cancel out the loss of Scott’s ability at the plate at least slightly by making up for a glut of lefty bats on the roster with a righty power bat. But whatever advantage Duncan gave the Rays in theory has not worked out as he has managed just a .182/.297/.309 (72 OPS+) with 1 double, 2 homers, and 6 RBI in 64 plate appearances. There is some reason for optimism. Duncan’s strikeout to walk ratio is 14-9 (1.56 to 1), much better than his 2.51 to 1 career mark. Duncan appears to be seeing the ball well and you have to hope that that will translate into more hits. Also, Duncan actually has a great .267/.333/.500 line in 33 PA’s versus righties compared to just .080/.258/.080 in 31 against lefties, which is downright bizarre considering he has the platoon advantage versus lefties, and he also has an 8-6 strikeout to walk ratio versus lefties, whihc once again should mean that he should be making better quality contact beginning soon. But all this business of how Duncan could do with more time, isn’t it irrelevant? Luke Scott is set to come back from his calf injury on Tuesday and the Rays will have to make a move to add him to their roster.
The Rays’ options are basically between designating Dunn for assignment and sending right-hander Brandon Gomes back to Triple-A. Gomes has a 3.72 ERA in 10 appearances, striking out 12 which walking just 1 although he has allowed 2 home runs. Despite the fact that the Rays would be at risk of losing Duncan to waivers should they designate him, it doesn’t make any sense for the Rays to keep him on the roster because the presence of Scott will get rid of most of his playing time. And if they do that, it would put their 40-man roster at only 39, giving them the opportunity to add one more player. Could they claim a player like Wells off waivers? Absolutely not because Wells is out of options and the Rays wouldn’t be able to send him down to Triple-A without exposing him to waivers himself. Wells is the type of player the Rays might have been interested in previously, but the circumstances aren’t right this time and Wells’ next destination will be elsewhere.
Casper Wells has to be hoping for the perfect opportunity: a team needed a right-hand hitting outfielder on their major league roster and not just for a short time. He’s a good baseball player and there’s a good chance that he will be traded or claimed once again, but he has to hope that this time he will finally get a chance. Using the Rays as an example shows just how unlikely that ideal opportunity is to arise.