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Casper Wells’ Situation Embarrassing For Baseball


Most who follow Detroit Tigers baseball are more than likely familiar with what Casper Wells has been through so far this season. We’ve covered Wells’ journey here several times, and have even advocated trading for the one time Tiger during the off-season as a solution to the Tigers LF right handed batting platoon solution. There were quite a few supporters around these parts for that idea as Wells is a productive power hitter against lefty pitching, and on top of that, he plays the corner outfield positions at an above average to plus level.

That obviously didn’t come to fruition, however, there are still supporters for obtaining Wells. With Matt Tuiasosopo doing the job in the platoon role right now, there isn’t a need for Wells on the Tigers right now. Still, I believe there has to be a roster somewhere that could use Casper’s services.

September 28, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners left fielder Casper Wells (33) during the sixth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It was to many people’s surprise when the Seattle Mariners designated Wells for assignment at the end of spring training in favor of Jason Bay. You see, Jason Bay is terrible, and leave it to Seattle to not realize that and still go with him over Wells. It was to nobody’s surprise that Wells was claimed shortly thereafter by the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto then turned around and designated Wells in an attempt to put him in their minor league system, only to get a deal worked out with Oakland for Wells’ services. Yesterday, the Oakland A’s designated Wells once again for assignment after getting just five at-bats and appearing in three games. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if Wells gets claimed again, meaning he will be on his fourth team in just over a month.

I realize that Casper Wells is a role player, but he is a good one. In 227 career games, with one full season’s worth of plate appearances, Wells has an fWAR of 3.8. His career OPS is .745, his wOBA is .326, and his wRC+ is 107, all solid numbers for a role player, if not a little bit above average. His platoon splits greatly favor him when he faces left handed pitching, but if used properly, Wells can provide quite a great deal to a ball club.

Given that Wells does have value, it has made him a hot commodity on the waiver wire, and while being wanted is probably nice, I imagine playing baseball…anywhere…at this point would suit Wells just fine. It is just downright unfair to a guy that should probably be on a 25 man roster, let alone a 40 man roster, that he is still in limbo after a full month into the season.

Baseball needs to fix it’s waiver system.

I don’t know how much time Bud Selig has left. He said he plans to retire after the 2014 season, but fixing situations like the one Wells is currently mired in should be a priority. Casper Wells is essentially being blocked from pursuing his career at this point, and it could be easily avoided by simply making the waiver claims mean something.

Part of the problem in Wells’ situation is timing. If he had gotten released earlier by Seattle, he likely would’ve gotten placed on a roster before the season. Now that rosters are set, it is proving more difficult for teams to find room. Or teams are making waiver claims just to try and slip players through to add them to their minor league system. The Toronto Blue Jays, one of the teams that claimed Wells, have developed a habit of making claims only to designate the player they claimed later on to try and sneak them through waivers. With Wells, they were actually able to get cash for him. It was a smart move by the Jays. They are just taking advantage of a poorly set up system.

Essentially, the waiver system is set up to where a player could endlessly end up in limbo depending on how many teams claim him and want to sneak him through waivers. Meanwhile, the player sits unused, having to move from city to city, while they await to find out if they are actually going to get to play.

Last year, Bud Selig and major league baseball instituted a draft slotting system. It was essentially an attack on lower spending teams who either used the draft pick compensation system or the draft itself as a means to collect cheap talent. And teams like the Blue Jays were taking advantage with great frequency. The waiver claim process is just the new way for teams like the Jays to try and take advantage, and it’s time for Bud Selig to step in again.

Enough is enough.

There has to be a better way. One, you could just limit the number of waiver claims a team can make per year. Currently, it appears teams can claim as many as they want. By limiting the number of claims, MLB could assure that claims being made by clubs aren’t of the frivolous type. While it would still go on, teams would be much more likely to actually consider the fit the player has on the roster.

Second, if limiting the number of claims isn’t your cup of tea, MLB could treat waiver claims somewhat like a Rule 5 pick. If a team claims a guy, they have to keep them on the 40 man roster for a certain period of time. Let’s say a month. If the team places a they claimed on waivers before a month is up there should be a penalty, a buyout essentially where they pay the player for their trouble. Make the buyout large enough that a team would think twice before releasing players they’ve claimed.

I don’t claim to know if these suggestions would work, or if they are even feasible, given that a union is involved in these matters. What I do know is, Casper Wells is getting screwed. That might not be the most eloquent way for me to put it, but it is a fitting description of what is going on. Wells is but a pawn in a game of waiver wire manipulation and I imagine it has to be terribly frustrating at this point.

Bud Selig, if you do one more thing before you leave the Commissioner’s office, fix this ridiculous and frivolous waiver activity.

Because it’s the right thing to do.