The Nats signed pitcher Kip Wells this week to a minor league deal. He’s the same Kip Wells that had a 3.28 ERA for Pittsburgh in 2003, with 147 Ks. 2002 was almost as good, and the young pitcher (25 in 2003) looked to have a bright career ahead of him. But he’s since fizzled out, and the Nats were about to sign him on the cheap. He gets $500K if he makes the major league squad. For him, this should be a chance to work in the bullpen, which is devoid of people. If they waste a starter spot on him, in lieu of youngsters, it would hopefully only be due to his resurgance in order to trade him to a contender. If he starts a game after the trade deadline, there must have been serious problems with getting members of the rotation out on the field.
As it is, I don’t expect him to do much but long relief. He can strike out some guys but he isn’t great at it. He walks too many to be an effective late inning guy. But as everyone is all up in arms about the bullpen, he does address that a bit. I am of the believe that the bullpen is an easily fixable problem that can be taken care of over the course of virtually any offseason with less than $10 M, but I am not against having someone competent there now. I’m just not panicking that the Nats are going to blow some games this year. They are, live with it, because there is no need to waste money on it now. Find out who is going to be a part of the bullpen and is young enough to stick around until you win. Anything else has nothing to do with the team’s future.
Can Wells Pitch?
Sure, he can pitch, just not that… well? Ah sorry. Here’s the deal. The guy has had some success in the past, and his biggest asset is that he is a ground ball pitcher. When he keeps the ball on the ground, he can succeed. But he’s got to keep from walking people. Even in his best seasons, his K/BB ratio was about 2:1. That, couple with a good GB/FB ratio above 1.5, and he has a chance to be effective. This is what he did in his early career, in Pittsburgh and Chicago.
But since about 2004, his last halfway decent year, which wasn’t even that decent, he has been walking way too many. In fact, since those 2001-2003 years, he’s never been able to combine that high GB/FB ratio (above 1.60) and a good K/BB ratio (close enough to 2 to just call it 2). I would say with him, if you are hoping to see good thing, see if he’s keeping the ball on the ground. If he can do that, and not walk more than 3.5 per 9 IP, he might be alright.