Caught up with Casper Wells in the visiting clubhouse today. He’s not in the Chicago White Sox lineup and hasn’t been very often since that team picked him up for cash considerations back on April 29.
In fact, Wells has started only four games in five weeks for the Chisox, including last Sunday when he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. There have been rumblings in baseball that changes might be made to the rules that give teams 10 days to make a move after designating a player for assignment and Wells is being cited as the prime example for why such alterations are needed.
He has been DFA three times since spring training, first by the Mariners, who went with Jason Bay to start the season. Then, Wells was claimed off waivers by Toronto on April 10 after the maximum DFA waiting period had expired. The Blue Jays kept Wells for five days before also designating him and then trading him to Oakland a week later — again, for cash.
Oakland kept him around for three games — he went 0-for-5 — then designated him as well on April 28. Fortunately for Wells, he was picked up by the White Sox just 24 hours later.
But between the Seattle DFA and Oakland getting him, Wells essentially went about four weeks without playing. He’s still working the rust off in many ways, trying to stay as sharp as he can in the batting cages despite having just 27 at-bats all year.
“I do everything I can in BP,” he said. “I mean, it’s tough not facing live pitching all the time. But it is what it is. You’ve got to have the mindset that you’re a starter every day and e ready just in case they need you. It’s like when I was here in Seattle, I wasn’t starting all the time and then they traded for me and I was playing every day all of a sudden. You just have to be ready.”
That’s a lesson Wells has carried with him this year. He wasn’t always quicj to capitalize on full-time playing chances with the Mariners in either 2011 or 2012. By this spring, he faced a do-or-die competition with Bay and was the odd man out.
“At the time, I think I was putting a little pressure on myself,” he said. “I realized that I might not be making the team at one point and I think I started trying to do it all every day and that wound up hurting me. I think if I focus more on what I can control, I can do more than what I’ve done.”
Wells was in limbo in Arizona after the Mariners DFA, then barely got to Toronto before being dumped again. He returned to the Seattle area, where he stayed with his girlfriend and her parents in Sammamish. At that point, he was reluctant to head back east to rejoin his family in upstate New York because he wasn’t in a comfortable state of mind about his career and didn’t want to rehash every detail of what he was going through.
He then went to Oakland to join his third team, spent a couple of days there and later headed on a road trip to Boston before being DFA two days later and acquired by Chicago right after that.
Wells says he has nothing but positive memories about his time in Seattle, though he wouldn’t recommend his DFA experience to anyone.
“It’s tough because I just wanted to play and I wasn’t playing anywhere,” he said.
Now, I should mention right here that Wells was collecting the MLB minimum salary of $490,000 all that time. Meaning, he’s being well-compensated for his constant moving around and inactivity.
When I half-jokingly suggested this to him, though, he shook his head.
“It isn’t about that for me,” he said. “You only have a limited career in this game and I want to make the most of it that I can.”
And so, he’ll really have to do just that the few chances he gets. Wells is the best defender in Chicago’s entire outfield and their best right-handed bat off the bench against left-handers.
But that still isn’t getting him much playing time.
“I’m a positive person and I’m trying to stay as upbeat about things as I can,” Wells said. “I’m here and I’ve got to be ready whenever they need me. That’s all I can do right now. I try not to put too much pressure on myself becasue that isn’t going to help.”