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Trading Vernon Wells was no small luxury for Angels

Person familiar with the situation says that part of the incentive to send the high-priced outfielder to the Yankees was to help put the Angels under the $178-million luxury tax threshold.

March 26, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times

TEMPE, Ariz. — — The Angels' trade of Vernon Wells to the New York Yankees, which is expected to be finalized Tuesday, will have financial implications beyond the $13 million or so the Angels will save over the next two years by shipping the veteran outfielder to the Bronx.

A major incentive for dealing Wells, according to a person familiar with the team's thinking but not authorized to speak publicly, is to give the Angels enough financial relief to finish the season under the $178-million luxury tax threshold.

The Angels will pay about $29 million of the remaining $42 million of Wells' contract, meaning the Yankees will pay about $13 million. Wells is scheduled to undergo a physical Tuesday, and the commissioner's office is expected to approve the deal afterward.

With the departure of Wells, the Angels' opening-day payroll for players on the 25-man roster will be about $153.5 million.

But for luxury-tax purposes, the payroll figure includes salaries and benefits, including awards and incentives, for the 40-man roster at the end of the year. The Angels' figure last year was $176.7 million, according to the Associated Press.

The Wells trade will bring the Angels' luxury-tax payroll to about $172 million. That will provide some wiggle room under the threshold to add a high-salaried player before the July 31 trade deadline.

The penalty for first-time offenders of the competitive-balance tax is 17.5% of the amount over $178 million. Those rates rise to 30% for second-time offenders and 40% for third-time offenders, but the luxury tax threshold will rise to $189-million from 2014 to 2016.

Bullpen battle

Left-hander Mitch Stetter, a longshot to make the team because of a back injury that sidelined him for much of the spring, enhanced his chances by retiring cleanup batter Adam Dunn on a fly to right field and striking out Paul Konerko to end the sixth inning of the Angels' 11-5 exhibition victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday.

Stetter and right-hander David Carpenter are battling for the final bullpen spot, but the sidearm-slinging Stetter might be a more attractive option during the season-opening trip to Cincinnati and Texas.

The Reds have three left-handed hitters — Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo — and the Rangers have four — David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski, Mitch Moreland and Leonys Martin. Stetter has held left-handers to a .194 average in 202 big league plate appearances.

"He's a guy lefties don't seem to see very well," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He brings a situational component that could add depth to the bullpen."

Reserve clause

Peter Bourjos, who can play center field without feeling pressured by Wells, isn't the only beneficiary of the Wells trade, which virtually assures outfielder Kole Calhoun will make the team as a reserve.

"You don't want to win a job like that by default, but it opened some doors, you know?" said Calhoun, a strong defender with a solid arm. "There's no guarantees in this game. You still have to win a job, but it opens up another spot."

On target

Tommy Hanson, who left his last start after three innings and 45 pitches because of a tight triceps, threw six innings and 88 pitches, 60 for strikes, in an intrasquad game, putting him back on track to open in the rotation.

"I felt better toward the end once my pitch count got up," said Hanson, who gave up three runs and seven hits, struck out nine and walked none. "I'll be ready."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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