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Vernon Wells, a happy Yankee, will try to 'Napoli' the Angels

March 26, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels' Vernon Wells, center, celebrates his two-run home run with Howie Kendrick during an exhibition game against San Diego.
Angels' Vernon Wells, center, celebrates his two-run home run with… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels finalized their trade of Vernon Wells to the New York Yankees on Tuesday after the veteran outfielder passed a physical and the commissioner’s office approved the cash being exchanged in the deal.

The Angels will pay $28.1 million of the remaining $42 million on Wells’ contract, which runs through 2014, meaning the Yankees will pick up $13.9 million of the deal. The Yankees sent a pair of Class-A prospects, pitcher Kramer Sneed and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, to the Angels.

Wells was a huge disappointment during his two years in Anaheim, when he hit .222 with 36 home runs and 95 runs batted in while being paid $21 million a year. He agreed Sunday morning to waive his no-trade clause, and by that afternoon, his Tempe Diablo Stadium locker was empty and he had said his goodbyes.

“It’s like I’m a kid again,” Wells told Yankees writers in Tampa. “I got goosebumps after they told me about the trade. … I remember the first time I played the triple-A Yankees when I was 20 years old and Darryl Strawberry was on that team. It was the first time I actually got goose bumps playing against another team.

“From that day, I’ve quietly been a Yankees fan. Obviously not when we played against the Yankees, but every time or any time the Yankees were in the playoffs and I was sitting at home, I was cheering the Yankees. This is somewhat of a dream come true.”

Wells then brought up a possible nightmare scenario for the Angels and their fans when he relayed to writers what he told Manager Mike Scioscia before leaving Tempe Sunday.

“I told him, ‘I’m just going to try to Napoli you guys when I play you,’ ” Wells said. “I don’t know if you all saw Napoli’s numbers against the Angels, but they were pretty ugly. I’ll just try to do the same thing.”

Catcher Mike Napoli was one of the players the Angels traded to Toronto for Wells before the 2011 season. Napoli was then flipped to the Texas Rangers, where he hit .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs—and .356 with six homers in 16 games against the Angels—to help the Rangers reach the World Series.

“You have to make decisions for your own club and based on forward progress,” Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. “And I feel like that’s something we’ve done.”

Wells was little more than a drain on the Angels’ payroll for two years, but savings from the trade will reduce the Angels’ opening-day payroll from $160 million to $148.5 million this year. The Yankees will pay $11.5 million of Wells’ contract in 2013 and $2.4 million of it in 2014.

The Angels’ payroll for luxury-tax purposes — which is based on the average annual value of contracts and includes salaries and benefits, including awards and incentives, for the 40-man roster — was reduced from $178 million to about $172 million.

That will leave the Angels some wiggle room under the $178-million luxury-tax threshold to add a high-salaried player before the July 31 trade deadline without incurring a penalty. The Angels closed 2012 with a $176.7-million luxury-tax payroll, according to the Associated Press.

“It gave us a good deal of roster flexibility,” Dipoto said. “We learned a lesson last year with often times too crowded a house.”

The Angels broke camp in 2012 with five outfielders — Wells, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, Bobby Abreu and Mark Trumbo — and had future star Mike Trout at triple-A.

 “At some point there has to be an ability to create playing time and allow freedom for the players to do what they do,” Dipoto said. “I think that’s the greatest advantage this trade brings us.”

Wells had a solid spring, hitting .361 (13 for 36) with four homers and 11 RBIs, but with the Angels committed to a starting outfield of Trout, Josh Hamilton and Bourjos and Trumbo at designated hitter, Wells essentially would have been a fifth outfielder and was expendable.

The trade also removes any temptation Manager Mike Scioscia might have to turn to Wells if Bourjos, a speedy center fielder Dipoto wants to give every chance to succeed, gets off to a slow start.

Wells’ departure would seem to ease some pressure on Bourjos, who can now open the season without looking over his shoulder in case he struggles.

“Peter is a terrific makeup guy, a great teammate, a hard worker, and I feel he has the opportunity to evolve into a better-than-average major league center fielder and a complete player,” Dipoto said.

“When you get an extreme defender like Pete with above-average arm strength and great speed, one who also has the ability to deliver double-digit numbers in each of the power categories, that’s not easy to find.

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