Published January 21, 2011
The Los Angeles Angels acquired All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells from Toronto on Friday night, giving them the big bat they wanted to add this winter.
The Blue Jays shipped their high-priced fixture to the Angels for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera in one of baseball's biggest trades this offseason.
"Moving forward and starting this new chapter is going to be a blast," the 32-year-old Wells said on a conference call.
Wells has four years and $86 million left on the $126 million, seven-year contract he signed with Toronto.
Neither general manager, Tony Reagins of the Angels nor Alex Anthopoulos of the Blue Jays, would specifically say whether any money was included in the trade to offset Wells' salary. Instead, both GMs danced around the question, simply saying it was announced as a 2-for-1 swap.
Reagins said Wells' contract was "tolerable" and that he got approval from upper management.
Wells waived his full no-trade clause to join the Angels.
"The financial implications were certainly a large component," Anthopoulos said. "There's no question going forward this will give us flexibility."
After winning three straight AL West titles and five of six, the Angels slid to 80-82 last season. They had hoped to add either outfielder Carl Crawford or third baseman Adrian Beltre, but missed out on both expensive free agents.
Reagins said he took a patient approach this winter, and Anthopoulos said the deal "accelerated" in the last two weeks.
Wells is a three-time All-Star who hit .273 with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs last season. He made his major league debut with Toronto in 1999 and quickly became one of baseball's most promising players.
"Vernon is a player we have admired for some time," Reagins said in an earlier statement. "He is a tremendous person and the type of player that will impact our club immediately, both on offense and defense."
Nagged by injuries, Wells dipped in 2009 before a bounce-back season. A three-time Gold Glove winner, he's looking forward to playing on real grass.
Whether he stays in center remains to be seen. The Angels moved perennial Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to right last season to make room for speedy Peter Bourjos.
Whichever way they line up, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he could have the best defensive outfield since the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s.
The Angels have depth at catcher and should get slugger Kendry Morales back next season after he missed most of 2010 with a broken leg.
The Blue Jays, out of the playoffs since winning their second straight World Series title in 1993, had been shopping Wells in an effort to free up some payroll. Anthopoulos thanked Wells for his time in Toronto, adding, "he was very sentimental when we spoke about this."
The 29-year-old Napoli hit .238 with 26 homers and 68 RBIs last season, often filling in at first base for Morales.
Napoli ranked among the AL leaders with one home run per 17.4 at-bats. He has hit at least 20 homers in three straight years. He could help give Toronto time to break in rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League last season.
Napoli had filed for salary arbitration, asking for $6.1 million while the Angels offered $5.3 million.
The 32-year-old Rivera hit .252 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs last season. He is due to make $5.25 million this year.
The trade also could give Toronto room to offer a long-term contract to major league home run champion Jose Bautista. He's also in arbitration and asked for $10.5 million, with the Blue Jays offering $7.6 million.
Toronto went 85-77 last season in the tough AL East. The Blue Jays traded pitcher Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee during the winter meetings, their main offseason move until moving Wells. They've also added center fielder Rajai Davis and relievers Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Carlos Villanueva.