Published November 20, 2014
Three big-name outfielders found their new homes on a busy night in baseball.
Vernon Wells was traded Friday from Toronto to the Los Angeles Angels, giving them the big bat they wanted all winter. Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon were on the move, too — they're about to become teammates again, this time in Tampa Bay.
"Moving forward and starting this new chapter is going to be a blast," the 32-year-old Wells said on a conference call.
The All-Star center fielder 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."
Ramirez and Damon, both free agents, agreed to one-year contracts with the Rays, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreements were subject to physicals and had not been announced.
Damon gets $5.25 million and the chance to earn $750,000 in bonuses based on attendance, the person said. Ramirez gets $2 million.
The moves mark the first major additions for the AL East champions after a devastating offseason in which one prominent player after another left cost-cutting Tampa Bay.
Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano signed elsewhere as free agents. Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett were traded. A strong bullpen was decimated by the losses of Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls.
Both colorful characters are well past their primes, but if nothing else they could at least provide an attraction at Tropicana Field for a Rays team that drew just 1.86 million fans last year.
The Angels are trying to regain their grip on the AL West. After winning three straight division titles and five of six, they slid to 80-82 last season. They had hoped to add Crawford or third baseman Adrian Beltre, but missed out on both expensive free agents.
Wells should help. The three-time All-Star 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 a 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.
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 injured Kendry 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 and 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 38-year-old Ramirez began last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, then was claimed on waivers late in the summer by the Chicago White Sox. He hit a combined .298 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in the final season of a $45 million, two-year contract he signed with the Dodgers.
Hampered by injuries, the longtime slugger had 320 plate appearances in 90 games. Still a power threat, he likely will be a designated hitter for the Rays.
Ramirez's career took a downward turn in May 2009 when he was suspended 50 games for using a banned female fertility drug.
The 12-time All-Star has 555 home runs, good for 14th on the career list, and 1,830 RBIs, which ranks 18th. He also helped Boston win the 2007 World Series, then was traded to the Dodgers the following season.
The 37-year-old Damon spent last season with Detroit, batting .271 with eight homers and 51 RBIs, mostly as a DH. Weak-armed in left field and no longer the stolen base threat he once was, he remains very durable — the two-time All-Star played 145 games last year and hit 36 doubles in 539 at-bats.
Damon, from nearby Orlando, can pad his paycheck by making a difference at the gate for the Rays. He would get $150,000 each for 1.75 million, 1.85 million, 1.95 million, 2.05 million and 2.15 million in home attendance.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum and AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.