Yankees on the verge of acquiring Vernon Wells from Angels
TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees may not have not seen much of Vernon Wells over the last few seasons, but as they eye an Opening Day lineup that suddenly seems lacking in star power, they’re ready to give him much more of a look.
The Yankees and Angels are closing in on a deal that will fit the 34-year-old outfielder for pinstripes, sources have confirmed to MLB.com, and the trade could be completed as soon as Sunday evening.
The transaction will involve the Angels taking on a large majority of the $42 million Wells is owed through the 2014 season, which is a matter still under discussion between the clubs. The Yankees are expected to only surrender a low-level Minor League player in exchange.
“I’m not at liberty to have any conversations publicly about it yet, but I know what you’re asking,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “There’s a lot of I’s to dot and T’s to cross to get to a finish line when you’re doing something.”
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that the two sides are talking, but declined to go into detail.
Wells has a full no-trade clause, but was coming into the season as the Angels’ fifth outfielder behind Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Josh Hamilton and designated hitter Mark Trumbo.
He grinned and said, “Possibly,” when reporters in Tempe, Ariz. asked him if he had approved a trade.
“It’d be a huge change,” Wells said of joining the Yankees. “I don’t think it’s ever easy saying goodbye, but at the same time, if this were to happen, it’s a good group of guys over there. I’ll just get to know a new family.”
The Yankees suddenly find themselves in a position to offer Wells a healthy amount of at-bats, at least early in the upcoming season. Curtis Granderson is not expected to play until early May because of a fractured right forearm, and the Yankees have been looking for a right-handed outfield bat for some time.
Juan Rivera, considered a leading contender for that right-handed outfield job, might now be the regular first baseman with Mark Teixeira lost to a strained right forearm until at least the middle of May.
The Yankees signed Ben Francisco to a Minor League deal after he was cut loose by the Indians this month, but Francisco – as well as Brennan Boesch, a lefty-hitting outfielder who was released by the Tigers – can be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by the Yankees.
Wells has enjoyed a nice spring with the Angels, batting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs, and several Yankees seemed excited about the prospect of his addition.
“He’s a veteran, a leader, a good guy who’s got power and can play the outfield real well,” Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis said. “I’ve always respected Vernon as a player. It’d be great. I never complain about getting guys on a team. I always find good things guys can do on a team. If he were to come here, I bet he’d do a good job helping us try to win.”
Teixeira took to Twitter to voice his support of the trade, writing, “Vernon Wells joining the #Yankees? Great guy who will be a big addition to our club.”
Wells, who plans to retire after the 2014 season, had been accepting of his limited role this spring with the Angels and said he still has something to offer a big league lineup.
“My offseason was geared towards getting back to what I’m capable of doing,” Wells said Sunday. “That was my goal coming into spring — the work I put in the offseason, the work I’ve been doing in Spring Training was to get my swing back to where it’s supposed to be. That’s short and through the ball. When I can do that, I can still put up the numbers that I’m supposed to be putting up.”
With the Blue Jays from 2002-10, Wells posted a .279/.330/.478 slash line, won three Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. But he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success since coming to Anaheim in a January 2011 deal that saw the Angels send Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to Toronto while picking up $81 million of the $86 million owed to Wells.
Wells hit 25 homers in 2011, but posted the lowest batting average (.218) and on-base percentage (.248) in the Majors. He batted .244 with six homers in the first two months of 2012, then missed the next two months with thumb surgery and, with Trout producing, hardly played the rest of the way.
“We haven’t seen him a lot the last two years, just because he was hurt some, and we don’t see the Los Angeles Angels much,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know when he was in our division, he was a very good player. A very good player.”