Angels trade for Vernon Wells

Updated: January 24, 2011, 9:36 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Los Angeles Angels, shut out in several bids to acquire free-agent hitters this winter, have acquired three-time All-Star Vernon Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera.

"Vernon is a player we have admired for some time," Angels general manager Tony 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."

Wells was in Southern California for his physical Friday, according to a major league source, and agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

Napoli led the Angels with 26 home runs last year, but the team has been shopping Napoli for months in part because of his inconsistent defense. The Angels' desire to move him accelerated when Napoli asked for $6.1 million in an arbitration filing last week. The Angels were beaten out in efforts to land Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre earlier this winter, but acquiring Wells shows that their willingness to spend money this offseason is in earnest. Wells is owed $86 million over the next four seasons -- $23 million next season and $21 million in each of the following three seasons.

The Blue Jays had been trying for years to free themselves from the financial weight of Wells' contract. Friday's move could make it easier for the Blue Jays to extend the contract of slugger Jose Bautista.

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopolous said Anaheim was one of the few places to which Wells would have waived his no-trade clause.

"It made sense for them and it certainly made sense for us the way this deal was structured," Anthopolous said.

Wells, a resident of Texas, has played all 12 of his major league seasons in Toronto and had a comeback season in 2010, batting .273 with 31 home runs, a .515 slugging percentage and 88 RBIs.

Trading Napoli and Rivera, whose 2011 salary is $5.25 million, frees up at least $10.55 million, helping defray some of Wells' hefty salary, and gives the Angels the flexibility to add more offense. The Angels slipped from No. 2 in runs scored in 2009 to No. 19 last season.

Wells, a three-time Gold Glove winner, likely will play center field for the Angels. Torii Hunter will continue to play right.

The team has had discussions involving leadoff man Scott Podsednik, an addition that would allow the Angels to use Bobby Abreu at designated hitter. The Angels prefer that route to using Abreu, who turns 37 in March, in the outfield on a daily basis.

Rookie Peter Bourjos could be ticketed for Triple-A or be in a competition with Reggie Willits this spring for a job as the team's fourth outfielder.

If the Angels can't land Podsednik, they could go after a designated hitter. They have been linked to ex-Angel Vladimir Guerrero.

Trading away Napoli also clears the path for one of the Angels' top prospects, catcher Hank Conger, who batted .300 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs at Triple-A Salt Lake last season.

The Angels figure to split up catching duties between Conger and veterans Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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