The Angels desperately wanted Vernon Wells to find his place in Anaheim. In the two seasons he spent with them, he was given every opportunity to succeed, to pay off on the $86 million they owed him after the January 2011 trade with the Blue Jays.
But Wells never fit. He hit .218 in his first season and .230 last year. He never showed any sort of consistency at the plate despite flashes of power and super defense in left field.
On Tuesday, the Angels finalized their trade of Vernon Wells to the New York Yankees after the veteran outfielder passed his physical.
So the trade sending Wells to the Yankees can only be viewed as a win-win, even though the Angels will have to absorb a considerable portion of the $42 million he is owed over the next two seasons. Rosenthal tweeted that the Angels will have to pick up in the range of $13 million of the $42 million Wells is due.
The deal eases some of the pressure on center fielder Peter Bourjos, who otherwise would have worried about losing his job if he didn’t produce in the early stages of the season.
It also eases some of the financial burden on the Angels, whose $160-million payroll ranks among the highest in baseball. And it rids the Angels of a player they have spent considerable time trying to deal without success.
Last season, Wells was the starter in left field but hit just .220 with four home runs and eight RBIs in his first 91 at-bats. When he went down with a torn ligament in his right thumb in late May, he was beginning to show signs of recovery, but it was too late. He didn’t return until July 28, and by then the Angels had an established outfield group of Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo.
Wells, who turned 34 in December, received occasional spot starts from manager Mike Scioscia, but without a chance to find his rhythm at the plate, he hit only five homers in August and September.
To his credit, he never complained. He played the role of reserve as well as it can be played, cheerleading in the dugout, working hard in batting practice and keeping a positive frame of mind when he was asked about his reduced role.
This spring, he was batting .361 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 36 at-bats, but his status was unlikely to rise above a backup. Scioscia’s outfield is set, with Mike Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Josh Hamilton in right. Trumbo, the team’s designated hitter, will also play some outfield.
All of that was obvious to Wells, whose playing time would be limited to pinch hitting and spot starting.
On Sunday, while intricacies of the deal were still being worked out, he told reporters in Tempe, Ariz.: “We’ve had some talks, and some were very difficult. I have some good friends on this team, some great teammates. Goodbyes are never easy.”
They aren’t, but in this case, it was the best thing – for Wells and for the Angels.