Wells joins Yankees as trade is completed
Outfielder says 'this is special' as he arrives in New York's spring clubhouse
TAMPA, Fla. -- Vernon Wells admitted to having a difficult time stifling a grin once he was told where he had been traded. After years of admiring the Yankees from afar, the veteran outfielder will have a chance to wear pinstripes this season.
Wells was officially acquired by the Yankees from the Angels on Tuesday, along with cash considerations. New York sent Minor Leaguers Exircardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed to the Halos in exchange for the 34-year-old Wells, who is expected to step in as the Yankees' Opening Day left fielder.
"Just the history and the names that are in this clubhouse, and the guys that are in this clubhouse -- this is special," Wells said. "It's obviously a huge commitment to put the pinstripes on, but this is baseball. This is the center of it all and this is a fun way for things to go toward the end of my career."
The Yankees did not waste any time finding a spot for Wells, welcoming him to camp by batting him sixth and sending him to left field for Tuesday's game against the Astros at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Wells went 0-for-3, but brought home a run with a sharp grounder in his third at-bat in a 4-4 tie.
"He's got a chance to play every day here in left field for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've seen him very good and used to face him 18 times a year [with the Blue Jays]. He brings some power, brings some speed, has been a good defender. He's got a good opportunity here."
The transaction required two days to complete and required the approval of the Commissioner's Office because the Angels are taking on the majority of the $42 million Wells is owed through the 2014 season. The Yankees' share of the contract will be approximately $13 million over the next two seasons.
According to The Associated Press, the Yankees will pay most of Wells' salary this year, a move designed to help the Angels to stay under the luxury-tax threshold of $178 million. The Angels will pay most of Wells' salary next year, when the Yankees hope to get under the threshold as it rises to $189 million.
The Yankees had some extra money to spend because part of Mark Teixeira's salary -- approximately $4 million per month -- is being covered by insurance from the World Baseball Classic while he is on the disabled list. Wells is expected to help solidify the Yankees' outfield while Curtis Granderson recovers from a fractured right forearm.
"I feel like I'm a kid again," Wells said. "I got goosebumps driving down the road a couple hours after they told me about the trade. I started thinking about the [Bleacher Creatures] roll call. I won't be the guy that gets picked on by the bleachers this time, even though I enjoyed it."
Wells struggled during his two seasons in Anaheim and was limited to part-time duty in 2012. He played in just 77 games, posting a .230/.279/.403 line with 11 home runs, and said that more regular playing time should help his performance.
"He's had some injury issues he's had to go through," Girardi said. "Sometimes your new surroundings are hard to get used to; I'm not sure. But we think he's a much better player than he's shown the last two years."
Wells is a .292 career hitter with 62 homers against left-handed pitching, and he compiled some impressive numbers this spring with the Angels, batting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs.
"My goal was just to get back to the basics and just put the barrel on the ball as many times as I can, shorten my swing and use the other field," Wells said. "I forgot what right field was like for a couple of years. You get caught up in hitting home runs and seeing how far you can hit them, and your swing changes."
The Halos received two lower-level Minor Leaguers in the deal. Cayones, 21, batted .228 with 15 RBIs in 47 games for Class A Staten Island last year after being acquired from the Pirates as part of the A.J. Burnett trade. Sneed, 24, was 0-7 with a 5.37 ERA in 31 games (four starts) at Class A Tampa.
In order to create room on the 40-man roster for Wells, the Yankees unconditionally released infielder David Adams.
Because it is so late in camp, Wells found that he was assigned a locker spot in "catcher's row" between Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. He was temporarily issued uniform No. 56, which had been previously used by bench coach Tony Pena.
"They said, 'We'll get you a little lower one when the season starts,'" Wells said. "But I'm going to wear Lawrence Taylor for a little bit."
Wells was a three-time American League All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner during his nine full seasons with the Blue Jays from 2002-10. The owner of 259 career home runs, Wells said that he is honored to have the chance to call the Bronx home.
"I remember the first time I played the Triple-A Yankees when I was 20 years old, and [Darryl] Strawberry was on that team," Wells said. "It was the first time that I actually got goosebumps playing against another team.
"From that day, I've quietly been a Yankees fan -- obviously not when we played against the Yankees, but every time or anytime the Yankees were in the playoffs and I was sitting at home, I was cheering for the Yankees. This is somewhat of a dream come true."