TEMPE, Ariz. -- Vernon Wells' disappointing two-year stint with the Angels officially came to an end on Tuesday, when the 34-year-old outfielder passed his physical exam and suited up for the injury-riddled Yankees.
In exchange, the Angels received two low-level prospects in 21-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones (.228 with 15 RBIs in Class A last year) and 24-year-old lefty Kramer Sneed (0-7 with a 5.37 ERA).
But that was little more than a formality.
The real prize is the money the Angels will save.
The Yankees are picking up $13.9 million of the $42 million owed to Wells over the final two seasons of his contract, a source told MLB.com. It's more than expected for a guy who has posted a .222/.258/.409 slash line in 208 games over the past two seasons, especially now that he's a fifth outfielder on the Angels' depth chart -- behind Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Peter Bourjos and designated hitter Mark Trumbo.
"He's a good human being, a good family man," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Wells. "I can't say, if you were to ask Vernon, he would remember fondly the way he performed the last two years. But that's not necessarily the way he should be judged for the career that he's had. It didn't work out here; it doesn't mean it won't work out well at the next stop."
Prior to the trade, the Angels' payroll was at about $160 million, but their Competitive Balance Tax payroll -- which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season -- was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball.
New York will pay $11.5 million of the $21 million owed to Wells in 2013 and $2.4 million of the $21 million he's owed in '14. The Yankees are allocating more on the front end because World Baseball Classic officials are paying for Mark Teixeira's contract while he's on the disabled list -- about $6 million if he returns by mid-May -- and because their goal is to get under the CBT threshold by next year.
Dipoto wouldn't go into specifics on the financials, but did say the deal gives the Angels "a good deal of roster flexibility."
"At some point," the GM added, "there has to be an ability to create playing time and allow freedom for the players to do what they do."
That applies especially to Bourjos, who came in as the Angels' everyday center fielder but hardly played last year and was perhaps under pressure to produce early because of Wells' looming presence on the bench.
Dipoto refused to deal Bourjos at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and opted to instead part ways with Kendrys Morales after signing Hamilton in the offseason. Now the Wells trade, as an indirect result, has rid the Angels of their safety net for Bourjos, clearing the way for the 25-year-old speedster to play without looking over his shoulder.
"To afford him an opportunity to play is an easy decision to make as a team," Dipoto said. "Obviously, his ability to sustain that will rest on his ability to perform."
Wells suited up for the Yankees for their Tuesday night game against the Astros in Tampa, Fla., batting sixth, playing left field and wearing No. 56 (his customary No. 10 belongs to Phil Rizzuto and has already been retired).
Quietly, Wells said, he's always been somewhat of a Yankee fan. And when manager Mike Scioscia informed him on Sunday morning that a deal was in place, requiring only his approval because of the no-trade clause, Wells said he "tried not to smile too big in the office."
"I got goosebumps driving down the road a couple hours after they told me about the trade," Wells told the New York media. "I started thinking about the roll call. I won't be the guy that gets picked on by the bleachers this time, even though I enjoyed it. Now, it's going to be a little bit different hearing my name and being in pinstripes. It gives me chills now."
With the Blue Jays from 2002-10, Wells posted a .279/.330/.478 line, won three Gold Glove Awards and made three All-Star teams. The Angels acquired him on January 2011 -- sending Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to Toronto and paying $81 million of the $86 million left on his contract -- and Wells' numbers dropped considerably.
He hit 25 homers in 2011, but posted the lowest batting average (.218) and on-base percentage (.248) in the Majors among regulars. In the first two months of 2012, Wells batted .244 with six homers, then missed the next two months with thumb surgery. And with Trout producing, Wells hardly played the rest of the way.
Now, he figures to get plenty of playing time in New York, at least early on. Curtis Granderson is not expected to play until early May because of a fractured right forearm, and Rivera, considered a leading candidate for the right-handed outfield job, might be the regular first baseman with Teixeira out with a partially torn tendon in his right wrist.
The Angels, meanwhile, are left with a thinner bench. But Dipoto feels comfortable with the options he has in-house, especially considering he has two center fielders in the lineup (Bourjos and Trout) and a fourth outfielder at DH (Trumbo).
On his way out, Wells jokingly told Scioscia, "I'm just going to try to [Mike] Napoli you guys when I play you."
"I don't know if you all saw Napoli's numbers against the Angels," he said, "but they were pretty ugly. I'll just try to do the same thing."
Given the wiggle-room this deal provides, that's a risk Dipoto will take.
"You have to make decisions for your own club, based on forward progress," the GM said. "I feel like that's something we've done."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less