Vernon Wells could help in leftfield and on payroll

Los Angeles Angels left fielder Vernon Wells makes Los Angeles Angels left fielder Vernon Wells makes a catch for an out on a ball hit by the Kansas City Royals' Humberto Quintero in the third inning of a spring training game in Tempe, Ariz. Photo Credit: AP, 2012

advertisement | advertise on newsday

TAMPA, Fla. -- The once- considered-untradeable Vernon Wells now has been dealt twice in 26 months.

And the outfielder, expected to start in leftfield for the Yankees once their deal with the Angels goes through, could end up helping his newest team in more ways than one.

Wells, who signed a seven-year, $126-million extension with the Blue Jays in December 2007, is owed $42 million over the next two seasons, with the Yankees expected to pay $13 million to $14 million of that total, a source said Monday.

Additionally, the structure of how that is paid out to Wells could help the Yankees in their quest to get their payroll under $189 million to avoid a stiff luxury-tax penalty, the source said.

It is a rather convoluted formula and the source did not spell it out in detail, other than to say that Wells' 2014 salary should have a limited impact on that season's payroll and could even earn the Yankees a credit. "Yes, that's possible,'' the source said.

The deal was not yet official as of Monday night, as Wells was scheduled to arrive in Tampa from Arizona to take his physical.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Although the acquisition of Wells doesn't alleviate most Yankees' fans dread about the upcoming season, there's reason to believe the 34-year-old can provide some much-needed outfield help.

"I don't think he's done,'' one AL scout said. "Not to make too much of the spring, but he was swinging the bat pretty well. Could see him thriving in that environment'' of low to no expectations.

Wells hit .361 with a .390 on-base percentage, four homers and 11 RBIs in 14 exhibition games with the Angels before being traded. The Angels dealt for Wells, then owed $89 million on his deal, in January 2011.

Even if the three-time Gold Glove winner -- though as a centerfielder -- struggles at the plate, he should provide a better defensive option than the Yankees have seen in spring training. They didn't see enough from one of their prospects, Zoilo Almonte, and recently released veteran Matt Diaz.

Juan Rivera, brought in to compete for an outfield spot with Diaz, has hit but is more likely to see time at first base in the absence of Mark Teixeira. Brennan Boesch, signed after being released by the Tigers, has been unimpressive and is sidelined with a rib-cage injury.

"Of what's available,'' one NL talent evaluator said of Wells' acquisition, "it's hard to knock it. Especially with the money breakdown.''

Curtis Granderson is expected to return in early May, and when that occurs, Wells will become the fourth outfielder. As a righthanded hitter, he still could see time against certain lefthanders and as the designated hitter.

The Yankees' primary DH is the lefthanded-hitting Travis Hafner.

Though he's largely been a disappointment since signing the extension with the Blue Jays, Wells has hit lefthanders reasonably well and contributed 31 homers in 2010 and 25 in 2011. In his career, he has hit .292 against lefthanders and .266 against righthanders.

Wells hit .230 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs in 77 games in an injury-shortened 2012.

You also may be interested in: