TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees were on the verge of acquiring former All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells from the Angels to plug one of the gaping holes in their injury-plagued lineup, a source confirmed Sunday night.
Wells, 34, comes with diminished skills and a bloated contract that has two years remaining. But the Yankees are expected to pick up only a reported $13 million of the $42 million he has left on his deal.
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With Curtis Granderson out until May with a broken forearm, the Yankees needed another outfielder, and Wells is expected to play leftfield until Granderson returns. And with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter all expected to begin the season on the disabled list, the Yankees need power bats badly.
The deal was believed to be awaiting only approval from the Commissioner's Office because of the amount of money the Angels would be sending to the Yankees. Wells has a no-trade clause but is believed to have agreed to waive it. His locker at the Angels' spring training facility in Tempe, Ariz., was cleaned out Sunday and he told reporters there that he is "excited'' to be coming to the Bronx.
"There are still approvals that need to be done, some loopholes that have to be jumped through,'' Wells said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I haven't talked to anybody with the Yankees.''
It was not known what the Yankees would be sending to Los Angeles in return for Wells, but usually deals of this type -- in which one team is looking to shed salary -- involve a low-level prospect.
"I'm not at liberty to have any conversations publicly about it yet, but I know what you're asking,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "There's a lot of I's to dot and T's to cross to get to a finish line when you're doing something.''
Wells once was one of the best centerfielders in baseball. He finished eighth in the AL MVP voting in 2003, when he hit .317 with 33 homers and 117 RBIs for the Blue Jays. He won Gold Glove awards from 2004-06 and signed a seven-year, $126-million contract before the 2008 season that the Blue Jays quickly came to regret.
Wells was traded to the Angels in January 2011 and hit 25 home runs, but he no longer played center and hit only .218 with an on-base percentage of .248. He missed two months last season after injuring his thumb and barely played after his return because of the emergence of super-rookie Mike Trout. In 77 games, Wells hit .230 with a .279 OBP, 11 homers and 29 RBIs.
Wells, who began his major-league career in 1999, has hit 257 homers in the past 11 years. He is hitting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs in spring training this year.
The Yankees have been looking for a third outfielder to start along with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki; the Angels are stacked with outfielders after signing Josh Hamilton in the offseason. Gardner, Ichiro and Brennan Boesch are lefthanded hitters; Wells gives the Yankees a righthanded-hitting option. He also brings a stellar reputation as a clubhouse presence.
"He's a veteran, a leader, a good guy who has power and can play the outfield real well,'' Kevin Youkilis said. "I've always respected Vernon as a player. I bet he'd do a good job helping us try to win.''