Vernon Wells: Joining the Yankees is 'somewhat of a dream come true'
“(The Angels) called me in the office and said, ‘We have a deal in place; it’s just a matter of your approval,’” Wells said Tuesday afternoon in his first meeting with the New York media. “Then they told me the team, and I tried not to smile too big in the office.”
The Yankees and Angels made that swap official Tuesday, with the Halos also agreeing to cover about two-thirds of the $42 million left on the outfielder’s seven-year, $126 million deal and taking a pair of prospects back in return.
As that contract has progressed, Wells has seen his share of detractors, especially given the struggles he has faced of late; Wells hit just .218 in 131 games in 2011, then posted a .230-11-29 line in a 2012 season that saw him miss two months with a thumb injury and play in just 77 games.
“Even my last year in Toronto, I think I hit 30 homers, but I still hit .260 something,” Wells recalled of his 2010, which saw him post a .273-31-88 line in his last season with the Blue Jays. “From that point, it just gradually got worse.”
Wells admitted earlier in the spring that he knew he would be a fourth outfielder/part-time DH at best in Anaheim this year, but still had the motivation to get back to the Vernon Wells of old in case an opportunity opened elsewhere.
“Coming into spring training and throughout the offseason, my goal was just to get back to the basics and just put the barrel on the ball as many times as I can,” Wells said. “Shorten my swing and use the other field. 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. I was able to take some time this offseason, look at a lot of video from when I was younger and just spraying the ball all over the field. Once we got into spring training, that was my goal, and so far, so good. (I’m) getting back to just being short and quick, and balls are still jumping off my bat and my hands are still as quick as they were when I was younger.”
That approach has led to a resurgence, as Wells posted a .361 average and 1.112 OPS while bashing four homers for the Angels in Cactus League play.
“These last three weeks have been a matter of trying to stay inside the ball and hit the ball hard and still hit a few homers. It’s just a byproduct of taking good swings and keeping my hands short,” he said. “You live, and you learn. Now I’ve just got to be consistent with this approach. When I am consistent with this approach, I’m a much better player than I have been the last couple of years.”
Now, he has that opportunity, brought to a Yankees team that needed to find a right-handed hitting outfielder even before Curtis Granderson was lost for the first month-plus of the season with a fractured forearm – and a team that Wells admitted has always been in his heart.
“I remember the first time I played the Triple-A Yankees when I was 20 years old, and (Darryl) Strawberry was on that team. It was the first time that I actually got goose bumps playing against another team,” Wells said. “From that day, I’ve quietly been a Yankees fan. Obviously not when we played against the Yankees, but every time or any time 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.”
After a week or so to get acclimated, Wells will likely become an everyday player at first for the Yankees, seeing time in either left or right field. Whether or not his resurgence continues remains to be seen, and once Granderson returns, Wells’ situation becomes a bit more unclear; no matter what happens, though, the veteran plans on enjoying the ride.
“You always respect the game and whatever happens, happens,” Wells said. “But enjoy your time in the uniform, and I’m going to enjoy my time in this uniform.”
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