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Today in Blue Jay History: The Vernon Wells Trade

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Wells was sent packing on January 21st, 2011.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
Vernon Wells, once a franchise pillar, saw his career quickly diminish following a trade to the Angels.
Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images

On this day in 2011, the Blue Jays sent lifelong Blue Jay Vernon Wells to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.

Wells, picked by the Blue Jays 5th overall in the 1997 amateur draft, came up with the team in 1999, playing in 24 games. His first full season at the major league level was 2002, when he played in 159 games with 23 home runs and a batting average of .275. Earning an all-star game berth in 2003, Wells lead the league in plate appearances, hits and doubles while receiving the Silver Slugger award for centre field.

Wells won three consecutive Gold Glove awards from 2004 to 2006, and signed a $126M, heavily back loaded seven year extension during the 2006-2007 offseason. Between 2007 and 2010, Wells played in 572 games, amassing 82 home runs and a batting average of .267.

Of course, on January 21st, 2011, the Angels acquired Wells and sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera packing for Toronto. Given the size of Wells’ impending contract, the move was (and still is) viewed only as a salary dump. Here’s what Yahoo! Sports journalist David Brown had to say about the move:

So why, exactly, did then-Angels general manager Tony Reagins make the deal? Scott Miller of CBS Sports wrote on the troubled nature of the Los Angeles front office in 2013.

In 2011, Wells first season with the Angels, he hit 25 home runs with a dismal .218 batting average, the lowest batting average of players with 512 plate appearances or more that season. 2012 didn’t go much better, where Wells missed two months due to thumb surgery. He ended up playing just 77 games, before being traded to the New York Yankees at the end of spring training in 2013. Similar to the original Toronto trade, the move was viewed exclusively as a salary dump for the Angels.

Wells would end up playing 130 games with the Yankees in 2013, hitting .233 with 11 home runs. Late in the 2013-2014 offseason, Wells was designated for assignment by the Yankees, later to be released. September 29th, 2013 marked his final major league game.


On the other side of the trade, Toronto acquired both Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera from the Angels.

Napoli, just four days removed from his trade from the Angels, was flipped to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Frank Francisco. Francisco, playing with the Blue Jays for one season, collected a 3.55 ERA in 54 games after a short stint on the disabled list to start the year. Francisco returned with the Blue Jays on a minor league deal in June of 2014, but did not appear in a single game (majors or minors) and was released on July 14th.

Rivera, playing 70 games with the Blue Jays, was designated for assignment on July 3rd, 2011, and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 12th for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

All statistics, unless otherwise stated, are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.