Wells' arrival stirs excitement for Angels
Outfielder ready to embrace switch to left in name of winning
ANAHEIM -- Vernon Wells is aware of the doubters, the critics, those who can't see past his income. He's been down this road before, having felt the fallout from his $126 million, seven-year extension with Toronto following the 2006 season.
"It's a great leap of faith for them in bringing me in and taking on the contract," Wells said on Wednesday during his introduction as the Angels' major offseason acquisition. "I'm here to obviously make them look good and get back to the playoffs.
"Once that happens, I don't think [the contract] will be much of an issue. There will be a time when everybody looks past that."
Wells and new best buddy Torii Hunter made it clear they are on board with playing big-brother wing roles for young center fielder Peter Bourjos in 2011 in an Angels outfield that could be as spectacular as a Hawaiian sunset.
Accompanied by his wife and two children at an outdoor Angel Stadium news conference attended by fans, Wells said he'll happily shift to left field with his "new family" after spending nine seasons and parts of three others in center for the Blue Jays. Toronto sent him west in exchange for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera on Friday.
"It's exciting," Wells said. "I got a chance to watch [Bourjos] make plays in the outfield last year that make your mouth drop.
"For me and Torii, it's a matter of making him comfortable and know we're behind him 100 percent."
Hunter, who made a trip from his home outside Dallas as a show of support for Wells, was characteristically emphatic when asked if he would second that emotion.
"We, me and Vernon, have to make him better," Hunter said, referring to Bourjos. "This guy has too much talent with that speed and a little pop. We want him to hit consistently. And he can do that.
"It's my job to go over to [Bourjos] and make him comfortable. That's what I did last year. At first, when he got here, he was nervous. I broke the ice, talked to him, made him feel comfortable. That's our job. 'No jealousy,' I told him. We're here to win. I want that ring, and so does Vernon. That's what it's all about."
Hunter said he volunteered to make the move to right in early August last season when Bourjos, the 23-year-old speed merchant, was summoned from Triple-A.
"That was my idea, honestly," Hunter said. "If it makes the team better, I'm all for it. Vernon is the same way."
Together, Hunter (nine) and Wells (three) have claimed a dozen Gold Gloves. Bourjos, whose range factor in all the metrics was off the charts in 51 games, also showed off a strong and accurate arm, erasing 10 baserunners.
Overmatched initially, Bourjos rallied to hit .204 with six homers in 181 at-bats with the Angels, finishing his two-month stint with a more confident look.
If Bourjos holds the job, Bobby Abreu is the primary designated hitter and swing outfielder. If Bourjos needs more seasoning, Abreu likely goes to left and Wells to center -- or Hunter to center with Wells and Abreu at the corners.
"I know what I have to do," Wells said. "I know I've got a lot to prove, whether I'm in left or center.
"Left field is a big area here. Same as right. I think it helps having three center fielders in the lineup at the same time. It makes the field that much smaller."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has seen how three center fielders can shrink an outfield. In his early years in the Dodgers' organization, they brought together three original center fielders -- Dusty Baker, Rick Monday and Reggie Smith -- in a superb outfield.
"The sacrifices Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith made, moving from center field, that has to be the foundation of a championship team," Scioscia said. "We saw that with Torii Hunter last year, and Vernon is willing to do it this year.
"On the defensive end, it's going to be fun to watch. And with Kendry Morales, Torii and Vernon hitting in the middle of the lineup, with table-setters, hopefully, we're going to be able to put a deep lineup together."
Unresolved is the leadoff role, which could fall to any of four or five candidates. General manager Tony Reagins said he has the payroll flexibility to add another piece.
"I believe there are opportunities out there to improve the club," Reagins said. "We're constantly making phone calls and looking for ways to get better."
Owner Arte Moreno, on hand to welcome his new star, said talks with Toronto began about three weeks ago and broke down at one point before everything came together.
"It's a lot more palatable than $142 million," Moreno said when asked about the four years and $86 million inherited on Wells' contract.
That was a reference to the seven-year deal the Red Sox arranged with free agent Carl Crawford. The left fielder was targeted by the Angels along with Adrian Beltre, who went to Texas, before Wells came into focus.
"We're not picking up an offensive player who's not going to help us on defense," Moreno said. "He'll play at 32, 33, 34 and 35. Those should be good, solid, productive years. He has a good, solid supporting cast here. It's not like he has to catch every fly ball or drive in all the runs."
Moreno, who said his club made no formal offer to Crawford, maintained the real money involved with Wells from the Angels' standpoint is close to $17 million a year after factoring in the salaries of Napoli and Rivera.
Wells, seventh in the American League in total bases, slugging and doubles in 2010, batted .273 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs. He will keep the uniform No. 10, formerly worn by bench coach Ron Roenicke, the new Milwaukee Brewers manager.
Wells has played 1,393 Major League games -- but none in the postseason. The closest he's been to the action was trailing good buddy Michael Young around with the Rangers last October.
"That's the exciting thing about joining this family, is they expect to win," Wells said. "To have that, to come and be a part of that, is special for us. We're looking forward to not being home in October anymore and for playing some meaningful baseball."
Scioscia feels Wells represents a significant move in regaining control of the AL West. Their three-year run as division champion ended with Texas' ascension.
"We're definitely a better team now than we were at any point last season," Scioscia said. "The opportunity we're going to have to get back to where we should be, and want to be, is very real."
Wells alluded to the club's commitment to winning and the atmosphere in Angel Stadium as reasons behind the decision to waive his no-trade clause.
"This is paradise," he said. "This is one of the best places to play in baseball."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.