Prior to the trade, the Angels' payroll was at about $160 million, but their CBT payroll -- which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season -- was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. The Wells trade -- agreed to Sunday afternoon -- has the Angels' CBT payroll at about $172 million in 2013, giving them wiggle room to add players to their roster without reaching that tax threshold.
Wells has a full no-trade clause, but approved the deal to the Yankees because of the playing opportunity that could come with it. He was spotted leaving the Angels' facility on Sunday, with bags stuffed in the trunk of his rental car, a little before 2 p.m. PT.
"It'd be a huge change," Wells said from his car. "I don't think it's ever easy saying goodbye, but at the same time, if this were to happen, it's a good group of guys over there. I'll just get to know a new family."
Wells came into the year as the fifth outfielder on the depth chart -- behind Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Josh Hamilton and designated hitter Mark Trumbo -- but had enjoyed a nice spring, batting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs.
The Yankees have Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson slated to start the season on the disabled list and could use Wells in left field and designated hitter.
"He's one of the better teammates that I've come across," Trumbo said. "You wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully it's a good opportunity over there."
"He's a veteran, a leader, a good guy who's got power and can play the outfield real well," Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis added. "I've always respected Vernon as a player. It'd be great. I never complain about getting guys on a team. I always find good things guys can do on a team. If he were to come here, I bet he'd do a good job helping us try to win."
If the deal does go through, it would relieve some of the pressure off Bourjos, who came in as the everyday center fielder but had some pressure to succeed early with Wells on the bench.
The Angels dangled Wells in the offseason, but weren't able to find anyone willing to take on much, if any, of his contract in a trade. They also felt trading Wells meant replacing him on their bench.
Wells, who plans to retire after the 2014 season, has been very accepting of his role all spring, saying he understands he comes in as a reserve and just wants to fight for playing time.
"My offseason was geared towards getting back to what I'm capable of doing," Wells said Sunday. "That was my goal coming into spring -- the work I put in the offseason, the work I've been doing in Spring Training was to get my swing back to where it's supposed to be. That's short and through the ball. When I can do that, I can still put up the numbers that I'm supposed to be putting up."
With the Blue Jays from 2002-10, Wells posted a .279/.330/.478 slash line, won three Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. But he hasn't been able to duplicate that success since coming to Anaheim in a January 2011 deal that saw the Angels send Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to Toronto while picking up $81 million of the $86 million owed to Wells.
Wells hit 25 homers in 2011, but posted the lowest batting average (.218) and on-base percentage (.248) in the Majors. He batted .244 with six homers in the first two months of 2012, then missed the next two months with thumb surgery and, with Trout producing, mostly came off the bench the rest of the way.
Deals like this, with lots of money changing hands and approval needed by Major League Baseball, usually have several hurdles to overcome. Last spring, the Angels and Indians talked extensively about a deal for Bobby Abreu that ultimately fell through.
This one, however, appears close to a resolution.
"I have some good friends in there, great teammates," Wells said. "Goodbyes are never easy."