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Vernon Wells

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Vernon Wells III

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[edit] Biographical Information

Vernon Wells was a highly-paid outfielder who played 15 years in the big leagues, from 1999 to 2013. In his best season, 2003, he was 8th in the MVP voting, leading the 2003 American League in hits, doubles and total bases. Playing almost exclusively center field through 2010, he won the Gold Glove award from 2004 to 2006.

Wells's father was a wide receiver who attended training camp with the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs and who also played professional football in the Canadian Football League.

Vernon was a first-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1997 amateur draft, and was put on a fast track to make the majors. After appearing in Single A ball in 1997 and 1998, he was in all four levels in 1999 - A, AA, AAA and the majors. Although he hit over .261 with the Blue Jays in 24 games, he needed two more years of seasoning with the Syracuse SkyChiefs. When he hit .313 in 30 games with the Jays in 2001, it was clear he could play major league ball.

Wells was a workhorse over the years, often appearing in nearly all of the Blue Jays' games each year. His OPS+ rose as high as 132, in 2003, and he had three other seasons above 120, although he rarely led the league in offensive categories. However, 2010 was his best home run year - his 31 home runs were seventh in the AL, his highest finish (he previously had bigger home totals a couple of times, but nevertheless did not finish as high as seventh in the league).

Before the 2007 season, Wells signed one of the richest contracts in Major League history, worth $126 million over 7 years. The contract soon became an albatross for the Blue Jays, as Wells's production slipped over the next two season, while his contract made him virtually untradeable.

Wells is married with two children. He was actively involved the community in Toronto; he was the Honourary Commissioner of the Toronto Community Housing Rookie Baseball League starting in 2005 and regularly conducted baseball clinics for more than 200 local children who live in Toronto Community Housing units across the city.

On June 27, 2010, Wells hit the 506th homer yielded by Jamie Moyer as Moyer passed Robin Roberts for most home runs given up in the big leagues. He was presented with the 2010 Branch Rickey Award for his work with a new charitable endeavor, the Wells' Perfect 10 Foundation, also for his longtime work with the Jays Care Foundation. 2010 was also a good year on the field for Wells, after having been bothered by a wrist injury that sapped his power in 2009. He reached 30 homers for the third time in his career, belting 31, along with 44 doubles, scored 79 runs and drove in 88. After the season, the Blue Jays, looking for salary relief, did manage to trade him, sending him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in return for two veterans, C-1B Mike Napoli and OF Juan Rivera.

Vernon was the Angels' starting left fielder in 2011, with young Peter Bourjos manning centerfield, and while he played 131 games and hit 25 home runs, the rest of his production left a lot to be desired: his batting average was only .218, with an abysmal .248 OBP, and he hit only 15 doubles in spite of full-time play. With Napoli having blossomed with the Texas Rangers after the trade, and the Blue Jays having used the financial flexibility gained by getting rid of Wells' contract to improve the team, Angels general manager Tony Reagins received a lot of flack for acquiring the veteran outfielder, and paid for it by being forced to step down after the season. Things started a little better in 2012, and after 38 games, he was hitting .244, with 6 doubles and as many homers, for an OPS+ of 98 (as opposed to 83 the previous year). With the entire team, and especially Albert Pujols, struggling, there was less attention paid to Wells, although his contract was still considered among the two or three worst in the major leagues given his falling production. On May 20th, he hurt his hand while attempting a stolen base, and exams revealed ligament damage, requiring surgery and an extensive lay-off. He only returned to the line-up on July 28th, and as a result of the injury played only 77 games, his lowest total since 2001, when he still played the bulk of the year in AAA. He hit .230 with 11 homers and 29 RBI, but put up an OBP of only .279.

Wells had a good spring training with the Angels in 2013, although there was still a question of how he fit on the team, with youngsters Mike Trout and Bourjos manning two outfield spots, and free agent acquisition Josh Hamilton the other. The question was answered on March 24th, when the Angels sent him to the New York Yankees, while still being responsible for most of his salary. The Yankees were desperate for an experienced major leaguer with some power, having lost seemingly three-quarter of their team to injuries or departures through free agency. Wells was given a chance to start in the outfield, at least until the return of Curtis Granderson from a broken arm. The deal was officially completed two days later, with the Yankees giving up two minor league players not considered prospects in return for the outfielder, OF Exicardo Cayones and P Kramer Sneed, while the Yankees agreed to pick up almost $14 million of the money remaining on his contract. Wells started the season hitting very well for New York, which got off to a very solid start in spite of being riddled by injuries. On May 8th, he was forced to play third base for the first time of his career, when manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for 3B Chris Nelson with no back-up infielder available. The Yankees managed to go ahead, 3-2, against the Colorado Rockies thanks to the move (Wells had been responsible for the first two runs with a two-run homer against Juan Nicasio in the 1st), and Wells played the hot corner at the bottom of the inning. Never having played there at any level, he successfully fielded a ground ball as Mariano Rivera nailed the save. More weirdness followed on May 15th, when this time he played a third of an inning at second base after SS Alberto Gonzalez was asked by Girardi to take the mound in order to get the last out of the 9th inning in a 12-2 thrashing at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. He ended the season with a batting line of .233/.282/.349 in 130 games, with only 11 homers as his power seemingly disappeared after a strong start that had seen him hit 10 long balls by the end of May.

After an off-season spending spree on free agents, the Yankees designated Wells for assignment on January 10, 2014. That effectively ended Wells's career as a player.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1999 MVP Florida State League Dunedin Blue Jays
  • 3-time AL All-Star (2003, 2006 & 2010)
  • 3-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2004-2006)
  • AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2003)
  • AL Hits Leader (2003)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (2003)
  • AL Doubles Leader (2003)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (2002-2006, 2008, 2010 & 2011)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2003, 2006 & 2010)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (2002, 2003 & 2006)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2003)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (2003)

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