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Angels send Mike Napoli to Toronto for Vernon Wells

January 21, 2011 |  3:10 pm

Mike3 The Angels have reached an agreement to send catcher Mike Napoli, the team's top power hitter last season, to the Toronto Blue Jays, according to a baseball source close to Napoli.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Angels will receive All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells in exchange while also sending outfielder Juan Rivera to Toronto. The trade is contingent on all three players passing physicals, and Wells is reportedly in Southern California where he underwent his exam Friday.

Wells, 32, hit .273 with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs last summer when he made his third All-Star team. He has a .280 lifetime average in 12 seasons in which he's averaged 26 homers and 95 RBIs.

Wells, who waived his no-trade clause to allow the trade to go forward, is scheduled to make $23 million this season and $21 million in each of the final three seasons of his contract, making him the highest-paid player in Angels history. The Blue Jays, who needed to deal Wells and his contract in order to make a run at signing Jose Bautista to a multiyear deal, will pay some of Wells' salary. The Angels also gave themselves some breathing room salarywise when they took Napoli and Rivera off the books,  moves that will save them more than $10 million

Napoli, 29, slugged a team-high 26 home runs last year, his third consecutive season with more than 20 homers. But he hit just .238 with a career-high 137 strikeouts. Something of a defensive liability behind the plate -- would-be base stealers have been successful more than three-quarters of the time against Napoli in his career -- Napoli played at first base for much of the second half of the 2010 season after Kendry Morales sustained a season-ending injury.

The trade would to send the Angels into spring training with veterans Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson and rookie Hank Conger as the leading candidates at catcher while the addition of Wells will help fill a gaping hole in outfield. But the deal also leaves the Angels with three outfielders in Wells, Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos who are primarily center fielders

Napoli, who is eligible for arbitration, made $3.6 million in 2010 and asked the Angels for $6.1 million, $800,000 more than the team offered, for 2011. He can become a free agent after 2012.

Rivera, who had become the most expendable Angel in a crowded outfield, will make $5.25 million this summer in Toronto in the final year of his contract. A 10-year veteran, Rivera, 32, hit .252 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs

We'll have more on the trade soon at latimes.com/sports.

-- Kevin Baxter

Photo: Mike Napoli. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

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