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[MLB]Vernon Wells signs contract ext. with Blue Jays


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Vernon Wells, an all-star and annual Gold Glover, hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs in 154 games for the Blue Jays in 2006

Wells signs with Jays

'This gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in awhile'

Dec. 15, 2006. 10:31 PM

MARK ZWOLINSKI

SPORTS REPORTER

Vernon Wells said he wanted to spend the next eight years of his career in Toronto and help the Jays win another World Series.

The Jays, according to a Canadian Press source, agreed that was a good idea and approved a seven-year, $126 million contract extension for their two-time Gold Glove winner.

The Jays, according to the source, will formally announce the agreement at a Monday news conference.

Earlier in the day, Wells had already welcomed himself back to Toronto, although the Jays were hesitant to confirm anything.

With a contract that size - Wells is set to become baseball?s sixth-highest-paid player ever in terms of annual salary - there were a host of conditions and bonus schedules to be ironed out. The Jays had clearly committed to the money, but massaging the amount into the payroll structure through 2014 remained a work in progress.

Wells, who was being nudged away from the deal by his agents earlier this week, showed faith in the city and the club?s intentions to win a championship by accepting the terms of the contract.

?How can you not be happy?? Wells told Associated Press from his home in Arlington, Texas. ?My family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That?s the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn?t been done in a while.?

Under terms of the deal, Wells has a no-trade clause and an opt-out provision. It?s believed he can leave after the fourth season. The club already has a similar clause in A.J. Burnett?s contract in which the right-hander can leave the team after the third year of the five-year, $55 million (all figures U.S.) deal he signed last year.

Both sides were also believed to be negotiating a hefty signing bonus and concentrating a greater portion of the salary package toward the final years of the deal.

Wells would get a break under Canadian tax laws by accepting a signing bonus. By ?back-ending? the dollar value of the contract, the Jays would open more payroll room this season and next to go after pitching, which they need. Wells? new contract won?t kick in until 2008.

He will earn $5.6 million in 2007, the completion of a five-year contract he signed during spring training in 2002.

The club?s payroll will head toward $100 million as Wells? new deal matures. Toronto is expected to announce its payroll before Christmas.

?It?s exciting,? Jays manager John Gibbons said last night. ?Vernon?s a big part of our team and we?re definitely better with him on our roster. I?m sitting around waiting for it to get done like everyone else ..... because we?re trying to go for it this year.?

Wells? contract would be by far the largest ever handed out by the Jays.

In terms of the major leagues? richest deals, Wells would rank behind only Alex Rodriguez ($252 million for 10 years), Derek Jeter ($189 million for 10 years), Manny Ramirez ($160 million for eight years), Todd Helton ($141.5 million for 11 years) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million for eight years).

Wells appears to have opted to remain in Toronto ahead of pursuing offers as a free agent after next season from his hometown Texas Rangers. Wells lives 20 minutes from the Ballpark in Arlington and his home state does not levy income taxes. (Wells pays U.S. federal income taxes as well as those imposed by Revenue Canada.)

Sources said Wells was pressured by his agents this week to explore his worth on the free-agent market next winter. Speculation had Wells fetching up to 10 years at $200 million on the open market.

Gibbons said he will continue to bat Wells out of the third spot in the lineup next season. ?We have flexibility with Lyle Overbay and Frank Thomas, but Vernon?s always been our third hitter.

?We looked at him at fourth and fifth, but I don?t like hitting him behind guys who aren?t very good baserunners.?

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentSe...ol=970081593064

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Good for them. If they had let him get away next year, the franchise would have been in trouble. He single handedly helped Alex Rios become a much better hitter (pre infection) and is obviously a top quality player. One of the few guys worth the money they received this off season.

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