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Sox come to terms with Wells

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Red Sox came to terms late last night with free agent lefthander David Wells on a two-year contract for a guaranteed $8 million, plus an additional $10 million in performance incentives that could make the total package worth $18 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, Wells would receive a $3 million signing bonus and have a base salary of $2.5 million in 2005 and 2006. He also would have the opportunity to earn an additional $5 million in performance bonuses in each year of the contract. The deal will not be official until Wells passes a physical, reportedly scheduled for Tuesday.

Wells, who turns 42 in May, is expected to take the place of place of Derek Lowe as the No. 3 starter in the rotation.

General manager Theo Epstein planned to meet as early as today with Pedro Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, to try to complete contract talks with the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Expectations that the parties would close the final holes in their negotiations seemed to soar in the afterglow of a cordial meeting between Martinez and Sox executives Wednesday in the Dominican Republic.

But Epstein flatly refuted a Boston radio report that the Sox had signed Martinez for $40 million over three years, though the terms are likely close to what it would take to retain him. The GM also seemed to dampen optimism that the Sox would broker a big deal or sign any top free agent before the meetings end Monday.

``There's probably a good chance we'll do something,'' Epstein said. ``It might be something small. I'd say it's probably better than 50-50 that we do something before we get out of here, but I could be wrong.''

The Red Sox last night also were talking about a deal with the Padres in which they would send outfielder Dave Roberts to San Diego for shortstop Ramon Vazquez and outfielder Jay Payton. The Sox also were making a run at free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria, who earlier this week was offered salary arbitration by the St. Louis Cardinals. The relatively low base salary for Wells gives the Sox leverage to make a strong bid for Renteria.

The Mets remained contenders for Martinez, though no other team had yet been identified as making a formal offer. The Angels and Cardinals, who were considered possible suitors, have yet to present Martinez a proposal, though the Angels may have some interest in the lower-priced Derek Lowe. A Cardinals executive said yesterday that St. Louis was not pursuing Martinez.

Epstein, who spoke with at least 12 teams on the first full day of the meetings, continued to monitor the trade market and remained in contact with the A's concerning Tim Hudson. The Sox were one of eight teams angling for Hudson, though the A's seemed more likely to deal him to a National League team.

It remained unclear whether the Sox would continue to pursue Pavano if they committed $7 million next season to Wells and nearly $13 million to Martinez. The Sox are one of five teams that have offered Pavano deals spanning at least four years and $10 million annually. The others are the Yankees, Orioles, Mariners, and Tigers.

Pavano's agent, Scott Shapiro, said the righthander was vacationing north of Montreal with his girlfriend and may not make a decision until after the meetings. The Marlins are no longer in the running for Pavano, who went 18-8 last season for them with a 3.00 ERA.

``He's been on the phone all day with me and his parents,'' Shapiro said. ``He's just getting away from all this for a while to think through the decision. He just needs some time to see where his heart is.''

Epstein laid out his offer to Pavano in a meeting with Shapiro that lasted past 1 a.m. yesterday in the Sox' suite at the Anaheim Marriott, where the meetings are headquartered. Shapiro said Pavano has strong interest in the Sox.

``You can sum it up in one word, `Schilling,' '' Shapiro said. ``Curt and Carl hit it off spectacularly'' in his recent visit to Boston and Schilling's home in Medfield, Mass.

``At this point, every team has really presented an offer that is fair and something that Carl is comfortable with,'' Shapiro said. ``It really boils down to where Carl wants to be.''

While Pavano appears attracted by the prospect of pitching with Schilling, Wells's agent, Gregg Clifton, said Wells all but considered himself a natural fit with the Sox, the self-defined ``idiots'' who defied many baseball traditions in their run to the world championship.

``He really likes the makeup of the Red Sox from the perspective of they're his kind of guys,'' Clifton said before the signing was announced. ``Those guys just go out there and love to play ball and don't worry about what happens off the field. They're ready to show up when the first pitch is thrown and they're ready to win. David is the ultimate gamer. No one wants the ball more in big-game situations and no one wants the pressure more than David does. The combination of that and him with the Boston fans is a perfect fit.''

Wells, who most of his career despised pitching in Fenway Park, has discovered such newfound affection for the home of the reigning world champions that the Sox ranked among the leading candidates to land him. Clifton initially indicated Wells had narrowed his options to accepting one of the ``very sincere, very serious proposals'' he received from the Sox and Indians. But when the Indians learned how much the Sox had offered Wells, they withdrew from the bidding, according to a source in the Cleveland organization.

In addition, Wells called the Yankees, presumably to inform them he was considering signing with the Sox. It remained to be seen how Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a longtime Wells booster, would react to the news, though Wells has not figured prominently this offseason in New York's plans to upgrade its rotation.

The Padres, for whom Wells went 12-8 last season with a 3.73 ERA, made a late bid to retain him, sweetening their offer yesterday to $4 million for one year plus $3 million in potential bonuses. But the proposal paled against Boston's.

There were indications Wells was willing to sign with the Sox if they guaranteed him $7 million plus incentives. He earned $6 million last season, including $4.75 million in performance bonuses.

Before the Indians dropped out of the running and the Padres fell short with their latest offer, Clifton suggested Wells was prepared to choose between Boston and Cleveland.

``Unless San Diego gets back into it or someone else gets ahold of us in the next couple of days, he's very content in the couple of teams that are interested in him right now,'' Clifton said. ``I think he likes the American League concept. He's pitched well there before. He likes having the ball for the whole game. If you look at his history and his average innings per start, he's a seven-plus-inning guy over his career.''

As for his disdain for pitching at Fenway, Wells has warmed to the park. He is 10-10 lifetime in the Fens with a 4.87 ERA, though he has pitched considerably better there in recent years, as he did in throwing 5 scoreless innings last season for the Padres in his only appearance in Boston.

Epstein declined to discuss his negotiations with Wells. But when he was asked about Wells and his occasional history of ``rocking the boat,'' the GM said sarcastically, ``We don't have any guys like that.'' 

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