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Sox may find out today on Martinez

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Restless to resolve his status, Pedro Martinez has indicated he wants to decide by today whether to re-sign with the Red Sox or bolt to the Mets, a source familiar with his thinking said last night.

Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, was scheduled to meet with the Sox and Mets as he appeared to reach the final stages of negotiations with both teams. Martinez has said he wants to remain with the Sox and seemed to be seeking a number of last-minute additions before he agreed to a three-year deal worth at least $38.5 million plus $2 million in incentives to return to Boston.

But with the talks at a delicate stage, the Mets had a chance to sway Martinez by further sweetening their proposal. The Mets initially offered three years at $37.5 million plus a $12.5 million option for 2008 and could make Martinez's decision more difficult if they guaranteed the fourth year.

Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who was exploring numerous deals and free agent signings on the third day of the annual winter baseball meetings, said he expected to work through the night before he returned home today. But Epstein said he did not expect to complete a transaction during the night and said there was a chance he would leave town without making additional news. He so far has signed lefthanders David Wells and John Halama, pending physicals.

Keeping alive the prospect of another major acquisition, Epstein met for a second straight day with Carlos Delgado's agent, David Sloane, indicating the talks may have grown more serious. The Yankees and several other teams are interested in Delgado, a career .282 hitter with a .392 on-base percentage who has averaged 36 homers and more than 114 RBIs over the last nine seasons with the Blue Jays.

The Sox also continued shopping for a shortstop, as they renewed talks with representatives for free agents Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera, and kept alive the possibility of trading for Julio Lugo of the Devil Rays or Kaz Matsui of the Mets, among others. The Cardinals remain Renteria's other chief suitor, while Cabrera also is talking to the Cardinals and several other teams.

"We're still not sure who our shortstop is going to be," Epstein said.

Their starting catcher also remains in question. Despite making progress in trying to re-sign Jason Varitek, the Sox face a significant hurdle as Varitek's agent, Scott Boras, said the catcher "most definitely" continues to expect the Sox to include a no-trade clause in a four- or five-year deal. The Sox have a policy against granting full no-trade policies, which means they may need to compensate Varitek financially to persuade him to forgo the provision.

Before they decide how to proceed on a shortstop and other potential acquisitions such as Delgado, the Sox may need to resolve at least Martinez's situation, if not Varitek's as well.

"How much we spend on our own free agents will definitely impact what we do," Epstein said. "It will affect how much money we have, but we don't have any deals lined up that will fall [into place] shortly after signing or not signing them."

Epstein insisted his hands were not tied by his negotiations with Martinez and Varitek.

"It's not like we can't get anything done until we sign one of our free agents or don't sign one of our free agents," he said. "It's not all bottlenecking until we resolve those issues. There are a lot of things going on that are independent of our own free agents."

Boras playfully suggested that financial concerns should not be tying up the deep-pocketed Sox, whose payroll is expected to rank among the top two or three in the majors.

"I think with the success of the Boston Red Sox, they have the money to pay all their players and all the Washington [Nationals] players," he said.

Boras said he expected to complete deals for one or two of his clients by today, but they were not expected to be Varitek or Derek Lowe, who has drawn a lot of interest from the Tigers.

While the Sox have abandoned their interest in Carl Pavano, who was finalizing a deal with the Yankees, the Sox continued to monitor Oakland's attempt to move star righthander Tim Hudson. Though the Dodgers have talked about completing a deal for Hudson, the Sox and several other teams still had a chance to pry Hudson from the A's. Boston would need to enlist help from a third team since it does not have the young talent the A's are seeking.

Hudson would not upset Boston's finances since he is due to earn $6.75 million next season, a bargain for a pitcher of his status, and is eligible for free agency after next season.

Renteria is a different story. He could command nearly $39 million over four years, which would place a serious burden on the Sox if they also signed Martinez and Varitek. Cabrera also could be pricey, at more than $30 million over four years. If the Sox reach an agreement with Martinez and/or Varitek, they are likely to seek a less expensive alternative to Renteria and Cabrera.

The Sox also continued to weigh a trade that would send outfielder Dave Roberts and righthander Byung Hyun Kim to the Padres for utility infielder Ramon Vazquez and outfielder Jay Payton.

Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. 

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