Red Sox sign Wells; Pavano opts for Yanks

Sunday, December 12, 2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- David Wells made the surprising decision to sign with the Boston Red Sox, Carl Pavano picked the New York Yankees and Roger Clemens narrowed his choices to the Houston Astros or retirement.

Pittsburgh and Cleveland finalized the first trade of the winter meetings Saturday, with reliever Arthur Rhodes going to the Indians for outfielder Matt Lawton.

Boston also worked to re-sign Pedro Martinez and add shortstop Edgar Renteria. And while the Yankees' efforts to sign Pavano moved forward, there might be a hitch in New York's deal with Jaret Wright, with the team still evaluating the results of his physical.

As nearly two dozen managers talked about their offseason moves, Atlanta's Bobby Cox said John Smoltz might rejoin the starting rotation if the Braves find another closer. And Oakland discussed trading Tim Hudson, possibly to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Wells, a loud lefty known for his unabashed love of Yankees history, agreed to an $8 million, two-year contract with Boston that could be worth up to $18 million over two years, a deal subject to Wells passing a physical.

It will be sort of a Babe Ruth reverse commute for Wells, who spent four seasons with the Yankees during two tours. In June 1997, he even wore a Ruth cap from 1934 during a game against Cleveland.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona declined comment on Wells, but he said he wasn't worried about having too many characters on the defending World Series champions.

"Last year we had a lot of strong personalities but they didn't really go their own (way)," Francona said. "They just came together. I guess that's what you want."

Wells, 41, went 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA last season for his hometown San Diego Padres and made $6 million. He gets a $3 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, salaries of $2.5 million a year and the chance to earn $200,000 per start from 11-20 and $300,000 per start from 21-30.

"With the offer he got, it looked like it was an easy decision," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Cashman wasn't surprised Wells bolted to his old enemy.

"Despite his love for the Yankees, he walked away from us last year," Cashman said. "The bottom line is it's a business. He had to do what's best for him and his family."

With Pavano, the Yankees' rotation will get younger. Anaheim, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Seattle also sought the right-hander, 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA for Florida last season.

Pavano called his agent, Scott Shapiro, on Saturday morning and informed him of his decision, and Shapiro and Cashman closed in on a four-year contract worth about $39 million.

New York also has a preliminary agreement with right-hander Jaret Wright on a $21 million, three-year contract, but the Yankees still are evaluating his physical exam, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity, and hasn't determined whether he passed it or failed it.

Wright, who turns 29 later this month, had shoulder surgery in 2000 and 2001. He went 15-8 with a 3.28 for Atlanta last season, the best year of his big league career.

Clemens, 42, said last week that he was leaning toward retirement and his agent, Randy Hendricks, said the seven-time Cy Young Award winner probably will make his decision between Jan. 5-20. If Clemens decides to pitch in 2005, he and the Astros either will agree to a contract or his salary will be determined by an arbitrator.

"It certainly makes a statement to us about how Roger feels about the Houston Astros," new general manager Tim Purpura said. "Our interest is sincere and we'd certainly love to have him back."

Clemens' commitment to the Astros could help the team re-sign star center fielder Carlos Beltran, the prize of this year's free-agent class.

"It's not why we did it, but we understand there might be an impact," Hendricks said. "He thinks the world of Carlos and hopes he re-signs."

Rhodes, a 35-year-old left-hander, was acquired by Pittsburgh from Oakland on Nov. 27 in the trade that sent catcher Jason Kendall to the Athletics. Rhodes lost his closer's job last season while going 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA for the A's. He will become Bob Wickman's setup man in Cleveland.

"There were a multitude of things that happened to him to explain why he had a bad year. We're still hopeful he's going to be a strong, solid contributor in the bullpen," Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro said.

Lawton was a huge disappointment with the Indians, who acquired him in the 2001 trade that sent Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets. The 33-year-old battled injuries during much of his three seasons in Cleveland.

"He's got some power, a left-handed hitter, it adds some nice balance to our offense," general manager Dave Littlefield said.

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