Pitcher also contacted Yankees

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Boston Red Sox might try to defend
their World Series with an even wackier bunch than the
self-proclaimed "bunch of idiots" that ended the franchise's
86-year dynasty of disappointment.

According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, the Red Sox have what one source says "is essentially a done deal" with 41-year-old left-hander David Wells. The deal would guarantee Wells $8 million for one year, but if he makes 31 starts he would be guaranteed $13 million.

The deal is structured to give Boston 2005 wiggle room to try to sign shortstop Edgar Renteria, another target of the Red Sox, Gammons is reporting.

Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton told The Associated Press that a deal wasn't
imminent, and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein warned that
talks were in the early stages.

"We're not further down the line there than we are with other
guys," he told reporters.

Wells also contacted the New York Yankees on Thursday about returning to
New York, general manager Brian Cashman said.

San Diego offered Wells salary arbitration this week after
failing to close the gap in negotiations over a contract extension.
Wells has said that he wants to return to his hometown Padres, but
he wants a guaranteed contract instead of one loaded with
incentives like the deal he signed as a free agent last winter.

Wells was 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA last season, when he earned $1.25
million in base pay and another $4.75 million in incentives by
making 31 starts. He could have made $1 million more if he hadn't
missed three weeks after a fluke household injury.

Wells could replace Pedro Martinez or join him in a rotation
behind ace Curt Schilling. The Red Sox have offered Martinez a
two-year deal with options that could make it worth more than $38.5
million over three years.

Boston has also pursued free agent Carl Pavano, who was 18-8
with a 3.00 ERA for Florida last season. The Red Sox are not
expected to re-sign Derek Lowe, a former 20-game winner who
struggled last year before pitching in the clinching games of all
three playoff rounds as Boston won the World Series for the first
time since 1918.

To end the drought, the Red Sox turned the clubhouse over to
free spirits like Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and Kevin Millar -- an
unshaven and unkempt bunch that foiled the strait-laced Yankees and
won an unprecedented eight consecutive games after spotting New
York a three-game lead in the AL championship series.

Wells would fit right in.

The boisterous lefty missed three starts in late May and early
June -- costing himself $1 million in incentives -- after tripping
over a bar stool at home, knocking a bottle of wine onto the floor
and landing on it and a glass he was holding. He severed a tendon
in his right wrist, requiring surgery, and cut his left palm.

Wells had back surgery before signing with the Padres last year.
He has also been involved in several off-field incidents that make
him a natural fit for Boston's frat house atmosphere.

In January 1997, while in San Diego for his mother's funeral,
Wells got into a street fight outside a bar and broke his pitching
hand. In 2002, he was punched in the face by a man during an early
morning altercation in a New York diner and lost two teeth.

In '03, Wells wrote a book titled: "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on
Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball." Besides detailing how he
grew up in the middle of a Hells Angels gang in a gritty San Diego
neighborhood, he contended that he was "half drunk" when he
pitched a perfect game in 1998 for the Yankees after
partying until just a few hours before the game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.