Wells is expected to be No. 3 starter

Updated: December 11, 2004, 2:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

The Red Sox have come to terms with 41-year-old left-hander David Wells. The deal guarantees $8 million for one year, but if he makes 31 starts he would be guaranteed $13 million. The two-year contract could be worth $16 to $18 million.

David Wells
Starting Pitcher
San Diego Padres
31 12 8 0 101 3.73

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, The Boston Globe reported. 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.

The deal is structured to give Boston wiggle room in 2005 to try to sign shortstop Edgar Renteria, another target of the Red Sox, ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting. In fact, Cardinals sources told Gammons Saturday morning that they were so positive that Renteria was going to sign with Boston that St. Louis is trying to sign Orlando Cabrera and Placido Polanco.

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

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

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

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

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.

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 Yankees are putting a fullcourt press on Pavano and may be the favorites.

To end their championship 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.

Asked Friday if he was concerned that Wells' carousing might upset the chemistry in the Boston clubhouse, general manager Theo Epstein said sarcastically, "No, we don't have any guys like that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.