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P. Martinez Is Close To Joining the Mets

Yankees Pursue Johnson as Winter Meetings End

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page D01

ANAHEIM, Calif., Dec. 13 -- Despite appearances, the baseball world does not revolve around the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets -- the three big-revenue, high-payroll teams that dominate headlines in the Northeast corridor. But the offseason talent market often does, never more so than on the final day of baseball's winter meetings.

As general managers for most of baseball's 30 teams rolled their suitcases out the front door of the Anaheim Marriott and jumped into waiting cabs and limos, news of two monumental developments began to trickle out: Pedro Martinez apparently bolting from the Red Sox to the Mets, and the Yankees making a renewed push for ace left-hander Randy Johnson.

The Mets reportedly have offered Pedro Martinez a guaranteed four-year, $50 million deal, a year longer than Red Sox' best bid. (Richard Drew -- AP)

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After days of speculation Martinez was preparing to re-sign with the Red Sox -- for whom he has won 117 games and two Cy Young Awards in his seven years there -- the Mets were on the verge of stealing him away with a four-year contract offer, worth $50 million, that was one year longer than what the Red Sox were willing to guarantee.

"We are still in dialogue," said Mets GM Omar Minaya, who would not be any more specific about the negotiations. However, a source with knowledge of the talks said the remaining issues involve only perks and the scheduling of a physical for Martinez, which he must pass before the deal is announced.

"We will miss him," Red Sox President Larry Lucchino told the Associated Press in an e-mail.

Ultimately, the Mets prevailed by taking a leap of faith the Red Sox were not willing to match. It is widely known that Martinez, 33, has pitched the last several years with a partially torn labrum, and his durability is a constant question. The Red Sox initially offered Martinez two guaranteed years with an option on a third year, and later guaranteed the third year. But they were unwilling to go to four.

"We put our best foot forward and made an offer that makes sense for the club," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told reporters before leaving. "We think it was a fair and generous offer given all the circumstances. And it's all we can do."

While the Red Sox likely were losing an elite starting pitcher, their rival Yankees were moving to acquire one. To no one's surprise, the Yankees' talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding Johnson were back on Monday, two weeks after they broke off talks because they felt the Arizona Diamondbacks' asking price was too high.

The Yankees-Diamondbacks talks are taking place at the ownership level, according to a source with knowledge of those talks, and do not involve Yankees GM Brian Cashman. The Yankees almost certainly will be giving up right-hander Javier Vazquez in the deal, and the trade might involve a third team, such as the Chicago White Sox.

The Yankees already have signed two of the top free agent pitchers on the market -- right-handers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright (although neither deal has been announced) -- while the Red Sox' total output to this point includes only 41-year-old left-hander David Wells, whom they signed to a two-year deal.

The Red Sox still need one more starting pitcher, and they may make a concerted effort to re-sign Derek Lowe, who until now had been assumed to be walking away. Another of their potential targets is Matt Clement, who is seeking a three-year deal for around $8 million per year. The team also is reportedly involved in trade discussions with the Florida Marlins regarding right-hander A.J. Burnett, a favorite of Red Sox owner John Henry.

The Red Sox also are deep in negotiations with shortstop Edgar Renteria on a four-year deal -- with the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers also involved -- and if they were to pull that off, they conceivably would be able to offer top shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez to Florida in a potential Burnett deal.

In other dealings at the close of the meetings:

• The Seattle Mariners had offers on the table to all three of the premier corner infielders on the market -- first baseman Carlos Delgado, first baseman-left fielder Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre -- and were hoping to land two of them.

• The San Francisco Giants have agreed to terms with catcher Mike Matheny on a three-year deal worth around $10 million, removing one of Boston's fallback options should they not re-sign Jason Varitek -- which now must be considered an absolute must.

• The White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers made a trade of outfielders, with Carlos Lee going to the Brewers and Scott Podsednik going to the White Sox, along with reliever Luis Vizcaino.

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