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. And Atlanta acquired All-Star closer Dan Kolb from the Milwaukee Brewers for pitching prospect Jose Capellan and a player to be named, allowing the Braves to move John Smoltz back into the starting rotation.
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.
On the trade front, Oakland discussed dealing Tim Hudson, possibly to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Baseball's annual swapfest also had a bit of spectacle on Day Two of the four-day session. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman arrived in a lobby filled with baseball executives and agents accompanied by two tall showgirls wearing feathered headdresses and a gold-clad Elvis impersonator, campaigning for major league baseball to put a team in the gambling mecca.
Free-agent first basemen Richie Sexson and Carlos Delgado also showed up to meet with teams.
Wells, a loud lefty known for his unabashed love of Yankees history, agreed to an US$8 million, two-year contract with Boston that could be worth up to US$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 US$6 million. He gets a US$3 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, salaries of US$2.5 million a year and the chance to earn US$200,000 per start from 11-20 and US$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 US$39 million.
New York also has a preliminary agreement with right-hander Wright on a US$21 million, three-year contract, but the Yankees still are evaluating his physical exam, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity.