12/31/2003 3:05 PM ET
Padres, Wells agree to one-year deal
David Wells has bolted his adopted hometown for his real one, signing a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
The signing brings his second stint as a Yankee to a close after two seasons, as the big left-hander opted to sign a Major League deal in San Diego rather than accept a minor-league contract in New York.
The Padres will be Wells' second National League team, as he pitched 11 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1995. The other 546 games that Wells has pitched in his career have come in the American League, where he pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.
"We're ecstatic to have the guy," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "He's a big-game pitcher, and the perfect guy to head our staff. We think our staff is pretty strong right now."
The deal is reportedly worth between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, though incentives can push it up to $7 million. The Yankees had been talking to Wells about a minor-league deal worth roughly $3 million, plus incentives that could reach $7 million, but the minor-league deal would have required Wells to make the team out of Spring Training.
"We were involved in discussions," agent Gregg Clifton told the Associated Press of the status of the Yankees talks. "But nothing had been finalized."
Wells, 40, is currently rehabbing from back surgery, which he underwent on Dec. 2 to repair a herniated disc. The left-hander is expected to be ready to start Spring Training, and doctors have said that he should be at 100 percent strength by March 1.
Assuming he begins the season healthy, Wells will join Adam Eaton, Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy and either Sterling Hitchcock or Ismael Valdes in the starting rotation. The Padres are moving into the new $458 million PETCO Park this season.
The Yankees declined to exercise a $6 million option on Wells for 2004, choosing to wait until after his surgery so they could monitor his status. The Yankees offered arbitration to Wells on Dec. 7, extending the negotiating window between the two sides. New York will receive two draft picks as compensation for losing Wells.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he found out that Wells was having second thoughts on Monday, following a discussion with Clifton.
"David agreed verbally to a deal," Cashman told the AP. "There was one component to be completed, a weigh-in. We didn't get it finalized but we had the financials in place.
The situation is reminiscent of the deal Wells signed with the Yankees before the 2002 season, as he reneged on a handshake agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks to return to New York.
"I'm not complaining," Cashman told the AP. "This can happen when you're negotiating with David."
Wells went 15-7 with a 4.14 ERA last season, though he was just 4-4 after the All-Star break. Wells won each of his starts in the Division Series and ALCS, but he dropped Game 1 of the World Series while pitching on three days' rest. He started Game 5 of the Fall Classic, only to leave after one inning with back spasms.
Wells' departure leaves the Yankees with a right-handed rotation of Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras and Jon Lieber, who is returning from 2002 Tommy John surgery.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.