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Deadline-day coup

Padres score big time with Wells; Boston packs it in

Posted: Friday September 1, 2006 12:02PM; Updated: Friday September 1, 2006 3:03PM
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David Wells was the only big name to get traded on Thursday as the deadline approached for adding players with postseason eligibility.
David Wells was the only big name to get traded on Thursday as the deadline approached for adding players with postseason eligibility.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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By far the biggest winner on Thursday's second deadline day would appear to be the San Diego Padres, which brought proven playoff performer David Wells back home. And the Padres definitely did enhance their chances, particularly if they make it into the postseason, where Wells has excelled and owns a 10-4 career record.

With Jake Peavy and an improved Chris Young to combine with Wells, the Padres could match or outdo other potential playoff rotations in the National League. San Diego would at least like to avoid its fate from last year, when it was rushed out of the postseason almost as soon as it began, losing three straight to the Cardinals.

The Dodgers, Reds and Cardinals (and, according to one source, the Phillies) were showing interest in Wells, who posted a 2.65 ERA in five August starts for the Red Sox. It probably didn't hurt that Boston GM Theo Epstein has the best rapport with Padres GM Kevin Towers, Epstein's first baseball boss. Talks with the Dodgers, considered the runner-up in this derby, were believed to have centered around first baseman James Loney, a fine fielder and contact hitter who at one time was considered L.A.'s top position prospect. However, Loney's power potential has been questioned lately, and failing to homer in a brief Dodgers stint (72 at-bats) didn't help matters.

Publicly, the Red Sox were said to receive the decidedly unsexy "player to be named later," which couldn't help the Nation feel better about the early surrender. Talks had been focusing on offensive-oriented catcher George Kottaras, who has that high on-base percentage (close to .400) Boston people favor. On the downside, one scout said Kottaras has a big rep but "needs work" defensively.

Yet despite the Padres' big prize at a relatively small price, in actuality the biggest second-deadline-day winner just might have been the Yankees, who did nothing but watch their archrival Red Sox throw in the towel with their trade of Wells, who envisions himself as a latter day Babe Ruth and never seemed happy in Boston.

The Yankees' expected dogfight with the Sox has recently transformed into utter domination. If a five-game sweep at Fenway didn't seal the deal, an ungodly succession of injuries and illnesses decimated Boston, which was still hoping to get David Ortiz back after he was treated for an irregular heartbeat and was still nervously awaiting word on the condition of top pitching prospect Jon Lester, who, according to the Boston Herald, was being tested for cancer after enlarged lymph nodes were found.

This is the kind of scary news that engenders great sympathy and compassion, even from the Yankees. "I certainly hope Big Papi and Lester are going to be OK," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "Their health issues transcend all the baseball stuff. This isn't like your typical bone chip or hamstring concerns that you see in baseball. We certainly pray there will be good news as soon as possible."

The baseball injuries alone wiped out the Red Sox, who have seen Trot Nixon, Wily Mo Pena, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Alex Gonzalez and Coco Crisp go down in recent weeks. Boston led the division by 3˝ games at one point, but while the $200 million Yankees weathered their own significant pains, the Red Sox's injuries affected just about their entire lineup.

There was criticism (including here) regarding Boston's failure to make an impact deal before the waiver deadline, but as it turned out, a virtually unprecedented spate of bad fortune -- not to mention a league-worst 8-21 August -- wiped out their title hopes. Now Boston has to fight off third-place Toronto, which Friday throws noted Red Sox killer (not to mention manager pummeller) Ted Lilly at Fenway.

Meanwhile, the Yankees stand in a commanding position and may now have a greater chance to rest some of their bruised stars -- Mariano Rivera saved another one Thursday after receiving an MRI on his right elbow that showed no structural damage. Deadline day was a big one for the Yankees not only because Boston gave up but also because Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez, two Cooperstown-bound Yankees suffering from underperformance and overanalysis, experienced big days in their 6-4 victory over Detroit.

"I think we have a strong team, a championship-contending team. But unfortunately a lot of teams in our league could make the same claim," Cashman said. "Whoever qualifies for a playoff spot will have a chance to run the table." At least the Yankees can take solace today in the knowledge that Boston won't get that chance.

Marked man

Someone with knowledge of Texas' situation predicted the Rangers would "blow things up,'' and it appears they are now willing to trade Mark Teixeira. Besides trading Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and Francisco Cordero in July for Carlos Lee and offering Hank Blalock to multiple teams, the Rangers already have engaged in talks that would send Teixeira to Baltimore.

Texas isn't giving away Teixeira, however; the Rangers requested a package of both Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard in talks with Baltimore. The Orioles remain extremely interested in Teixeira, a Maryland native, but while they'd trade Tejada straight-up for Teixeira, they told Texas they couldn't part with Bedard in that scenario.

Meanwhile, the Rangers fully intend to re-sign free-agent-to-be Lee and are probably envisioning a contract similar to the $60 million, five-year deal Paul Konerko signed with the White Sox last winter.

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