Red Sox sign All-Star shortstop for four years

Friday, December 17th 2004, 8:27 pm
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Edgar Renteria's first choice was to remain in St. Louis, until the Boston Red Sox gave him an offer too good to turn down.

And losing ace pitcher Pedro Martinez may have given them the means to seal the four-year, $40 million deal for the All-Star shortstop who made the last out for St. Louis in Boston's World Series sweep of the Cardinals.

``I'm not so sure the Edgar Renteria signing, for example, would have been possible if we had signed Pedro Martinez,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Friday. ``It certainly opens doors to build a more complete roster.''

Boston offered Martinez a three-year, $40.5 million contract, but he chose the four-year, $54 million deal from the New York Mets, who introduced him at a news conference on Thursday.

On Friday, it was Boston's turn to crow about its free-agent addition.

``He's going to be one of the rocks we build the next great Red Sox team on,'' Epstein said. ``This guy is so reliable, so dependable, that I slept very well'' after offering the guaranteed deal.

Renteria passed a physical on Friday and signed a contract that reportedly contains no deferred money.

``The Red Sox really tried to get me,'' Renteria said. ``To me, it's like a dream come true.''

St. Louis reportedly offered a four-year, $32 million deal with some money deferred.

``If anything was even close, he would have stayed there,'' said Renteria's agent, Jeffrey Lane. ``But it wasn't close.''

Renteria looms as the long-term replacement for Nomar Garciaparra, another Red Sox star who was traded July 31 to the Chicago Cubs. Boston received shortstop Orlando Cabrera in that deal, and he helped the team win the World Series. But even he said Renteria, a fellow Colombian, is a better player.

``Bringing in an elite shortstop was not something we had to do'' since Cabrera was still available, Epstein said, ``but this was a rare opportunity.''

He also praised Renteria as a team leader.

``I respect everybody and that's what I expect back,'' Renteria said. ``When you respect everybody, to me, that's a real good leader.''

Renteria's agreement includes a team option for 2009, when he will be 34.

In nine seasons _ three with Florida and six with St. Louis _ Renteria has won two Gold Gloves and been on four All-Star teams. His career batting average is .289, and he's stolen 237 bases. Last season, he hit .287 with 10 homers and 72 RBIs. His best season was 2003, when he hit .330 with 13 homers and 100 RBIs and finished with 34 stolen bases.

The Red Sox a trying to improve their pitching rotation after losing Martinez and showing little interest in retaining free agent Derek Lowe. On Wednesday, they signed left-hander David Wells to a two-year, $8 million contract that would be worth $18 million if he reaches all his incentives.

``I wish we had Pedro Martinez for the 2005 Red Sox,'' Epstein said. ``We need one more starting pitcher at this point. We're getting close on a couple of fronts and not so close on some other fronts.''

Martinez criticized the Red Sox in the Dominican Republic on Friday, saying, ``I'm a proud man and I think I deserve a little respect for the work I've done. I felt disillusioned and hurt by the way the Red Sox let me go so easily.''

Red Sox principal owner John Henry defended the club.

``Our organization went out of our way to treat Pedro with the greatest respect over the past three years'' since Henry's group took over, he said in an e-mail Friday night to The Associated Press. ``I am surprised and very disappointed by the continuing negative comments in that regard. Nevertheless, I wish him great success with the Mets.''

Epstein he expected to have another starting pitcher before spring training to go with Curt Schilling, Wells, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo.

Renteria joins a team he helped to win the World Series when he made the last out on a grounder to pitcher Keith Foulke that gave the Red Sox their first title since 1918.

``That was all part of the deal'' to bring him to Boston, Epstein joked.

In 1997, Renteria got the game-winning single in the 11th inning of Game 7 against Cleveland that gave Florida its first World Series title.

Joining the Red Sox gives Renteria a shot at another ring.

``It's a good opportunity here to try to win another championship,'' he said.

Renteria will take the position that nearly went to Alex Rodriguez before a deal for him fell through last winter and he joined the New York Yankees. Garciaparra, a five-time All-Star, would have been traded if the deal went through. That bothered him before he went to the Cubs, where he finished an injury-plagued season and later signed a one-year deal for 2005.