Padres fill rotation

The San Diego Padres 2004 season suddenly has landed in the lap of a 40 year old. They also sacrificed the uncertainty of the future with the deal, as the Padres second round pick will go east to the New York Yankees as compensation for signing David Wells to a one-year incentive-laden deal that could top out at $7 million.

Losing the pick was not a stumbling block. The Padres never placed a high value on the second round draft choice. They were content to lose it for the year they will have David Wells.

It was a good gamble. The team knows what it will get with Wells, health notwithstanding. A second round pick in the baseball draft equals a seventh round pick in the NFL draft. You just never know if you are going to pluck the next player to have an impact.

Now the team has ammo to go against the top tier pitchers, and they have added another lefty to the lineup in what is said to be a good left-handed hitter's park.

"He has pitched 200 innings eight out of the last nine years and he gives us somebody to go against Randy Johnson, Jason Schmidt and Hideo Nomo," said General Manager Kevin Towers. "This is extra-special for us and he can help us get back to our winnings ways."

Winning ways are what ultimately led Wells back home. He saw something in this team and the watered down NL West. Make no mistake, Wells enjoys winning as much as he does his other life.

"It's well documented that Boomer likes to have a good time, but the key for us is he straps it on every fifth day," said Towers. "When the bell rings, he always finds a way."

Wells was not quite the clubhouse persona the club was seeking to mentor Jake Peavy, Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence, but he is a winner that wanted to play for his hometown team.

"That was probably the biggest selling point, that he wanted to come here -- he was hungry to be a Padre and that sold me," Towers added.

Now management will have to sell fans that he is the last addition of note this offseason in terms of free agency.

The team bypassed Greg Maddux to make this haul and they think they have a winner, despite back troubles.

"This guy is a competitor and after his maintenance surgery he told me he feels better and looser than after previous operations," Towers said. "He assured me he'll be ready for Spring Training games and the regular season."

If he isn't, the team has protection in place. The base salary of the deal is expected to fall in the $1.5 range. If he produces, as apparently he expects to, the deal will increase accordingly.

If we could only get other free agents to sign such deals, maybe the economics of baseball would change towards a positive light.

One of the concerns for Wells in the National League is how he will respond to running the bases. The career .125 hitter will have to keep that in mind while he is on the mound and hope it does not affect him adversely. The best the Padres could hope for is that he improves upon his three lifetime sacrifice bunts.

What he does bring to the table is 15 wins or more in six of the last seven seasons. He has pinpoint control and his games are dominated by balls being put in play. Despite a high average against, Wells relies on the balls being hit to defenders and has had success. Therefore, while the hits come, the on base percentage and WHIP remain low, making him effective.

Fans in San Diego will be expecting a lot from Wells in 2004. They wanted a top tier pitcher this offseason and Wells was not what they had in mind considering his age. If he does not perform, the backlash will be made known early and often.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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