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Sox adjust their offer to Martinez

The Red Sox never said their first offer to Pedro Martinez was their last. And while one prominent member of the Yankees after another wooed the three-time Cy Young Award winner in recent days, the Sox sweetened their offer to Martinez, though not enough to reach an agreement with the prized free agent.

A source close to the talks indicated the Sox made an effort to satisfy Martinez's desire for a guaranteed three-year contract without specifically making the guarantee. Instead, their latest proposal included unspecified language that Sox officials believed would increase the deal's potential value enough to make it far more attractive -- and hopefully acceptable -- to Martinez. He is believed to be seeking a deal that effectively guarantees him at least $40 million over three years.

Sox officials declined to discuss details of the latest offer, which was described as unusually complex. But the team has creatively used a number of contractual techniques to sweeten deals to the satisfaction of star players. The techniques have included significantly lowering the threshold for performance bonuses and offering innovative escalator clauses, such as Curt Schilling's $2 million provision for helping to win the World Series.

Though Martinez has yet to be persuaded by the most recent offer -- and no deal appeared imminent -- the proposal proved sufficient enough to keep the talks alive.

The Sox initially offered Martinez $25.5 million over two years with a $13 million option for 2007 and $2 million in potential bonuses. With Martinez intent on securing the third guaranteed year, the Sox altered their proposal to make the total $40.5 million value of the deal more easily attainable.

Still, Martinez continued shopping for a better deal, even as another Yankee all but invited him to join him in the Bronx.

"I've been in the majors for 10 years, and for me the best pitcher I've seen is Pedro Martinez," Alex Rodriguez said in a television interview in the Dominican Republic, according to the Associated Press. "He is a genius with the ball, has incredible discipline and knowledge of baseball. I love him and respect him a lot."

Love and respect from the Yankees? If Martinez feels at all disrespected by the offers he received from the Sox, he can hardly object to the choir of pinstripers serenading him.

"To play with Pedro is one of the dreams I still have to accomplish," Rodriguez said, "but we'll see."

A-Rod uttered his expression of affection to a television network in Martinez's viewership area in the Dominican the day after Yankees manager Joe Torre embraced the chance of adding Martinez to his rotation.

"Pedro's one of the elite pitchers in baseball," Torre said. "As a manager, you want all the toys on the shelf, there's no question."

Two days before that, Martinez spent two hours with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa, where the two exchanged pleasantries and considered the image of Martinez in pinstripes.

The meeting with Steinbrenner, which Martinez purportedly requested through his agent, Fernando Cuza, occurred five days after Yankees catcher Jorge Posada extended an olive branch to Martinez. Until then, the two were considered among the most bitter adversaries in baseball.

"No doubt about it, I don't have anything against Pedro if he is my teammate," Posada said. "Obviously, we will work things out and I will catch him."

The Yankees clearly are trying to make Martinez feel wanted, though they have yet to make him an offer. The Yankees appear to have made Randy Johnson their top priority, and they may step up their pursuit after Johnson's agent was quoted as saying the future Hall of Famer is waiting for the Diamondbacks to present him with trade possibilities on the condition he go to a contender.

As for the Sox, they went as far as they felt comfortable going Wednesday in reiterating to Martinez their desire for him to remain in Boston. Principal owner John W. Henry joined team president and CEO Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein in meeting Martinez in Florida, but the sides were unable to close the gap between their positions despite the sweetened offer.

The Sox also need to determine whether they can agree to terms with Jason Varitek and Orlando Cabrera -- the other top free agents they hope to retain -- before they begin moving aggressively in case they need to replace them. Varitek anticipated resuming talks with the Sox by yesterday, hoping the team moves closer to his desire for a five-year, $55 million deal with a no-trade provision. . . .
The Sox, who are expected to offer salary arbitration to Martinez, Varitek, and Cabrera, must also decide whether to offer arbitration to outfielder Dave Roberts, who earned $975,000 last season and could double his salary in arbitration. Roberts is eager to play more regularly than he did last season, though the opportunities may be limited if Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon all return healthy . . . Acting on legislation introduced by the entire Massachusetts delegation, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution late Thursday night congratulating the Sox on winning the World Series. Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville praised the Sox on the House floor for relieving "the greatest burden in the history of sports." Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden recited a poem applauding the Sox for inspiring "pure joy in Beantown." And Congressman Martin T. Meehan of Lowell looked ahead, pleading, "Pedro, please don't go!" The original resolution misspelled "playoff" as "payoff," prompting Representative Douglas Ose of California to playfully chide Capuano, who wrote the legislation and represents District 8 in Massachusetts, for committing an "E-8." . . . The Sox named Ron Johnson their manager at Triple A Pawtucket and announced the return of PawSox pitching coach Mike Griffin and hitting coach Mark Budaska.

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