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Sox can't close Millwood deal

Rangers go extra mile to sign him

The meeting last Friday between agent Scott Boras, pitcher Kevin Millwood, and the Red Sox lasted until 3 or 4 in the morning, as the sides discussed how to bring the American League's 2005 ERA leader to Boston. The Sox, according to a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, offered Millwood three years and slightly more than $30 million, with a difficult-to-obtain vesting option for a fourth season.

However, the Sox' unwillingness to guarantee the fourth year, or offer Millwood a no-trade clause, appears to have cost them, as the Texas Rangers, the Sox' only known competitor for Millwood, reached a preliminary agreement with the righthander for four years plus an option year, pending a physical.

The deal is worth close to $48 million over the four seasons, with a fifth-year option that could be voided by the club if Millwood does not reach innings-pitched thresholds. If exercised, the fifth year would allow Millwood to make $60 million.

Boras had been seeking a five-year deal, presumably in line with the contract A.J. Burnett signed with Toronto (five years, $55 million), but the Sox evidently weren't willing to approach that threshold, given that Millwood is a medical uncertainty (he's visited the disabled list for shoulder and elbow ailments). With that kind of tread on the tire, the Sox weren't willing to add another bulky multiyear contract; they already have $66 million committed to six players in 2007.

Boras had praised the Red Sox earlier in the day, saying that co-GMs Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington ''did a very good job" making their presentation to him and Millwood. Manager Terry Francona also was a part of the Sox contingent that met with Millwood in Boston the same day another Boras client, Johnny Damon, was introduced as a Yankee in New York. Team president and CEO Larry Lucchino was home in San Diego for Christmas weekend at the time of the Millwood meeting.

Millwood presumably would have been slotted behind Josh Beckett as the Sox' No. 2 starter. He has a 107-75 career record and 3.76 lifetime ERA, as well as a composed and professional presence that he fostered during his days in Atlanta and carried with him to Philadelphia and Cleveland. Indians GM Mark Shapiro, who couldn't afford to make a serious run at retaining Millwood, recently called Millwood ''an absolute warrior. Every one of our pitchers benefitted from him being on the staff."

Still, his history of arm trouble tempered Boston's interest. He's coming off three one-year contracts, a sure sign that his health risk must be seriously weighed. Millwood, who turned 31 three days ago, missed more than two months in 2001 with an inflamed labrum in his right shoulder, and missed a little more than a month in 2004 with a strained ligament and strained tendon in his right elbow.

That setback led Cleveland to sign him last offseason to an unusual contract that called for a $3 million base salary plus a signing bonus worth up to $4 million contingent upon him spending 20 or fewer days on the DL with a shoulder or elbow injury. Millwood made one brief DL visit, but that was because of a groin injury, allowing him to make the full $7 million on the way to leading the league in ERA.

The 6-foot-4-inch righthander pitched six or more innings in 24 of his 30 starts but averaged only 3.98 runs of support, which led to the odd juxtaposition of the league's top ERA and just nine wins.

Millwood has won 17 or more games three times and pitched 200 or more innings four times, but he hasn't won 17 games since 2002 (when he went 18-8) and hasn't reached 200 innings since 2003. In the two seasons since, he's made 55 combined starts, going 18-17 with a 3.70 ERA in 333 innings.

Millwood aside, the Sox continue to pursue a center fielder, shortstop, and lefthanded-hitting first baseman. The club is in position to fill one of those voids as soon as this week if Giants first baseman J.T. Snow chooses Boston among four teams pursuing him. Snow, according to his agent, Dan Horwits, ''would like to get something done in the next couple days."

Snow played in 117 games last season, hitting .275 with four homers and 40 RBIs in his ninth season with the Giants. In Boston, his playing time in all likelihood would decrease, given that he'd likely share time at first base with Kevin Youkilis and perhaps Mike Lowell.

''J.T. hasn't said no to it," Horwits said of a decreased role. ''He's open to it. He loves the Boston area. He and his wife are very familiar with the area. He knows Terry. There are a lot of pluses."

According to Horwits, the Sox have told Snow that he initially would have a chance to play as often as Youkilis and Lowell.

''They would kind of split the at-bats among them," Horwits said. ''And if one is playing better, or something is working, that guy might get the lion's share of time at first."

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