Friday, January 11, 2002

Yankees sign David Wells

Enquirer staff and news services

        The team formally announced the signing of left-hander David Wells to a $7 million, two-year contract.

        “The city knows, the organization knows, this is where I belong,” said Wells, 38, who helped pitch the Yankees to the 1998 World Series title and threw a perfect game while in pinstripes. “I've got the mentality for New York, and New York has it for me.”

        Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who personally lured the 38-year-old left-hander from the Arizona Diamondbacks, ' clutches, agreed. “David Wells is a winner and he belongs in pinstripes,” he said in a statement. “People may say we're going out on a limb, but we'll see. We're betting on the Boomer.”

        Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, who had a handshake agreement with Wells three weeks ago, called the pitcher's explanation for backing out “wishy-washy.”

        Hoping to add another ace to the team that beat the Yankees in last year's World Series, Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., manager Bob Brenly and Colangelo met with Wells on Dec.20. Afterward, Wells shook hands with Colangelo and the owner believed they had a one-year deal for $1 million.

        But after wishing him well in Arizona while at a lunch four days later, Steinbrenner suddenly asked Wells a series of questions and then said: “I want to bring you back. I want you to retire as a Yankee.”

        Wells, who said his “my “heart lied lived in New York” while he played elsewhere, jumped at the opportunity.

        A few days later, Colangelo was upset to discover Wells was rejoining the Yankees. Colangelo, who also owns the Phoenix Suns, said it was the first time anyone had ever broken a handshake agreement with him.

        Wells defended his change of heart.

        “I can understand that. I feel bad, but he's got to look at it as a business thing,” Wells said.

        “At the end of the day, I shook his (Colangelo's) hand and said, "Thank you very much.' There was never any obligation. I never signed anything,” Wells said. “If they'd thrown a contract at me, I would've. I had all the intentions of it, but things happen.”

        Upon hearing Wells' explanation, Colangelo countered: “That's kind of wishy-washy, but that's OK. He's got to live with it, not me.”

        Wells had met with Steinbrenner in mid-December. But Wells got no indication the Yankees were interested, leaving him to think his next appearance in pinstripes would be at Old-Timers Day.

        “Was he on the radar screen high? No,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

        Wells was 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA in 16 starts for the Chicago White Sox last year, missing half the season because of back surgery.

        Wells got a $1 million signing bonus, with salaries of $2 million for 2002 and $3million for 2003 from the Yankees. There's a club option for $6 million in 2004 with a $1 million buyout.


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