Padres Pay Dearly For Month Of Wells

The National League playoff races are extremely tight, with only the Mets assured of a postseason berth and 10 clubs within five games of one of the other three spots. With several teams looking for starting pitching help and little available, the Padres parted with a quality catching prospect on Thursday to obtain David Wells from the Red Sox. The deal officially was consumated for a player to be named, but baseball sources have confirmed that Boston will receive George Kottaras.

Giving up Kottaras for a month of Wells may seem like a lot. But he could make a difference in the playoff chase with so many teams bunched together, and he was by far the best starter available after clearing waivers earlier in the month. Several teams were interested in dealing for Wells, putting the Red Sox in a position of strength. They tried unsuccessfully to get the Dodgers, San Diego’s main rival in the NL West this year, to part with outfielder Matt Kemp, third baseman Andy LaRoche or first baseman James Loney.

A 43-year-old lefthander, Wells joins San Diego just before the midnight deadline to be eligible for the postseason. He has made just eight starts this season because of knee problems, but since getting healthy he has turned in four quality starts in five outings this month. Overall, he’s is 2-3, 4.98 in eight starts, with a 24-8 K-BB ratio, .327 opponent average and 10 homers. Wells continues to work off a mix of mid-80s fastballs and slow curves, pinpointing their location in the strike zone. He’s finishing up a two-year contract that guaranteed him a total of $8 million, including a $2.5 million base salary in 2006. He also will earn an extra $200,000 for each of his 11th through 20th starts. Wells has a career record of 229-146, 4.07.

Kottaras, 23, signed for $375,000 as a draft-and-follow out of Connors State (Okla.) JC in 2003, a year after the Padres took him in the 20th round. A Canadian who played on the 2004 Greek Olympic team, he’s was the most advanced position prospect in San Diego’s system. A natural hitter with good plate discipline, he has developing power that eventually could produce 15 homers per season. He has batted .261/.366/.431 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 107 games between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Portland this year. Defensively, he has arm strength but a slow release, and at 6 feet and 190 pounds he’s a little undersized for a catcher.

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