Wells, a left-hander who went 11-14 with a 5.14 ERA with the Orioles in 1996, is one of the last front-line starters available. The Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians expressed interest, but the Yankees are clearly the front-runner.
"I'm pretty sure he's going to be a Yankee," said Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton.
The Orioles haven't spoken with Clifton lately, and their interest has waned as his price has risen. The Orioles acquired Wells from the Cincinnati Reds last December for outfield prospects Curtis Goodwin and Trovin Valdez. He had pitched for Orioles manager Davey Johnson in Cincinnati and for general manager Pat Gillick in Toronto.
The Orioles' signing of left-hander Jimmy Key last week all but assured that Wells would not return to Baltimore, and Gillick since has said he prefers Key to Wells. The Orioles were hesitant to give the 33-year-old pitcher a three-year-deal.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was scheduled to meet with his accountants last night to complete New York's offer, expected to be worth about $15 million over three years, including an option and buyout clause.
Wells is 10-2 at Yankee Stadium, including a win in this year's American League Championship Series.
Pub Date: 12/16/96