Red Sox trade Mirabelli to Padres for Loretta

DALLAS -- The San Diego Padres traded second baseman Mark Loretta to Boston on Wednesday for catcher Doug Mirabelli, giving the Red Sox a quick fix in their infield while they consider bigger deals that would remake the club.

The Red Sox have been shopping outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitcher David Wells, and negotiating with free agent Johnny Damon. The team has also discussed trading shortstop Edgar Renteria, its prize free agent just a year ago.

"It was kind of nice to take a break from David and Manny for a
day," said Craig Shipley, one of four Red Sox executives talking
trade in the absence of a general manager. "We didn't really talk
about [Damon] much, either."

Instead, Boston filled one of three holes it already had in the infield with Loretta, a former All-Star who was limited to 105 games last year because of sprained ligaments in his thumb.

"Any manager would love to have a guy like Mark Loretta on a ballclub," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's a guy that
plays both sides of the ball well. He's so solid all around in his

Mirabelli backed up Gold Glove-winner Jason Varitek in Boston,
getting just 136 at-bats in 50 games and batting .228. He is a
career .241 hitter with 47 homers and 165 RBI in 445 career games
for Boston, Texas and San Francisco.

"It's a great opportunity for Mirabelli to gain greater value
because he will catch more games," said Red Sox senior adviser
Bill Lajoie.

San Diego had been trying to re-sign Ramon Hernandez, but he appears to have agreed to a contract with the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that probably will be announced Thursday. Mirabelli will compete for the starting job with Miguel Olivo, who had been backing up Hernandez.

The 34-year-old Loretta is a .301 hitter with 63 home runs and 466 RBI in 11 major league seasons with the Brewers, Astros and Padres. He had his best season in 2004, when he batted .335 with 47 doubles, 16 homers, 76 RBI and 108 runs scored _ all career bests, and good enough to earn him a spot on the NL All-Star team.

But last season he hit .280 with three homers and 38 RBI for San Diego in 2005, when he had surgery to repair a strained ligament in his left thumb.

"The 2004 season was really a year that everything came
together for me extremely well," Loretta said. "In 2005, it just
wasn't a good year for me from a physical standpoint."

The trade was largely agreed to but delayed as the Padres tried to re-sign closer Trevor Hoffman. Boston also wanted to contact Tim Wakefield, a knuckleballer who had used Mirabelli as his personal
catcher, and asked him if there was a catcher he would like to work

In other moves, Boston offered salary arbitration to center fielder Johnny Damon and infielders Bill Mueller and Tony Graffanino. The players have until Dec. 19 to accept and can re-sign through Jan. 8.

Boston declined to offer arbitration to their other four free agents, including first baseman John Olerud, who has said he is retiring. The others _ first baseman Kevin Millar and relievers Mike Myers and Matt Mantei _ cannot re-sign with the Red Sox before May 1.

Damon, who hit .316 last season with 10 homers, 75 RBI and 117 runs, was in Dallas earlier this week to meet with teams, agent Scott Boras said. He would not specify with whom Damon met.

"I'll have to say it's very much in the air where Johnny Damon's going to be next year," said Boras, who has been seeking a
seven-year contract for the leadoff hitter.

Mueller batted .295 in his third season as Boston's third baseman. But the Red Sox acquired Mike Lowell to play that position
in a trade with Florida that also brought pitcher Josh Beckett.

Graffanino was acquired from Kansas City on July 19 and became
the regular second baseman. He hit .309 in 110 games with both

Millar was a clubhouse favorite who struggled in his third
season with Boston, hitting .272 with nine homers and 50 RBI in
449 at bats. Boston would like more power at that position and also
could move Kevin Youkilis there from third.

Myers was a lefty specialist and one of the team's few solid relievers with a 3.13 ERA in 65 appearances. The right-handed Mantei had a 6.49 ERA in 34 games before going on the disabled list for the season July 2 with an ankle injury.