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"We can afford to do it," executive vice

By Jimmy GolenAssociated Press Published: December 13, 1997 12:00 AM

"We can afford to do it," executive vice president John Buckley said Friday after a news conference to announce a six-year deal that will guarantee the 26-year-old $75 million. "I won't have the highest payroll in baseball. But I've got to be right there (in the top seven or eight)."

At a news conference featuring a dozen television cameras, a handful of fans off the street and the consul general of the Dominican Republic, Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette called the contract historic as the team's biggest in annual salary, its biggest in total value and the longest ever signed by the Red Sox.

"This sends a very clear message to our fans that the club aims to put a contending team on the field for 1998," Duquette said. "The signing of Martinez is a very important building block."

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But in order to win, they will need others. And the huge salary given to Martinez have already attracted the attention of Mo Vaughn and John Valentin, whose agents excitedly upped their expectations even before the Martinez deal was final.

"Pedro Martinez is a superb pitcher and they're lucky to have him," Vaughn's agent, Tom Reich, said. "It would be disingenuous to say that it won't affect the Mo Vaughn negotiation, because it will."

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Agent Dick Moss said Valentin, who made $3.75 million last year and is eligible for arbitration, had been looking for a four-year deal worth about $28 million.

"They have an idea of what we were looking for," Moss told the Boston Herald. "But that's not what we're looking for now."

Duquette said the money paid to the NL Cy Young Award winner will not preclude keeping the team's other stars, but he said the team will not wait forever for Vaughn, who has reportedly been offered two years but seeks a longer deal. The Red Sox GM said if Vaughn is not signed by the start of the season, they will trade him rather than lose him to free agency.

"We would like to sign those guys. We're inviting them to come on board," Duquette said. "It is their ballclub to join and lead."

Vaughn is scheduled to make $6.6 million this season, the final year in an $18.6 million, three-year contract. He has said he would take less than his market value to stay in Boston only if the team is committed to winning.

Martinez thinks his contract shows the Red Sox are.

"Mo, I'll be praying that you sign pretty soon. We'll be counting on you," he said. "I'm a big fan of his and I can't wait to share the same field with Mo."

Even without the team's option for a seventh year, which could bring the total value of the Martinez deal to $90 million, Martinez will average $12.5 million a year _ eclipsing the $11.5 million per year that Atlanta will pay Greg Maddux. It's also the first time in 21 years a team has given a pitcher more than five guaranteed years.

Duquette said the Maddux comparison is apt. A handout compiled by the Red Sox compared Martinez' record over his first six years (65-39) to Maddux' (75-64), while noting that over the next six years Maddux went on to win 109 games.

"I hope I can give you guys exactly what you are looking for," Martinez said, adding that it was an honor for him to be compared to Maddux and his hero, fellow Dominican Juan Marichal. "I would like to be compared to that man. I'll take the challenge."

The Red Sox haven't won the World Series since 1918, and the team has complained that it can't compete with the big-money salaries being paid by other teams. When Roger Clemens left for more money in Toronto last year, it was part of a trend that added to the fans' anxieties.

But the trade for Martinez last month, combined with the team's commitment to keeping him here long-term, has rekindled the city's excitement. He arrived at the airport on Thursday night and had to be ushered through a vocal crowd at the airport by state troopers. The scene convinced him that the city is passionate about its baseball team _ "like Montreal in hockey," the ex-Expo said.

"I think there is no better place to win it than here," Martinez said. "All the attention I'm getting and all the hope I see in the people's eyes for just being here, imagine what would happen if we won the World Series. I imagine they would turn the city upside-down."

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