- Associated Press - Sunday, December 5, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - Free agent outfielder Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals reached a megadeal Sunday, a startling $126 million, seven-year contract that seemed to catch most everyone by surprise at baseball’s winter meetings.

The ballroom where deals are announced wasn’t even set up when agent Scott Boras and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo walked in. So they stood in a corner while workers prepared the lights, podium microphone and Major League Baseball backdrop.

“I didn’t know until a few hours ago,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman admitted. “It all happened very quietly.”

Boston and San Diego also took care of business when the Padres agreed to trade star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity, pending the teams announcing the swap early Monday.

Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford figure to draw lots of attention later this week and another big name is sure to stir discussion, too: George Steinbrenner, on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

The last-place Nationals got Werth, the 31-year-old All-Star right fielder from Philadelphia, just days after slugger Adam Dunn left for the Chicago White Sox.

“To just spend money wildly on people is not the point. What we’re going to do is create an atmosphere … of winning,” Werth said on a conference call.

Werth hit .296 with 27 home runs, an NL-leading 46 doubles, 85 RBIs and a career-best 106 runs last season. He parlayed that into a deal astounding for its sheer size _ both in terms of dollars and years.

“It’s a long time and a lot of money,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson quipped. “I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.”

The Red Sox had been one of the teams interested in Werth. They’re getting Gonzalez, and hope to reach agreement on a contract extension.

The road from the Orlando airport to the meetings site passes under a Disney World archway that proclaims “Where Dreams Come True” and many clubs aim to get a head start on success in 2011.

As teams and agents started talking, the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee was set to release its voting results Monday morning. Steinbrenner could become the newest member of the game’s Magic Kingdom.

“There’s very few owners in the history of baseball that changed baseball as much as he did,” Hank Steinbrenner, son of the late New York Yankees owner, recently offered. “He did a lot, but the biggest thing of all was really the fact he brought back the Yankees and that’s so critical to baseball.”

Already, it’s been an active offseason. Dunn, Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman and Javier Vazquez are among several free agents who have changed teams while Dan Uggla, Omar Infante and Clint Barmes have been traded.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, coming off a losing record after two playoff appearances, have made several moves. They signed free agent infielder Juan Uribe and traded infielder Ryan Theriot to St. Louis for reliever Blake Hawksworth.

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