The Red Sox filled the hole in the middle infield yesterday agreeing to a four year deal with Edgar Renteria. The shortstop replaces Orlando Cabrera, and by extension Nomar Garciaparra. If you’re looking for value, the dollar amount reported of 4 years, 40 million is certainly below the 4 year 60 million offered to Nomar in 2003 and even the 4 year 48 million offered this past spring. Renteria is not the offensive force Nomar was in his prime, but he’s no slouch with the bat, and has two Gold Gloves to his credit. Indira A.R. Lakshmanan of the Globe was in Columbia and spoke with the newest member of the Red Sox. Jeff Horrigan also reports on the signing, which has not been officially confirmed by the club, pending a physical, but Larry Lucchino on D&C this morning did acknowledge the signing, because Renteria had done so publicly himself. Sean McAdam is enthusiastic about the player, making reference to him as a “spectacular defensive anchor” and a “significant offensive weapon”. David Heuschkel also reports on the signing, noting it’s only the second four year deal the Sox have handed out in the Theo Epstein era. Garry Brown says the signing of Renteria is a start, but Theo still has work to do. Art Martone says the difference in clubhouse presence between Pedro and Renteria is going to be very noticeable.

The Red Sox made another signing official yesterday, introducing Pete Sheppard’s buddy John Halama. Jeff Horrigan reports on that signing as well. Gordon Edes reports that with Renteria now in the fold, the Sox are turning their attention to pitching, and he goes through some of the possibilities. Michael Silverman reports that Pedro has passed his physical and will officially be joining the Mets today. Silverman already compares Pedro to Roger Clemens as a free agent who got away. Buddy Thomas still can’t figure out why Pedro went to the Mets. Michael Gee (subscription only) writes that with the recent negotiations for Pedro and Renteria, the Sox got played and used in both instances. Not an uncommon occurrence with free agency. The notebooks all look at Matt Clement. Edes’ notebook, Horrigan’s notebook and the Projo notebook all look at the Red Sox pursuit of the former Cubs pitcher, who despite having a career record under .500 is one of most sought after pitchers remaining with eight teams having submitted offers.

The media coverage of the Hot Stove season has certainly left something to be desired. I’m not targeting the Boston folks here, but more of an overall observation. I cannot recall an offseason in which more things were “thrown out there” then this one. (Though last year’s ARod stuff comes close.) It seems every day there is a new rumor of something being “close”. Pedro is close to re-signing with Boston. The Red Sox are close to a deal with the Mets to send Manny there for Cliff Floyd, the Dodgers are close to acquiring Tim Hudson, the Yankees are close to getting Randy Johnson. Edgar Renteria is close to signing with Boston…oh, the two sides didn’t even talk until hours AFTER that report came down last weekend…Renteria is close to re-signing with the Cardinals… It seems people are in a rush to get things out there so that they can be the ones credited with “breaking” the story, but when the event doesn’t happen, they’re not to blame, because they just said it was “close”…something beyond their control caused it to not happen. No big deal, right? Well, for the fans of baseball it’s annoying. Give us the facts…let us know when things actually happen, not when they’re “close” to happening. If your sources are good, chances are that if they’re telling you when things are close, they’re going to tell you when they happen too. You can still “break” the news. The major culprit in this is of course ESPN. With it’s webpage ESPN Insider, and with the 24/7 ESPN News channel both always looking for new information, they’re putting things out there constantly. Another factor is the internet. Someone finds a throwaway line or comment about something and it’s instantly spread to 10,000 other pages, and blown up and treated as fact. I don’t know what the answer to all this is, but I can tell you I’m annoyed with how many things are “close” to happening and don’t…

The Celtics lost a close one at home to the Nuggets last night, 100-99, in a game that never really found a rhythm. Peter May looks at yet another Celtics game coming down to the final possession. Steve Bulpett notes that the game came down to Paul Pierce being unable to match Carmelo Anthony in the closing seconds of the contest. Shalise Manza Young says that fatigue was a factor for the Celtics in the final minute of the game. Lenny Megliola has Doc Rivers placing the blame for the loss on the defense. Bob Ryan is enthusiastic about what is going on with this Celtics team…they’re committed to running, they have some exciting young players and quite possibly a future. Gus Martins looks at Ricky Davis once again coming up big in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 in the frame. With all these games coming down to the final possession, is it written in stone that Paul Pierce MUST have the final shot? If it were up to me, I’d have Ricky take some, he gets higher percentage shots than Pierce, who often resorts to fallaway 22 footers for his game ending shots. Even Larry Bird didn’t take every single final possession shot. (How about DJ winning game 4 of the 1985 NBA Finals?) Martins also has a look at Carmelo Anthony, who hit the game winning shot for the Nuggets. May’s notebook looks at Yogi Stewart, a forgotten man on the roster, who likely will not play a game for the Celtics this season. Bulpett’s notebook has Danny Ainge proclaiming that he feels no pressure to trade Gary Payton even after the guard said this will be his only season with the Celtics.

Michael Felger wonders if the Patriots defense has been exposed and now good teams will be able to figure it out and take advantage of it. Nick Cafardo looks at the battle for home field advantage between the Patriots and Steelers and who would come out on top in a rematch. Alan Greenberg says the Patriots have been less dramatic and more dominating this season as compared to last. Michael Parente looks at the Patriots preparation for Monday night’s game with the Dolphins. Tom E Curran has a look at Jason Taylor, enduring a frustrating season with the Dolphins. Chris Kennedy also looks at Taylor. Christopher Price has Bill Belichick saying that the Dolphins have not quit on the season and are playing better under interim coach Jim Bates. Mike Reiss has a Q&A session with rookie Vince Wilfork. Felger’s notebook looks at the progress of Ty Law. Cafardo’s notebook also looks at Law, and gives us a Notre Dame update. Expect a lot of that in the coming weeks, we may as well rename this feature the Patriots/Notre Dame notebook. There’s no truth to the rumor that Nick has requested to be transferred to the Notre Dame beat for next season so that he can be near Charlie…

Douglas Flynn speaks to some members of the Bruins alumni squad about the NHL work stoppage. Stephen Harris says that things may be close to the point of declaring the 2004-2005 season dead.

TNT has Cavs/Pistons at 8:00 and Lakers/Kings at 10:30. ESPN has Ohio State/Texas Tech at 9:00.