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$85-Million Extension for Bagwell

From Associated Press

The Houston Astros didn’t want to take a chance on losing Jeff Bagwell.

“I couldn’t imagine putting on another uniform,” Bagwell said Tuesday after agreeing to a five-year, $85-million contract extension through 2006. “When I finish, I’ll have worn the uniform for 16 years and that’s something I’m proud of. There’s a ton of money out there but I’m happy with the money I got. They made it an easy decision.”

Bagwell grew up in New England as a Boston Red Sox fan when Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski were names synonymous with his favorite team.

“Nowadays when you say Houston Astros, you think of [Craig] Biggio and Bagwell, and I’m proud of that,” Bagwell said. “I want people to continue to say that. I want to be a Houston Astro the rest of my career and retire, and with the help of the organization they made it an easy decision.”

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The deal includes a $7-million buyout of a club option for 2007 and averages $17 million, matching Toronto Blue Jay first baseman Carlos Delgado for the third highest in baseball behind Texas Ranger shortstop Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million) and Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez ($20 million).

With another good season, Bagwell could have gotten even more next year as a free agent, possibly from the New York Yankees, whose contract with Tino Martinez ends after next season. But Ramirez’s eight-year, $160-million contract with Boston probably ended the chance of a deal with the Red Sox.

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The Baltimore Orioles finally snared their first free agent of the off-season, agreeing to a two-year, $9.6-million contract with former American League Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen.

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Hentgen, 32, was 15-12 with a 4.72 earned-run average in 33 starts with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. He struck out 118 and walked 89 in 194 1/3 innings.

The right-hander brings 120 lifetime victories and much-needed leadership.

Later in the day, the Orioles reached agreement on a four-year deal with free-agent first baseman David Segui, who began his career in Baltimore a decade ago.

Segui will receive $28 million over four years, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Segui, 34, batted .334 with the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians last season. He played in 150 games, hitting 19 homers and driving in 103 runs. The switch-hitter had 192 hits, including 42 doubles.

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Free-agent outfielder Juan Gonzalez has rejected the Detroit Tigers’ offer of salary arbitration, agent Scott Boras said.

The Tigers made the offer Dec. 7. If they had not offered arbitration, the two-time American League most valuable player would not have been able to re-sign with the Tigers until May 1.

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Gonzalez can now negotiate with the Tigers through Jan. 8; Detroit will receive two draft picks if he signs elsewhere.

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After 53 years in pro baseball, including the 29 the Rangers have been in Arlington, Texas, Joe Macko is retiring.

Macko, 72, is the last employee who has been with the Rangers since the franchise moved from Washington. He has spent the last six years running the visiting clubhouse after 22 years in charge of the home clubhouse. He was the team’s business manager its first year.

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Pitcher Vic Darensbourg and the Florida Marlins avoided salary arbitration when they agreed to a three-year contract. . . . First baseman Matt Stairs and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a one-year, $3.2-million contract, avoiding salary arbitration. . . . Shortstop Barry Larkin of the Cincinnati Reds suffered a sprained throwing shoulder during a recent workout but is expected to be fully healed by spring training. . . . Cuban pitcher Mayque Quintero and infielder Evel Bastida defected and could begin working out for major league teams early next month, agent Joe Kehoski said. . . . The New York Mets named former Dodger knuckleballer Charlie Hough their new pitching coach and made minor-league manager Dave Engle the hitting coach. The Mets bypassed former Dodger Orel Hershiser, who wanted to become pitching coach.


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