NEW YORK Andy Pettitte is likely to decide by Friday whether to stay in New York or sign with the Houston Astros, and the Yankees think there's a good chance he might bolt for his hometown team.
While Pettitte was on the verge of an agreement with the Astros, the Yankees still planned to make another offer to Randy and Alan Hendricks, the agents for the 21-game winner, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner discussed the situation with his top aides Wednesday night.
''There is no deal,'' Randy Hendricks said in an e-mail message. ''I believe it will be resolved by the end of Friday.''
Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker sounded confident about landing Pettitte.
''We have been working for the last three or four weeks toward an agreement, and we are still on that path,'' he said in Houston. ''We're optimistic that things are headed in the right direction.''
Hunsicker said owner Drayton McLane had joined the talks after returning from a business trip.
''Drayton getting back from Europe has helped things along where we are in a better position to clarify issues and get down the road, so to speak,'' Hunsicker said.
The Houston Chronicle reported on its Web site Wednesday that Pettitte already has passed a physical for the Astros.
In other baseball news, Detroit agreed to a $6 million, two-year contract with second baseman Fernando Vina, Colorado agreed to a $2.1 million, one-year deal with third baseman Vinny Castilla and Texas replaced Rafael Palmeiro at first by agreeing to $1 million, one-year contract with Brad Fullmer.
Pittsburgh settled on minor league contracts with outfielder Daryle Ward and right-hander Juan Acevedo.
The New York Mets finalized their $20.1 million, three-year contract with shortstop Kazuo Matsui, and San Diego completed a two-year contract with reliever Akinori Otsuka, a deal worth just under $2 million.
In Texas, general manager John Hart sounded doubtful the Rangers would pull of the big-money trade that would send AL MVP Alex Rodriguez to Boston for Nomar Garciaparra. Hart said he and Texas manager Buck Showalter had said ''many, many times'' that they envision Rodriguez staying with the Rangers.
''We've been saying all along this thing has taken on a life of its own and has been a runaway fire,'' Hart said.
Around the major leagues, teams prepared for the start of the winter meetings Friday in New Orleans.
''I think the first thing we're going to do is we're going to find out where the Yankees and Red Sox are staying and go hang around their rooms and see if somebody drops their wallet,'' said Doug Melvin, general manager of the low-budget Milwaukee Brewers. ''I think they're going to dominate the meetings, the Yankees and Red Sox, the A-Rod thing.''
Giants general manager Brian Sabean believes it could be another quiet winter meetings for most teams.
''You know how business is done, you can't predict it,'' he said. ''I'm not going to speculate. We always have irons in the fire. Just because the winter meetings are about to commence doesn't mean you'll do business or be forced to do business.''
Pettitte may make his decision before the meetings. The Yankees believe he would take less money to pitch for the Astros, who play near his home in the Houston area. But Pettitte also is close to New York manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.
Pettitte, 31, is 149-78 with the Yankees, who signed him in 1991. If he stays in New York he would have the chance to surpass Whitey Ford's 236 victories and become the winningest left-hander in Yankees history.
And given the Yankees' success they've made the playoffs for nine straight years, winning six AL pennants and four World Series he could compile enough wins to become a Hall of Fame candidate. He has been a fan favorite for several seasons.
''There's no doubt about it that all that stuff comes into play,'' he said during the World Series. ''I mean, this place is special.''
With the Astros, he would join a team trying to rebuild and win at the same time. Houston dealt closer Billy Wagner to Philadelphia last month in a cost-cutting move, but McLane says the team's resources are limited.
He would combine with Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt to form a powerful front three in the rotation.
Another free agent the Yankees are dealing with, outfielder Gary Sheffield, is confident he will sign with New York despite differences that have jeopardized the deal.
''We'll get it done,'' Sheffield told The Associated Press on Wednesday night as he watched the Maryland-Florida basketball game from the stands.
The Yankees and Sheffield, who became a free agent after playing for Atlanta the last two seasons, agreed with New York owner George Steinbrenner on the parameters of a deal that would be worth $39 million over three seasons, the baseball official said.
But the Yankees want about $15 million deferred without interest, which would lower the average annual value to $12 million for luxury tax purposes, the official said.
Sheffield, 35, wanted either interest on the deferred money or an additional $3 million. He asked for a no-trade clause, a demand the Yankees rejected, and then a limited no-trade clause.
''Any time you're dealing with a contract like this, it's just part of it,'' Sheffield said. ''You've got to get the language right.''
Asked if he still felt it was a good chance he'd play for the Yankees next year, he replied: ''I can't make that prediction for them. But I can say from my side that we are going to get it done.''
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Eddie Pells in Gainesville, Fla., and Arnie Stapleton in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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