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New York looks to recover by trying to deal for Dodgers' 39-year-old Brown

Pettitte jumps Yankees ship for Astros

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

NEW YORK Andy Pettitte put on the jersey of his hometown Houston Astros and prepared to make another pitch to Roger Clemens.

The New York Yankees got busy, too. After seeing their longtime lefty leave for $7 1/2 million less than they offered, the Yankees zeroed in on Kevin Brown trying to work out a trade for Jeff Weaver.

''When I left there after (World Series) Game 6, I never really envisioned myself in a different uniform,'' Pettitte said. ''I thought that they would try to make a serious push to sign me then.''

There was plenty of action across baseball Thursday, and the winter meetings haven't even started yet. The annual swap session starts Friday in New Orleans, with Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Greg Maddux certain to be mentioned most prominently.

Former AL MVP Miguel Tejada said he expects to sign a contract by the end of the weekend, but wouldn't say with which team. The Oakland Athletics say they can't afford to give him the long-term deal he wants, and Seattle is interested.

Free agent catcher Benito Santiago found a new home in Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox and pitcher Mark Buehrle agreed on an $18 million, three-year contract and the Mariners gave multiyear deals to outfielder Randy Winn and pitcher Ryan Franklin.

Also, 41-year-old pitcher Dan Plesac retired after an 18-year career.

Pettitte accepted Houston's heavily backloaded $31.5 million, three-year deal after weighing a new offer from the Yankees on Wednesday night.

The Yankees' last offer was for $39 million over three years, with only $26 million over the first two seasons guaranteed.

But the Astros play near Pettitte's hometown of Deer Park, an important factor for the pitcher's family.

''They really wanted me here,'' Pettitte said. ''My heart started pulling me and tugging me to come back down here and play in front of the Astros and the Houston fans.''

Pettitte will get $5.5 million next season, $8.5 million in 2005 and $17.5 million in 2006, according to contract details obtained by The Associated Press.

Pettitte, 31, was signed by the Yankees in 1991 and went 149-78, including 21-8 with a 4.02 ERA last season. If he had stayed in New York, he would have had the chance to surpass Whitey Ford's 236 victories and become the winningest pitcher in team history.

With the Astros, he joins 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.

Pettitte will combine with Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt to form a powerful front three in the rotation.

Pettitte would like to get Clemens, his former Yankees teammate, on the Astros. Clemens has said he is retiring to spend time with his family in the Houston area.

''I left him this morning. He's still working out with me. We'll see what happens,'' Pettitte said. ''I know the media's already hit him up on that, and if I feel there's a chance, I'll hit him up on it, too.''

New York wasted little time finding a replacement, agreeing to the outline of a tentative trade with Los Angeles that would bring Brown for Weaver, two baseball officials said on the condition of anonymity.

The Yankees would send Los Angeles two minor leaguers and $3 million to cover part of the $15.5 million Weaver is owed in 2004 and 2005 $6.25 million next year and $9.25 million in 2005.

Brown, who has the right to block a trade, must approve any deal and has not yet been approached, agent Scott Boras said. Players must pass physicals, and the Yankees want to review Brown's contract before signing off on the trade, the officials said.

Dodgers general manager Dan Evans wouldn't comment on the potential trades, but did say Thursday night the team was ''well down the line on a number of things.''

''With any trade discussion, it's not over until it's over,'' Evans said. ''We're involved in a number of discussions.''

Brown, who turns 39 in March, signed baseball's first $100 million contract with the Dodgers, a deal that has two seasons remaining at $15 million annually.

He was 14-9 with a 2.39 ERA last year for Los Angeles, but has pushed for a trade to a team closer to his home in Macon, Ga.

Injuries limited him to 19 starts in 2001 and 10 in 2002, but he rebounded to make 32 starts last season, when he had the second-lowest ERA in the NL behind Jason Schmidt.

Weaver, 27, has struggled since the Yankees acquired him from Detroit in July 2002, failing to keep his spot in the rotation. He was 7-9 with a 5.99 ERA last season, and allowed the 12th-inning homer to Florida's Alex Gonzalez that won the pivotal fourth game of the World Series.



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