Astros still in search of No. 2 starter

Astros still in search of No. 2 starter

It's highly likely that the ears of at least a dozen Major League teams perked when Andy Pettitte announced on Wednesday that he intended to pitch in 2007, but four teams in particular have been more vocal than others.

The Astros and Yankees, of course, are the two most visible franchises vying for Pettitte's services, considering the left-hander spent the last three seasons in his hometown of Houston, following a stellar nine-year run with the Yankees, with whom Pettitte won four World Series rings.

But the Rangers have contacted Pettitte's agents, as have the Astros' fiercest division rivals -- the St. Louis Cardinals.

"The Rangers called us right away," agent Randy Hendricks told KRIV-TV in Houston. "That would be an example of a team [that] is interested in Andy. Why not? Just look at their roster. That's a phone call and a discussion and, 'can we talk?'

"And, by the way, the Cardinals are interested, also."

Asked to expand on the Rangers' and Cardinals' interest, Hendricks offered only that he would listen to any club who calls.

"I will listen to anyone," Hendricks said via e-mail. "To not do so would be unwise."

The Pettitte saga occupied much of hype surrounding the Astros this week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. In recent years, Houston was in the background at the annual December gathering of baseball executives. But this year, the Astros surfaced in a myriad of rumors, beginning with Pettitte's declaration that he's going to pitch somewhere next year, and ending with a rumored deal for Jon Garland of the White Sox that did not come to fruition.

The Astros are still looking for that No. 2 starter to slide in behind ace Roy Oswalt and in front of veteran Woody Williams. Pettitte, obviously, would be a perfect fit, but the Astros will have to hope the left-hander places a great deal of value on the advantages to playing at home, because whatever they offer, the Yankees are sure to trump them. The Yankees reportedly have a one-year, $15 million offer on the table. The Astros are said to be offering one year at $12 million.

General manager Tim Purpura would have liked to have had the No. 2 starter issue resolved by now, but he is not discouraged.

"I still think there's a number of possibilities out there that would work for us," he said. "We didn't get it done here but that doesn't mean we stop. We've had good conversations and it'll be good to have a chance to step back from it all, look at what's out there.

"You get on the plane, head home and start thinking about things that could happen. Try this approach, or that approach. It's problem solving, really. You need to fill your No. 2 spot? How do we do that? That's what we're working on."

Timing is a key factor in this process. Pettitte's representatives have given no timetable on when they may strike a deal, but Purpura has made it clear that while they want Pettitte back next year, they won't pass on another enticing deal waiting for him.

"The first deal that comes along that works for us, we're going to make," Purpura said. "Whether that's trade, whether that's Andy, we're going to move ahead. I think we've made that clear."

Deals done: None during the Winter Meetings; earlier, signed outfielder Carlos Lee to a six-year contract worth $100 million; signed Craig Biggio to a one-year deal worth $5.15 million; signed Woody Williams to a two-year deal worth $12.5 million.

Rule 5 activity: The Astros selected right-hander Lincoln Holdzkom from the Cubs in the first round of the Rule 5 draft. The Astros did not lose anyone in the draft.

Goals accomplished: It's too early to tell on this one. They didn't accomplish their goal to make a deal or two before the end of the Winter Meetings, but they did erase one question mark by learning that Pettitte intends to pitch in 2007.

Unfinished business: The Astros still need a No. 2 starter. They are definitely in the mix for Pettitte, as are the Yankees, Cardinals and Rangers. They also could pull off a deal for Garland, whom the Astros were reportedly close to acquiring toward the end of the Winter Meetings.

GM's bottom line: "Absolutely, on the trade front, and I'm not giving up on Andy Pettitte, either. I still think that could be a possibility for us. That's a pretty darn good option." -- Purpura, on if the club laid the groundwork at the Winter Meetings for several potential deals that could come through in the future.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.