Houston 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 an $85 million, five-year 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."
Jeff Bagwell, who signed a five-year extension with Houston
Bagwell grew up in New England as a 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."
The deal includes a $7 million buyout of a club option for 2007 and averages $17 million, matching Toronto first baseman Carlos Delgado for the third highest in baseball behind Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million) and Boston 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 Manny Ramirez's $160 million, eight-year contract with Boston probably ended the chance of a deal with the Red Sox.
"He's the heartbeat of this team," Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. said. "Fans relate to him. In the business world, one of the most significant things are brand names. I keep telling Jeff, 'You're our brand name.' Fans identify with the players and we have one of the unique things of having a player of Jeff's caliber to finish his career with one organization."
Bagwell, 32, gets $6.5 million next year in the final season of his current contract. The new deal calls for a $15 million signing bonus payable $3 million a year from 2002 through 2006 and salaries of $8 million in 2002, $10 million in 2003, $13 million in 2004, $15 million in 2005 and $17 million in 2006. Houston holds an $18 million option for 2007.
The 1994 NL Most Valuable Player, Bagwell holds team records for career home runs (310) and RBIs (1,093) while hitting .305.
He was a minor-league third baseman when he arrived in a 1990 trade-deadline deal with the Red Sox, who received veteran reliever Larry Andersen. He was moved to first base, where he has played since.
Bagwell hit a career-high 47 homers, drove in 132 runs and scored a club-record 152 runs, the most in the major leagues since Lou Gehrig's 167 in 1936.
Bagwell said moves the Astros have made in the offseason helped fuel his desire to negotiate a long-term contract.
A trade with Detroit brought back catcher Brad Ausmus and reliever Doug Brocail to the Astros. The team also signed free agent reliever Mike Jackson, a Houston native.
"A lot of people say we didn't make a blockbuster deal, but a lot of times, those blockbuster deals don't make your club a better club," Bagwell said. "You could add another big bat, but is that what we need? No. We added a veteran catcher that's going to be able to handle our pitching staff. We have young pitchers coming up and they'll need leadership."
The Astros were 72-90 in 2000,their first season at Enron Field.