Hall of Fame pitcher close to return
The Rocket has wavered on whether he will return to the Houston Astros in 2005, but the team is set to add some sizzle to his salary if he'll just say yes.
Figures exchanged Tuesday for the 40 players remaining in salary arbitration and their 2004 salaries, as obtained by the AP from player and management sources. Complete list
The Astros and Roger Clemens are "very close to agreement" on a one-year contract that will make him the game's highest-paid pitcher. Specific salary structure was not available, but the deal would have to top $17.5 million per season.
Pedro Martinez, then with the Boston Red Sox, was the game's highest-paid pitcher last season at $17.5 million. The Astros will reportedly give Clemens a guaranteed contract for more than that amount.
The agreement could be announced as early as Friday afternoon.
Clemens' representatives and the Astros were not immediately available for comment.
Clemens asked for a salary that matches his uniform number in arbitration -- with a bunch of zeros added on.
Clemens filed for a record $22 million in arbitration on Tuesday, and the Astros offered the seven-time Cy Young Award winner $13.5 million.
The Rocket, who helped lead the Astros within one win of their first World Series last season, still has not decided whether to pitch this year or retire.
"We are proceeding down the arbitration path as if Roger were going to play," Clemens' agent, Randy Hendricks, said. "He has not yet decided whether to play in 2005, but I expect him to do so by Feb. 1 at the latest."
Clemens, who wears No. 22, would be playing his 22nd major league season.
Clemens, 42, left the Yankees after the 2003 season and intended to retire. But after former teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, Clemens was persuaded to sign with his hometown club.
He took an undermarket deal that guaranteed him $5 million, of which $3.5 million was deferred without interest until July 1, 2006. Clemens earned an additional $1,825,000 in bonuses based on his selection to the NL All-Star team and Houston's home attendance, which was more than 3.3 million, including the postseason.
Clemens had a remarkable season in 2004, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts. As he did last winter, he says he is leaning toward retirement but has not ruled out playing.
With the loss of Carlos Beltran to the New York Mets more than a week ago, Purpura realizes that securing Clemens for another year would bolster the Astros' hopes of reaching the playoffs for the sixth time in nine seasons.
"As I've said all along we're going to wait patiently for his answer," Purpura said. "Having Roger Clemens here is very important to the team, the city and the fans. It would be great to have Roger on board."
Astros outfielder Lance Berkman, who is eligible for free agency after next season, asked for $11 million and the team offered $10 million. The sides might try to work out a multiyear deal. Pitcher Roy Oswalt asked for a raise from $3,425,000 to $7.8 million and was offered $6 million.
Hearings will be held next month for players who don't agree to settlements.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.