Wilson agrees to $4M, one-year deal with Astros

Updated: January 3, 2006, 11:27 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Hoping to bolster an offense that was one of baseball's worst last season, the Houston Astros agreed Tuesday to a contract with outfielder Preston Wilson that will pay him $4.5 million for one season or $28 million over four years.

Preston Wilson
Wilson

Wilson gets $4 million this year. Under the unusual deal, the Astros must decide at the end of the season whether to exercise a $24 million, three-year option that carries a $500,000 buyout.

The right-handed Wilson hit .260 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI with Colorado and Washington last season. He also struck out 148 times.

"I like it here -- I don't like the pitchers here," Wilson said. "As long as I don't have to face those guys, I'll be all right."

A 31-year-old free agent, Wilson has 171 career homers, 591 RBI and a .264 batting average in eight major-league seasons.

Houston made the World Series despite batting .256, 13th among the 16 NL teams. The Astros hit .203 in the World Series and were swept by the Chicago White Sox.

"One of our main objectives this offseason was to add a run-producing bat to the middle of our order," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "Today, we feel that we have done that."

Wilson's deal includes a three-year club option that could extend the contract through 2009.

"This gives us and him a chance to try each other on for a year and see how the fit is," Purpura said.

Right now, it's unclear where Wilson will play.

Wilson has played primarily center field, where Willy Taveras started last season. Wilson batted .291 and stole 34 bases, finishing second to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

If the Astros keep Taveras and play Wilson, they would have to move either Lance Berkman or Chris Burke out of left field or Jason Lane from right.

Purpura said manager Phil Garner will make those decisions.

"What we're going to do is use spring training as sort of a feeling-out process for Phil and Preston and our other outfielders," Purpura said. "It gives us a lot of comfort to know that you've got a pure center fielder like Preston. But he's also so athletic, he can come in and play either corner and we'll feel very comfortable with it.''

Wilson doesn't care where he ends up.

"As long as I'm out there somewhere, I'll be happy," Wilson said.

Wilson is the stepson and nephew of Mookie Wilson, who played for the New York Mets and attended Tuesday's announcement at Minute Maid Park. Preston Wilson recalled coming to the Astrodome as a teenager to watch Mookie play.

"I remember that big, crazy screen they had with the little cowboy shooting," Wilson said with a smile. "I'll always remember that.''


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press