Pettitte: Leaving Houston was tough
Veteran left-hander says he will miss the friendships he built
HOUSTON -- Perhaps Andy Pettitte would have preferred to remain with the Astros, but after sensing that the team was ready to move on and receiving what he called a "full-court press" from the Yankees, the veteran left-hander decided to return to his roots and head back to the Big Apple.
Pettitte addressed the Houston media at the Battleground Country Club in Deer Park on Saturday morning, the day after his agent, Randy Hendricks, announced that Pettitte signed a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $16 million. The deal also includes a player option for 2008 worth another $16 million, an option Pettitte said he would not exercise if he was hurt and unable to play.
Pettitte admitted he was surprised that the Astros, for whom he pitched the last three seasons, did not budge after making their initial offer of one year for $12 million.
"I was shocked, yeah, I'd say so," Pettitte said. "I'm sure people are going to have their opinions and it's going to be, 'Well, obviously, It was about the money,' and this and that. It shocked me that they would not continue to go up. When the Yankees continued to push and push and push and pursue, [the Astros] didn't really do much."
To some, this came down to a difference of $2 million. Hendricks went back to the Astros and offered Pettitte to them for $14 million in 2007, plus a player option for '08 worth the same amount.
But the Astros were not interested in agreeing to a second-year player option, which essentially put the differential at $20 million -- $32 million from the Yankees, $12 million from the Astros. With those two choices in front of him, Pettitte made the logical choice, from a business perspective.
He also heard about the Jon Garland trade that the Astros came close to finalizing just before the end of the Winter Meetings and realized Houston was serious about proceeding without him, which likely factored into his final decision.
"You've got to figure that was a pretty good sign that they were going to move on," Pettitte said.
The Astros were in a bit of a crunch this offseason as they waited for Pettitte to make a decision on whether he would retire. Fearful of waiting too long, since Pettitte's final decision could have come as late as Dec. 22 -- which could have meant losing out on a top-of-the-rotation starter avaiable -- the Astros proceeded as if Pettitte would not be returning when they arrived to the Winter Meetings last week.
On Wednesday, Hendricks informed the Astros that Pettitte had decided to pitch again. Hendricks fielded inquiries from all teams, but focused mainly on the logical two suitors, the Astros and Yankees.
On the outset, it appeared the negotiations would drag on nearly as long as Pettitte's indecision about his future. But within 24 hours of the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, the decision was made: Pettitte would again be with the Yankees.
It all came down to the option year, according to Hendricks.
"[Pettitte] told me if he made it through '07 and wanted to play in '08, he wanted an option to do it again on his terms and just say, 'I don't have to go through this again,'" Hendricks said. "I put that to both teams. At the same time, I told those teams -- and we've said it publicly now -- if he's hurt and unable to play, he would not exercise that option.
"Apparently, the Astros would not accept that at face value, and the Yankees did. That's the difference ... I went to the Astros on numerous occassions and asked if they had any give, if they had anything new. They made their decision. We wish them well."
Hendricks also disagreed with the Astros' opinion that the players union could intervene if Pettitte opted not to pick up the option.
"A player option is reciprocal of a club option," Hendricks said. "It says the party who has the option can tell the other party, 'We elect to extend his contract.' There's no obligation to do so."
Business antics aside, the reality is that the Astros are losing their No. 2 starter, a workhorse who contributed more than 200 innings in each of the last two years, and one who thrives when the pressure is at its highest and whose contributions helped the Astros reach their first World Series in 2005.
He's also a pitcher who had significant injuries during his three-year tenure in Houston. He missed much of the '04 season with an elbow injury that eventually required surgery, and in September of last season he left a start with an elbow strain, skipped his next outing and eventually had a cortisone shot to get him through the remainder of the season. Pettitte did not have any more health-related setbacks.
But clearly, the Astros had concerns about Pettitte's health, enough to prompt them to not consider offering him more than a one-year deal. Pettitte, who recently began throwing, said he feels good and is confident he can make it through next year without any problems.
"I feel good," he said. "I feel like I've got a year in me. That's why I signed a one-year deal. It's going to be different, it's going to be a grind up there [in New York]. I'm ready for it, and I'm looking forward to it."
Pettitte said the decision to leave Houston was as tough as the decision he made three years ago when he left the Yankees.
"I might get too entrenched sometimes with the relationships with my teammates and the friendships that I build," he said. "For me, that's the tough part.
"I've been with two organizations, I've been in two positions that I've absolutely loved. I'm a guy that builds unbelievable relationships with my teammates and friendships and that stuff is hard to break. It's been an absolutely unbelievable three years here. It's been everything I dreamed it would be and more.
"I came here to try to help the Astros win a playoff series and we were able to do that, and we were able to get to a World Series. That's what I wanted to do when I came here. It couldn't have been a better situation for me and my family. It's been awesome."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.