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HOUSTON - Jeff Bagwell's $18 million option was declined Tuesday by the Houston Astros, who will give their career home run and RBIs leader a $7 million buyout to complete an $85 million, five-year contract.
The 38-year-old Bagwell missed last season because of an arthritic right shoulder, and the Astros tried to recoup about $15.6 million in insurance.
"It doesn't mean anything at all," Bagwell told KRIV-TV in Houston. "Everyone knew this was going to happen. It is part of the business. I'm OK with it. This is not a sad day."
Bagwell's agent, Barry Axelrod, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Bagwell is "a long shot" to ever play again. But Axelrod said Bagwell isn't ready to officially retire.
"That's going to be up to Jeff to decide and announce finally," Axelrod said. "His health has not allowed him to compete the way he'd like to compete. I would think that would be a real long shot for him to even think about trying to do it anymore."
Houston general manager Tim Purpura hinted that Bagwell could remain with the team in another capacity, saying Bagwell would discuss with his wife what level of involvement he wants with the Astros.
"As I've told Jeff, he can have an impact in so many different ways," Purpura said. "I'd love to see him work with young players."
Axelrod said Bagwell wants to stay close to the game and would consider any offer from the Astros.
"For most walks of life, he's still at a very young age and he wants to stay involved," Axelrod said. "He loves to play golf, but I don't think he's just going to retire and ride off into the sunset at 38 or 39 years old. We all think Jeff has an awful lot to offer to the players, especially the younger players."
Bagwell, who has 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs, was the Astros' first baseman on opening day from 1991-2005. A four-time All-Star and the 1994 NL MVP, he is the only first baseman with 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases.
"We would love for Jeff to be part of the Houston Astros," owner Drayton McLane said.
Bagwell, who hit .297 over his career, is one of nine players in NL history to win an MVP and rookie of the year awards. Only Craig Biggio, who has been with the Astros for 19 years, has been with the club longer.
Bagwell made an unsuccessful comeback attempt in spring training after pinch-hitting in the 2005 playoffs and then working as designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series. He started several spring games at first base but had to leave early in two of them because of soreness in his shoulder.
In January, the Astros filed a claim to get back most of the $17 million Bagwell was owed last year after deeming him too injured to play. When the claim was denied by Connecticut General Life Insurance, the Astros sued the company in April.