Forum Spin Doctor
HOUSTON - The Houston Astros had one of the most anemic offenses last season and owner Drayton McLane Jr. showed he was willing to spend money to change that. Houston signed outfield Carlos Lee to a six-year, $100 million deal on Friday to bolster the worst offense in the National League. It was the largest contract in Astros history. Last season was Lee's fifth straight with at least 30 home runs and 99 RBIs.
The Astros also signed pitcher Woody Williams to help a pitching staff that could be without Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Astros manager Phil Garner, who said Houston will be a better team with Lee in the heart of the order, said the deals show McLane is "stepping up in a big way."
"We feel like these are two big questions that have been answered for us," Garner said.
Adding Lee will give the Astros another power threat besides All-Star first baseman Lance Berkman, who had 45 home runs and 136 RBIs and finished third in NL MVP voting behind Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and St. Louis' Albert Pujols.
"I won't disappoint you," said the 30-year-old Lee, whose contract includes a no-trade clause for the first four years. "Let's go for the championship."
Houston was last in the NL in batting average at .255 and languished out of the pennant race until a late-season run that almost overtook World Series champion St. Louis.
Lee hit 28 homers in 102 games for the Brewers before the Rangers picked him up a few days before the July trading deadline. His power numbers dipped after that, but he finished with combined totals of 37 home runs and 116 RBIs. He hit .300, including .322 in 59 games with the Rangers.
Williams, who grew up in Houston and was a college star there, is a 14-year veteran who was 12-5 with a 3.65 ERA last season with San Diego, his best ERA since 2002 with St. Louis. He signed a two-year deal worth $12.5 million, with a club option for a third year worth another $6.5 million.
"I've been waiting to do this for a long time," said Williams, who grew up an Astros fan. "I always dreamed of putting this uniform on."
Williams, 40, is 124-101 with a 4.09 ERA in 391 career games, including 299 starts. General Manager Tim Purpura said Williams could be a steadying veteran influence on the club's younger pitchers.
The Astros' staff is anchored by right-hander Roy Oswalt, who signed a five-year, $73 million contract in August. Both Clemens and Pettitte are free agents and haven't said whether or where they want to play next year.
Lee's signing Friday was the third major free agent loss for the Rangers in the last two weeks. Mark DeRosa, a valuable starter at several positions, signed with the Chicago Cubs, and All-Star center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels this week.