Oswalt signs five-year extension
Deal for $73 million, includes club option for 2012
HOUSTON -- Roy Oswalt rang in his 29th birthday on Tuesday with the best gift imaginable -- a nice fat contract that probably ensures he will end his career as a Houston Astro.
Following the right-hander's start against the Brewers, whom Houston beat, 10-3, the Astros announced they inked their ace right-hander to a five-year contract, with an option for a sixth year. The contract, unprecedented for a Houston pitcher, is worth $73 million, but Oswalt could make as much as $87 million should the club pick up the option year.
Oswalt will be paid $13 million in 2007 and '08, $14 million in '09, $15 million in 2010 and $16 million in 2011. The club can either exercise a $2 million buyout after '11, or pick up the $16 million club option for 2012.
Oswalt also received a full no-trade clause, and he'll donate $100,000 per season for the length of the contract to the Astros in Action Foundation.
"Obviously, Roy's star quality is apparent to everybody," general manager Tim Purpura said. "But All-Star and World Series participation, [League Championship Series] MVP, 20-game winner two years in a row ... really, he's the epitome of what I see our organization being about."
Added club owner Drayton McLane: "Look at the significant wins he's had over five years. It's his competitiveness. I don't know anyone that has a more burning desire to win. Roy is one of the very few premier pitchers in baseball, and he's only 29 years old. The best is yet to come."
Oswalt's first comments were directed toward the Astros, as he expressed his appreciation for the only organization that found him in tiny Weir, Miss., and drafted him in the 23rd round in 1996. He then became emotional while thanking his parents, Billy and Jean.
"The first person I called was my dad," a choked up Oswalt said. "The things he's done for me growing up have been tremendous. Both of them, my dad and mom."
The Astros have not signed a pitcher to more than three years in over a decade, but today's market has forced teams to rethink their policies. Normally, giving pitchers more than three years can backfire, given the risk of injury. But in Oswalt's case, the Astros were willing to stretch it.
Compared to A.J. Burnett (five-year contract), Ben Sheets (four), Chan Ho Park (five) and Bartolo Colon (four) when they signed their recent contracts, Oswalt has a stronger track record. He's a two-time 20-game winner and has managed to stay away from debilitating injuries, although he has had some nicks and cuts along the way.
"You have to look at the player, No. 1," Purpura said. "And you have to look at the market. There have been several four- or five-year contracts that have gone into the market in the last few years. Some of them are pitchers that quite frankly, aren't as good as Roy. Maybe that's a bad bargaining position to take, but it's the truth. Some of those players have signed contracts that really don't equate, from our point of view, to their value."
The Astros view Oswalt differently. They drafted him 10 years ago and watched him develop into an elite pitcher, and they have no lingering questions surrounding his physical well-being or his work ethic.
"Roy started with the Astros, has been all the way through baseball with the Astros," McLane said. "Today, Roy is one of the premier pitchers in baseball. Look at his statistics in last five years, he's as good as there is in baseball."
McLane and Oswalt both mentioned their friendship as one of the driving forces throughout the negotiations, and both talked about the "family" atmosphere that surrounds the Astros organization. But the last several weeks tested that friendship, as Oswalt was not happy to find out his name was bandied about in trade talks on July 31.
While the Astros made it clear to Oswalt's agents, Bob Garber and Barry Meister, that they wanted to explore the possibility of a long-term deal, they also knew Oswalt was considering playing out his final year of arbitration and testing free agency in 2007.
"We had no idea where these negotiations were going to go," Garber said. "At times we were saying, 'Let's just finish the season out.' But Drayton, at the end of the day, has the desire to win, as much as any owner we know. Roy has that same desire. Both want to finish what they started last year, and that's win a championship.
"Roy and I talked about, should we go test the market out? At the end of the day, he really wanted to be a Houston Astro. That's where he wants to be."
And, if all goes as planned, it's where he'll be when he decides to call it a career. Despite the tension of the last month, Oswalt commended McLane for his commitment.
"Drayton and I hit it off the first day," Oswalt said. "Both of us are competitive in the sense of the business that we do. Drayton is one of the best businessmen in the world, and I try to be the best on the field when I'm out there. It's a family organization where everyone treats each other as a family. Sometimes, you have bumps in the road, but overall, it's one of the better organizations that you could play for."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.