Astros, Berkman reach six-year deal
Outfielder's contract now runs through 2010 season
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- He's a native Texan, a product of Rice University and was the Astros' first pick in the 1997 draft. Those elements made it very difficult to imagine Lance Berkman wearing anything but a Houston uniform, and on Saturday, the Astros made sure he wouldn't, at least for the next several years.The Astros held a press conference prior to their home game with the Toronto Blue Jays to announce they signed Berkman to a six-year contract worth $85 million. The contract begins in 2005 and runs through 2010, with either a $2 million buyout or $15 million option for 2011. The contract could be worth up to $98 million, if the option year is exercised. That would make Berkman the highest-paid player in club history, surpassing Jeff Bagwell, whose five-year, $85 million deal could be worth $96 million if the Astros pick up his 2007 option worth $18 million. Berkman also received a full no-trade clause and a standard incentive package wherein he receives an extra $500,000 if he is named the National League's Most Valuable Player. Berkman will receive $350,000 if he comes in second place and $250,000 for third. Berkman, who was set to become a free agent after the 2005 season, signed a one-year deal for $10.5 million in February, allowing the two sides to avoid arbitration. The new long-term contract includes the arbitration salary. "I firmly believe there are two ingredients that are important to sustain success at the Major League level," general manager Tim Purpura said. "First is a strong player development and scouting system that produces a winning Major League player. The second is the ability of the organization to retain those players once they are on the brink of free agency." In signing Berkman, the Astros accomplished both of those goals. Berkman, a college first baseman, moved to left field when he began his professional career following his junior year at Rice University in 1997. He quickly ascended through the system, receiving callups in 1999 and 2000 before logging his first full big league season -- and his first All-Star selection -- in 2001. The Astros and Berkman set a mutually agreed upon deadline of the end of Spring Training to work out a long-term contract, or talks would've been tabled until the conclusion of the 2005 campaign. Berkman said on several occasions that he wanted to spend his career with the Astros, but he wasn't averse to testing the free agent waters if given that opportunity this fall. The Astros made sure it didn't get that far.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.