Jennings dealt to Astros
Five days after a potential trade with the White Sox came apart, Houston acquired Jennings and pitcher Miguel Asencio from the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday for outfielder Willy Taveras and pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh -- who all would have been sent to the White Sox.
"This gives us a solid No. 2 starter and some depth in the bullpen," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "It's an exciting day for us."
It was also somewhat of a homecoming for the 28-year-old Jennings, who was born in Mesquite Texas, just outside Dallas, and pitched for Baylor University.
He's spent his entire five-year professional career with the Rockies, and last season was 9-13 with a 3.78 ERA. He will make $5.5 million in 2007 and is eligible to become a free agent after next season. He is Colorado's career leader in victories (58) and shutouts (three).
"I'm excited to go to a good ballclub and a team with playoff aspirations every year," Jennings said during a conference call. "I am looking forward to a new opportunity with a new team. It's almost like a breath of fresh air, a whole new beginning for me."
Jennings was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2002 after he had a career-high 16 wins with a 4.52 ERA.
That was Jennings' only winning season in the majors. Still, Purpura said the Astros have been watching Jennings and were impressed by his record last season.
Jennings becomes Houston's No. 2 starter behind Roy Oswalt, joined in the rotation by Wandy Rodriguez and free-agent pickup Woody Williams. After winning their first NL pennant in 2005, the Astros are unsure whether seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens will return for a fourth season with his hometown team.
"This was a trade we would have made whether Jason was in the last year of his contract or not," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "Any time you get back three major league-ready players, it's very difficult to do in this environment, and this is the kind of baseball deal we will always have to make. Whether he had three years and 'X' amount of money left on his contract or he was entering his final year, we would have made this trade."
Taveras hit .278 with one home run and 30 RBIs this year. He had a 30-game hitting streak that ended Aug. 29.
Buchholz, whose medical reports may have caused the White Sox to back off a trade, was 6-10 with a 5.89 in 19 starts and three relief appearances. He was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock for a spell and made seven starts there.
Hirsh, a 24-year-old prospect who is highly rated, made his major league debut last season and was 3-4 with a 6.04 ERA in nine starts.
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams had little comment about the trade.
"Sounds like Rocky and Astro business to me, not White Sox," he said in an e-mail
Asencio was 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in three games with the Rockies last season and 8-7 with a 5.03 ERA in 16 starts and 22 relief appearances at Triple-A. He has repeatedly been sidelined over the past three seasons because of multiple operations on his right elbow.
"It's very hard to say goodbye to a homegrown talent, but whether it was now or at the end of the season, it was inevitable," O'Dowd said.
He hinted that the team's inability to get Jennings to agree to an extension factored in the decision.
"We gave him a great offer, but he understands where the market is and we understand what he had to do," O'Dowd said. "We're sad to see him go but happy for him going to a team in his home state."
Also on the Astros' side, Jeff Bagwell, the team's career leader in home runs and RBIs, is expected to announce his retirement by the end of the week.
The 38-year-old Bagwell, who missed most of the 2005 season because of an arthritic right shoulder, is looking to stay with the Astros with a personal services contract, agent Barry Axelrod said.
Bagwell was the Astros' first baseman from 1991-2005. He has 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs, and is a four-time All-Star and NL MVP.
Bagwell was a pinch-hitter in the 2005 NL playoffs and a designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series. He attempted a comeback during spring training, but had to leave early in two games because of pain in his shoulder.
The Astros declined Bagwell's $18 million option in October when the team gave him a $7 million buyout to complete an $85 million, five-year contract.
AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum in New York, Rick Gano in Chicago and Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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