McLane: Yankees in driver's seat

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane denies making an offer to free agent Andy Pettitte, and says serious negotiations have not even started, he told the Houston Chronicle.

McLane says the only request he has made from the Pettitte camp is a chance to hear from them before the left-hander signs with another team, likely the Yankees or the Red Sox.

According to numerous reports Wednesday, the Astros offered Pettitte a three-year contract worth approximately $10 million per season. McLane says that is not the case.

"They called and wanted to come out," McLane told the newspaper, referring to Pettitte's agents, the Hendricks brothers. "Where they got [that an offer was made] got blown out of proportion. That wasn't a real negotiation session at all. When [the Hendrickses] were there the Tuesday before, they were there with Andy. They wanted to come back and talk business without him."

Pettitte, who wants a five-year deal, would have to defer a large chunk if he signs with the Astros, just as Jeff Kent did last year when he signed his two-year, $18.2 million deal.

McLane is going to Poland on Monday, and he believes the Hendrickses called because they wanted to meet with him before he leaves the country. Their urgency could be a sign Pettitte wants to give a hometown discount to play near his childhood home of Deer Park.

That really is the only factor in Houston's favor.

Re-signing Pettitte is the No. 1 priority of the AL champion Yankees, who have said they expect to negotiate with him later in the offseason. The Astros' offer to Pettitte will be decidedly dwarfed by whatever the Yankees offer, which will likely be in the range of $13-$15 million per year, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports.

"The market leader is the Yankees because he's played there nine years," McLane told the Chronicle. "I would think the Yankees have more capacity, and they know him better. He's been there nine years. There's always an edge (to the player's former team) because a player has played with that team."

McLane does not want his budget to go over $75 million next season. The Astros are trying to unload Richard Hidalgo, who will earn $12 million in 2004, and Geoff Blum, who likely will earn $3 million if he goes to arbitration.