Agent: Astros, Loretta agree to deal
Team source says contractual issues must be resolved
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
Mark Loretta selected the Astros' offer over those of the Rangers and the Reds.
HOUSTON -- Infielder Mark Loretta had offers from two Texas teams but decided to sign with the Astros, his agent, Bob Garber, said on Thursday. However, a team source said the deal has not been completed and there are still contractual issues that need to be resolved. It is, however, reasonable to speculate that a deal will eventually be completed.
According to Garber, Loretta agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, but the contract could be worth as much as $3.5 million with incentives. Garber said the deal was finalized late Wednesday night.
The Rangers offered $1 million more, Garber said, and Loretta also had an offer from the Reds, but he picked Houston, partly because of an aggressive recruiting job by Roy Oswalt and Brad Ausmus.
"Roy called [club owner] Drayton McLane and said, 'We need this guy,'" said Garber, who also represents Oswalt. "That's how the ball started rolling. Drayton said, 'OK, I'll call your agent tomorrow.'"
Loretta, who played for the Astros for part of the 2002 season, has primarily been a second baseman for most of his 12-year career. But with Craig Biggio entrenched at second base and expected to log his 3,000th hit in 2007, it's likely Loretta would be used in a utility role. Loretta also has extensive experience at first, third and shortstop.
Loretta clearly would provide insurance at third in case Morgan Ensberg, coming off a 2006 season during which he hit .235 and battled injury issues, does not make a successful comeback.
"[Second base is] Biggio's position," Garber said. "He'll fill in, play around the infield, a little third, short and first once in a while."
Loretta will also share the utility label with Eric Bruntlett, who recently avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal.
Loretta played for the Red Sox last season. The veteran also has played for the Brewers, Astros and Padres and has a .299 career average.