LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - At 10 o'clock yesterday, the Astros believed they made a move that would have forced Andy Pettitte out of Houston. Less than an hour later, a deal that would have sent right-hander Jon Garland from the White Sox to the Astros for Taylor Bucholz, Jason Hirsh and Willy Taveras was boxed. White Sox officials were furious at the Astros for telling people a press conference was being put together to announce the trade.
According to several people with knowledge of the crash, Bucholz failed a White Sox physical. However, the trade isn't completely dead because the White Sox are intrigued about Hirsh, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound stud right-hander who a Yankees official said is the Astros' Phil Hughes.
"There is still something to it," said an Astros source.
The fact the Astros were, and still are, willing to take on the 27-year-old Garland, who has two years and $22 million left, strongly indicates a couple of points about Pettitte: 1) They don't want to match the $15 million-a-year price the Yankees have set aside for Pettitte; 2) Pettitte has already told them he is heading to The Bronx. That could be a ploy to get the Astros to up their limit of $12 million for one year to keep Pettitte home.
If Pettitte hasn't made up his mind to split Houston, the Astros' dalliance with Garland could make him leave. And though it has always been the Astros or Yankees, Pettitte's decision to play and not retire has brought other clubs into the picture, agent Randy Hendricks said.
"There are three other teams interested," Hendricks said as the Winter Meetings ended yesterday. "We have had a lot of calls since Andy said he was going to play. I will talk to [Brian] Cashman."
With the Rangers heavily involved in the Barry Zito derby and close to Pettitte's Houston home, they may view Pettitte as an option if Zito spurns Tom Hicks' ocean of money and signs with the Mets.
Still, the smart money on where Pettitte pitches the 2007 season is The Bronx. The Yankees let Pettitte they know they have $15 million earmarked for his left arm and wouldn't be scared off by a two-year deal, something Pettitte is open to.