Astros, Wagner agree on $27 million, 3-year deal

Wednesday, January 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Billy Wagner agreed Wednesday to a $27 million, three-year contract with the Houston Astros that makes him among the highest-paid relievers in baseball.

Wagner gets $8 million in each of the next three seasons. Houston has a $9 million club option for 2005 with a $3 million buyout.

Talks had broken down last month when Wagner sought to have the fourth year of the contract guaranteed.

``I don't think either side ever thought there was any doubt we were going to get this done,'' Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said.

Wagner, 30, said he's more interested in helping the Astros win their first World Series than continuing to pad his statistics as one of the game's most dominant closers.

``With the young guys we have ... we have an opportunity each and every year to win a World Series,'' Wagner said.

The $9 million average annual value of the contract is second among regular relievers to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, who is in the second season of a four-year deal averaging $9,997,500. John Smoltz, who agreed to a $30 million, three-year contract with Atlanta, would top the list if he remains in the bullpen, where he was shifted late last season.

Wagner, eligible for free agency after the season, has had 30 or more saves during three of his last four seasons with the Astros. He set a franchise record of 39 saves in 1999 and matched that in 2001. He missed three and a half months of the 2000 season to undergo surgery for a partially torn flexor tendon in his left elbow.

His 146 career saves are second in the team's history to Dave Smith's 199.