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Bye, bye Bagwell: Astros officially part ways with 1B

HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell's $18 million option was declined
Tuesday by the Houston Astros, who will give their career home run
and RBI leader a $7 million buyout to complete an $85 million,
five-year contract.

The 38-year-old Bagwell missed last season because of an
arthritic right shoulder, and the Astros tried to recoup about
$15.6 million in insurance.

"It doesn't mean anything at all," Bagwell told Fox 26 in Houston. "Everyone knew this was going to happen. It is part of the business. I'm OK with it. This is not a sad day."

When asked if this move meant he was going to retire, Bagwell replied, "No it does not. Not at this time. I am not ready to say that.

"It is probably an end to a great chapter in my life. I had a great career. The Astros have been nothing but great to me."

Bagwell's agent, Barry Axelrod, said in a telephone interview
with The Associated Press that Bagwell is "a long shot" to ever
play again. But Axelrod said Bagwell isn't ready to officially
retire.

"That's going to be up to Jeff to decide and announce
finally," Axelrod said. "His health has not allowed him to
compete the way he'd like to compete. I would think that would be a
real long shot for him to even think about trying to do it
anymore."

Houston general manager Tim Purpura hinted that Bagwell could
remain with the team in another capacity, saying Bagwell would
discuss with his wife what level of involvement he wants with the
Astros.

"As I've told Jeff, he can have an impact in so many different
ways," Purpura said. "I'd love to see him work with young
players."

Said owner Drayton McLane, "We would love for Jeff to be part
of the Houston Astros."

Bagwell, who has 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI, was the Astros'
first baseman on Opening Day from 1991-2005. A four-time All-Star
and the 1994 NL MVP, he is the only first baseman with 400 home
runs and 200 stolen bases.

Bagwell, who hit .297 over his career, is one of nine players in
NL history to win an MVP and rookie of the year awards. Only Craig
Biggio, who has been with the Astros for 19 years, has been with
the club longer.

Bagwell made an unsuccessful comeback attempt in spring training
after pinch-hitting in the 2005 playoffs and then working as
designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series. He
started several spring games at first base but had to leave early
in two of them because of soreness in his shoulder.

In January, the Astros filed a claim to get back most of the $17
million Bagwell was owed last year after deeming him too injured to
play. When the claim was denied by Connecticut General Life
Insurance, the Astros sued the company in April.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.