Looking to insure the five-year, $85 million contract the Astros were set to give Jeff Bagwell in December of 2000, former Astros president of business operations Bob McClaren quickly realized there weren't many companies willing to offer such policies.
Thanks to some multi-million payouts in recent years, there are even fewer insurance companies willing to insure Bagwell-type contracts.
In most cases, there are several companies taking on the insurance risk for such contracts. As of Wednesday, Astros owner Drayton McLane was out of town and unavailable to say how many insurance companies held the contract on the policy.
In baseball, the last big insurance payout was given to the Baltimore Orioles, who insured the five-year, $65 million contract they gave slugger Albert Belle before the 1999 season.
Belle played in 1999 and 2000. He showed up to spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with the Orioles in 2001, but a degenerative hip condition made him physically unable to perform that spring. The Orioles recouped between $27.3 million and $35 million of Belle's guaranteed contract from the insurance policy.
"These days there are even fewer such companies willing to insure such contracts," said McClaren, who now serves as a consultant to the Astros as well as an agent to Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Bracey Wright. "Any time that there is a recovery under a policy like this, it impacts the market, either makes it more expensive or possibly an insurance company gets out of the business because of potential risks.