PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies upgraded at catcher on Tuesday by agreeing to a deal with Rod Barajas. According to a baseball source, the team signed the veteran backstop to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a club option for 2008. General manager Pat Gillick had no comment on an agreement, which likely can't be finalized until after Barajas passes a physical. That could happen sometime this week. The deal with Barajas came hours after the team signed outfielder Jayson Werth, who had been non-tendered by the Dodgers, for $850,000.
The right-handed swinger, a veteran of 536 Major League games, replaces Mike Lieberthal, who went to the Dodgers after spending his first 13 seasons with the Phillies. Barajas, 31, is regarded as a solid receiver with a good throwing arm and pop at the plate. In 97 games with Texas last season, he hit 11 homers and drove in 41 runs in 344 at-bats. In 2005 he set career highs with 21 homers and 60 RBIs in 120 games, also with the Rangers. Barajas' arrival could take some pressure off Carlos Ruiz, who was expected to inherit the job after two solid seasons at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the Phillies hoping to be in a pennant race, the more experienced Barajas could mentor Ruiz in areas beyond learning how to handle a big-league pitching staff. The move might also allow Chris Coste to serve as the team's primary pinch-hitter, third catcher and emergency corner infielder, giving manager Charlie Manuel more options late in games. Though Coste thrived catching the bulk of Philadelphia's games last season, the Phillies had been looking at ways to improve. Last month, Barajas signed a terms sheet with Toronto on a two-year, $5.25 million deal, though that deal fell apart at the last minute after he switched agents. Toronto then signed Gregg Zaun, and Barajas went back on the market. Barajas is believed to have picked the Phillies over the Rockies and Rangers.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.