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Barajas signs with Phillies

Barajas signs with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Playing for the Blue Jays just didn't feel right for Rod Barajas. The Phillies did.

For this reason, Barajas stood at a Citizens Bank Park podium on Thursday with a one-year, $2.5 million contract from the Phillies that includes a club option for 2008.

"It wasn't the right fit for me," Barajas said. "I make decisions based on what I feel, and [playing for Toronto] wasn't there for me at that time. Everybody from the Phillies who called me up let me know they wanted me. Everything felt right."

The 31-year-old catcher spent the past three seasons with the Rangers. In 2006, he hit .256 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in 97 games. He set career highs in 2005 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs in 120 games, also with Texas.

"Rod brings a lot to the table both offensively and defensively," general manager Pat Gillick said. "He's a proven winner who gives us added depth at that position."

The replacement for Mike Lieberthal -- who went to the Dodgers after spending his first 13 seasons with the Phillies -- Barajas will serve as a mentor to Carlos Ruiz. The rookie was expected to inherit the starting catching job after two solid seasons at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With the Phillies hoping to be in a pennant race, Barajas will help Ruiz learn how to handle a big-league pitching staff.

While being courted by the Phillies, Rangers and Rockies, Barajas said he wasn't promised anything, and that his playing time would be based on production.

"Going into it, myself and Carlos Ruiz are going to get the majority of the playing time," Barajas said. "But if one of us were to step up, that one would get the majority."

The move appears to not bode well for 33-year-old Chris Coste, who established himself at the Major League level by hitting .328 in 65 games (198 at-bats). Last season's feel-good story went from sharing time at catcher to a possible pinch-hitter/third catcher/backup infielder. Coste hit well in clutch situations, and he would give manager Charlie Manuel more options late in games -- if he makes the team.

Though Coste thrived catching the bulk of Philadelphia's games last season, the Phillies feel Barajas is an upgrade.

In the past three seasons, Barajas' 47 home runs is the fourth-highest total among American League catchers, behind Jorge Posada (62), Victor Martinez (55) and Jason Varitek (52).

Last month, Barajas signed a terms sheet with Toronto for a two-year, $5.25 million contract, but the deal fell apart at the last minute after he switched agents. Toronto then signed Gregg Zaun, and Barajas went back on the market.

As he put on his Phillies jersey, Barajas spoke of watching Mike Schmidt growing up and how winning played a large role in his decision to come to Philadelphia.

"I could have signed closer to where I live or closer to my family," he said. "But it was just about winning. This team is right there."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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