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Pirates finalize deal with Gomez

Pirates finalize deal with Gomez

PITTSBURGH -- Finishing their search to solidify the depth of their infield, the Pirates finalized a one-year, $1 million contract with free-agent infielder Chris Gomez on Wednesday.

A tentative agreement had been reached a week ago at the Winter Meetings, though the Pirates waited for Gomez to pass a physical this week before the deal became official.

"We are very pleased to be able to add Chris Gomez to our roster," general manager Neal Huntington said. "His ability and versatility will make him a very valuable addition to our club. We are happy to add his positive veteran presence to the Pirates clubhouse."

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The free-agent signing marks the first for Huntington since he took over the post as GM shortly before the end of the 2007 season. It also completes the Pirates' transition among its backup infielders.

With the decisions not to retain utility infielders Matt Kata and Cesar Izturis earlier in the offseason, Huntington went in search of versatile and capable backups for the middle and left side of the infield. Over the past two weeks, he filled those voids, claiming utility man Josh Wilson off waivers on Dec. 3 before then signing Gomez.

For Gomez, the Pirates mark his eighth team in what will be a 15th Major League season for the veteran infielder. However, only one other time, from 1996-2001, has Gomez played in the National League.

"[The Pirates] showed interest in me, and they pursued," Gomez said over the phone last week. "If you have someone who offers what you think you deserve and they say that they want you to be a part of their team, you get excited."

Gomez started the 2007 season with the Orioles, before finishing the final months of the season with the Indians. With the two clubs combined, Gomez hit .297 with 21 RBIs in 92 games last year.

Though Gomez's range is somewhat limited, he is known for being a steady defensive player who can play any of the four infield positions. While he broke into the Majors in 1993 as a shortstop, Gomez has seen more time at the other three infield positions in recent years due to Miguel Tejada being a lock at the shortstop position for Baltimore.

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"I think [playing a number of positions] lately has helped me, actually," said Gomez, a lifetime .261 hitter. "It's really been refreshing -- kind of bouncing around. You have to embrace your role and accept that you might not always play. But if you understand that, this role can be kind of exciting."

There was no need for the Pirates to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Gomez. The roster had remained occupied by 39 players since the Pirates traded Salomon Torres to the Brewers on Friday.

Jenifer Langosch 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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