TAMPA, Fla. -- Free agent Travis Lee and the Yankees reached
agreement on a $2.25 million, one-year contract Tuesday, giving New
York another option at first base in case Jason Giambi's surgically
repaired knee is still shaky.
The deal is pending the results of a physical. Yankees general
manager Brian Cashman said he thought Lee took a cross-country
red-eye flight to make it to Tampa for the exam.
Lee's contract guarantees him $2 million this season. There is a
club option at $3 million for 2005 with a $250,000 buyout.
If the deal becomes official, it would raise the Yankees'
payroll to $186.7 million for 26 signed players.
Lee, 28 hit a career-high .275 with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs
last year for Tampa Bay in his lone AL season. A lefty, he also had
37 doubles in 145 games.
Lee is considered an excellent defensive first baseman. He had a
.998 fielding percentage last season, making only three errors.
On Tuesday morning, Cashman said he told Clark that it looked as
if the Yankees would add Lee. Cashman said there were "no promises
of playing time" to Lee and that it was possible that both players
could make the major league roster.
Giambi hit 41 home runs with 107 RBIs last season while batting
a career-low .250. He led the AL with 129 walks and 140 strikeouts.
Giambi was limited to just 85 games at first base because of an
inflamed tendon in his left knee and patella tendinitis. He was the
DH for much of the second half, and did not start Game 5 of the
World Series at Florida. He hit .237 in the postseason.
The former AL MVP had arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 18 to remove
inflamed tissue from his knee.
Giambi reported to spring training noticeably thinner, and said
he hoped losing weight would help keep pressure off his knee. The
Yankees would like to see him at first base much more often this
year -- that would allow both Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton to be
in the lineup at the same time, one in center field and the other
Lee is a .259 hitter with 92 home runs and 406 RBIs in six
seasons. He made his major league debut in 1998 with Arizona,
becoming the full-time first baseman for the expansion
He was traded to Philadelphia in July 2000 as part of
a package for Curt Schilling, and signed with Tampa Bay as a free
agent last offseason.