Yankees, Farnsworth agree to 3-year, $17M contract

Updated: December 3, 2005, 10:15 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- For Kyle Farnsworth, a telephone call from Joe Torre was the big reason why he'll set up for Mariano Rivera with the New York Yankees rather than close for the Atlanta Braves or Texas Rangers.

Torre called the right-hander reliever early in the free-agent process, and they spoke for about 5 minutes as the manager conveyed that the Yankees were interested in signing him.

Relief Pitcher
New York Yankees

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"He just wanted to make it clear it just wasn't hearsay. Coming from Joe Torre, you know it's really true," Farnsworth said Friday after agreeing to a $17 million, three-year contract.

Less than 24 hours after Tom Gordon left for an $18 million, three-year deal with Philadelphia, New York locked up his replacement.

Farnsworth took a physical Thursday for the Yankees in Tampa, Fla., but his agent kept the Texas Rangers in the mix until Friday. Texas offered a three-year deal that included a 2009 option.

A source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that the Rangers offered Farnsworth a three-year, $16.5 million contract with a vesting option that would have taken the deal to $21 million, plus incentives. Meanwhile, Atlanta proposed a three-year deal worth close to $15 million.

Farnsworth said of the Rangers, "I didn't hear anything about them until yesterday." And he said the Braves "kind of drug their feet a little bit."

"So I went where I felt most comfortable," he said.

New York gave him a $1.25 million signing bonus and yearly salaries of $5 million, $5.25 million and $5.5 million. If Farnsworth leads the Yankees in Rolaids Relief points, which would happen only if Rivera gets hurt, Farnsworth's salary would rise $500,000 in each remaining year of the contract.

He doesn't view himself as auditioning for the Yankees' closer job when Rivera retires.

"My job is to go up and set up in the eighth inning to get to him in the ninth inning. That's what my job is going to be for the next three years," he said. "Whatever happens after that will happen."

The hard-throwing righty, who will be 30 in April, split last season between the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves, who acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline. He combined to go 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 72 games, striking out 87 in 70 innings and walking 27.

Farnsworth allowed only five home runs during the regular season, but had a meltdown in Game 4 of the playoffs, when Atlanta wasted a 6-1 lead. He gave up an eighth-inning grand slam to Lance Berkman and a tying homer to Brad Ausmus with two outs in the ninth, and Houston went on to win in 18 innings and earn a spot in the NL Championship Series.

New York had hoped to sign both Farnsworth and the 38-year-old Gordon, who spent the last two seasons as Rivera's main setup man. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said New York offered only a two-year deal to Gordon, whose agent insisted on a three-year contract.

Prices for relievers have escalated this offseason, with B.J. Ryan getting a $47 million, five-year contract from Toronto and Billy Wagner accepting a $43 million, four-year offer from the New York Mets.

"Obviously this winter, where it's such a thin market, the reason the money has gotten so high is because there's very little choices," Cashman said.

The Yankees also are looking at left-handers Mike Myers, Joey Eischen and Ricardo Rincon along with right-hander Julian Tavarez. Al Leiter, a 40-year-old left-hander acquired by the Yankees during the season, may decide to return instead of retiring.

"We've got to surround Kyle with a lot more in the bullpen," Cashman said.

Nothing has developed yet in his quest to find a center fielder. If no one else is found, Bubba Crosby would be the likely starter.

Johnny Damon's agent, Scott Boras, is said to be asking for a seven-year deal, a contract length the Yankees won't consider.

"I don't think it's in my best interest to say I have a No. 1 priority and here it is," Cashman said. "We'll get very aggressive when we feel the prices come within something that makes sense."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.