Barajas, Phillies finalize $2.5 million, one-year contract

Updated: December 21, 2006, 6:56 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Rod Barajas gave up half his guaranteed money and a better shot a starting job in Toronto for a chance to play for a postseason contender in Philadelphia.

Rod Barajas

Barajas finalized a $2.5 million, one-year contract with the Phillies on Thursday after backing out of a deal with Toronto and switching agents.

"I never signed a deal," Barajas said. "I never gave anybody permission to do a deal. It just wasn't the right fit for me."

Also Thursday, the Phillies traded Jeff Conine to the Cincinnati Reds for a minor league infielder Brad Key and outfielder Javon Moran. The 40-year-old Conine played outfield and first base with Baltimore and Philadelphia last season, hitting .268 with 10 homers and 66 RBI. The Phillies acquired him in an August trade.

Barajas' representatives signed a letter of agreement last month for a $5.25 million, two-year contract with Toronto that also included $500,000 in available performance bonuses, a deal negotiated by agents Gregg Clifton and Terry Bross. Barajas likely would have gotten a starting job under that deal, which was dependent on Barajas taking a physical.

Barajas then refused to take the physical and switched back to Dan Lozano, who had represented him previously. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Lozano wanted to reopen negotiations, but the team wanted no part of it and decided to keep catcher Gregg Zaun, giving him a $7.25 million, two-year contract.

"I kind of felt I was rushed into that decision," Barajas said. "It just didn't feel right. I have to make a decision on what I feel."

With the Phillies, the 31-year-old Barajas could share playing time with rookie Carlos Ruiz, who hit .261 in 27 games last season. Chris Coste, who broke into the majors at age 33 last season, likely will serve as a pinch-hitter and No. 3 catcher, and he can play first and third base.

Barajas' contract gives the Phillies a club option for 2008.

"No, I don't regret the decision at all," Barajas said. "That didn't feel right. This feels completely right."

Barajas hit .256 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI in 344 at-bats for Texas last season. He has a .240 average with 58 homers in six seasons with Arizona and Texas. His best year came in 2005, when he hit 21 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Rangers.

"I was spoiled real early in my career with Arizona and winning the World Series," he said. "I wanted to win and this is definitely the place that's going to give me the opportunity."

Conine became expendable after the Phillies signed Werth, a former Dodgers outfielder. Werth hit .234 with seven home runs and 43 RBI in 2005 with Los Angeles, but also missed two months with injuries.

"We weren't going to be able to give Jeff the playing time that we thought we were a month ago, six weeks ago," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "When Werth was completed, we thought that probably the best plan for us was to move Jeff on. I know he wants to play."

Gillick said he was convinced that Werth is recovered from wrist surgery that cost him all of last season.

"We think Werth is a better option for us at this point," Gillick said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press