Yankees sign Ensberg, who has potential at first base, to minor league deal
Ensberg would get a $1.75 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster and would have a chance to earn $2.25 million more in performance bonuses. He would get the full amount if he has 525 plate appearances.
"He's a right-handed bat in a lineup of left-handed hitters," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He's someone that's had success clearly in the major leagues, been an everyday player."
Jason Giambi, heading into the final season of his $120 million, seven-year contract, played only 18 games at first base last year and 53 at designated hitter, hobbled for much of the season by a foot injury.
Three years ago, Ensberg was an NL All-Star and finished fourth in MVP voting after hitting .283 with 36 homers and 101 RBIs for the Houston Astros. His batting average was in the .230s in each of the last two seasons, his home runs dropping to 23 in 2006 and 12 last year. His RBIs fell to 58 and 39.
Ensberg made $4.35 million last year and became a free agent in December when he wasn't offered a contract by San Diego, which acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline. Cashman wouldn't speculate why Ensberg's production dropped.
"We're going to get the chance to know him firsthand," Cashman said.
If Giambi doesn't play first base, the Yankees would have a potential logjam at designated hitter. Left fielder Hideki Matsui is coming off knee surgery and Johnny Damon lost his center-field job last year to Melky Cabrera.
Cashman had been speaking with Ensberg's representative for about two weeks. He wants new manager Joe Girardi to have options at first base.
"I wouldn't say anyone is a projected starter," Cashman said. "There's a job at first base that either someone is going to earn outright or it's going to be an opportunity to mix a few different people in there. Basically, everybody's got to earn their keep, whether you have a big contract or you're competing for a spot on the club. Joe Girardi will look at everybody fairly and objectively and put the best team out on the field on any given day that he thinks can give us a chance to win, period, and he's not looking at salary." < ^Notes:@ The Yankees still have not finalized 2B Robinson Cano's $30 million, three-year contract, a deal potentially worth $57 million over five seasons. Cano would get $3 million this season, $6 million next year, $9 million in 2010 and $10 million in 2011. The Yankees would have a $14 million option for 2012 with a $2 million buyout. If that option is exercised, the Yankees would have a $15 million option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press