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Yankees sign Ensberg, who has potential at first base, to minor league deal

NEW YORK -- Morgan Ensberg agreed Thursday to a minor league
contract with the New York Yankees, giving the team another
contender to play first base.

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.

New York is unsettled at first base, with Wilson Betemit and
Shelley Duncan also possibilities.

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."
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^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.