Yankees Agree To Deal With 1B Lee

The Yankees bolstered their bench even further on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with first baseman Travis Lee on a one-year contract with an option for a second year. Lee is the second backup first baseman on the Yankees now, joining Tony Clark, who was signed earlier in the offseason.

Lee hit .275 with 19 homeruns and 70 RBI for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003. The 28-year-old lefthander is also widely considered an excellent defensive first baseman.

The deal calls for the Yankees to pay Lee $2 million in 2004 with a $3 million option for 2005 and a $250,000 buyout. The contract is pending a physical.

The addition of Lee to the Yankees creates a potential logjam at several positions. Lee had a .998 fielding percentage in 2003, and it would make sense for him to play first base regularly instead of the defensively below-average Jason Giambi. This would shift Giambi to the Designated Hitter role, forcing either Bernie Williams or Kenny Lofton out of the lineup. It was widely believed that Lofton and Williams would fill the centerfield and DH roles but, with Lee in the picture, things are more complex now.

Another question is what the Yankees should do with Tony Clark, who was signed to a $775,000 one-year deal earlier in the winter. Clark could be released outright in Spring Training, but general manager Brian Cashman hasn't ruled out the possibility of both Clark and Lee making the major-league roster.

In six seasons, Lee has a .259 batting average with 92 homeruns and 406 RBI. He was the first first baseman for the expansion Diamondbacks in 1998 before being traded to the Phillies as part of the deal for Curt Schilling in 2000. He signed with Tampa Bay before the 2003 season as a free agent.

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