Braves have new first baseman: Troy Glaus

Former American League home-run leader Troy Glaus has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Braves with a modest base salary of about $2 million, a person familiar with negotiations said.

A deal won't be announced until after the holidays, because Glaus must pass a physical with Braves doctors and couldn't schedule it on short notice before Christmas. Braves offices are closed until Jan. 4, and general manager Frank Wren had no comment on the Glaus matter.

The Braves apparently are confident that the 33-year-old former All-Star third baseman is fully recovered from January 2009 shoulder surgery and ready to handle the full-time duties at first base, a position at which Glaus has played in only six games during his career.

The only question about him is his health. When he plays, the nearly 6-foot-6, 250-pound Californian hits home runs. Glaus has 304 home runs in 12 seasons, including five seasons with at least 30 homers and two with more than 40.

The contract includes incentives tied to playing time. His agent, Mike Nicotera, declined to comment on negotiations with the Braves, saying only that he has been in discussions with a "good number of clubs" pursuing Glaus in recent weeks.

It's been a frenetic couple of days for the Braves, who traded 15-game winner Javier Vazquez to the New York Yankees on Tuesday in a five-player trade that brought outfielder Melky Cabrera and two pitching prospects to Atlanta.

The Braves might still consider another move or two to add more offense, but the bulk of their winter shopping appears to be done.

While Glaus must pass a team physical before a deal is finalized, that wasn't expected to be a major issue. He had his shoulder examined by noted orthopedist Lewis Yocum two weeks ago and Yocum sent a complete report to teams interested in the free agent.

Glaus missed all but 14 games last season with St. Louis, after having arthroscopic shoulder surgery and experiencing a setback when he tried to make it back in time for opening day. He didn't play until September, but manager Tony La Russa had him on the postseason roster.

If  healthy, Glaus can provide the Braves' lineup with right-handed power that Wren has said he was determined to add this winter.

Glaus has been working out at a baseball and strength-training center in New Jersey and doing his power-lifting routine and other weight training that he wasn't able to do last year because of his shoulder, his agent said. He's working this winter at first base to get fully acclimated to the position.

He would replace Adam LaRoche at first base for the Braves, who didn't try to re-sign LaRoche as a free agent. LaRoche hit .325 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 57 games for the Braves after coming from Boston at the July 31 trade deadline.

The Braves believe first-base prospect Freddie Freeman could be ready as soon as 2011 and didn't want to sign a player to a long-term contract that would potentially block Freeman.

Remarkably, Glaus would become the 12th different opening day first baseman in the past 14 seasons for the Braves, with LaRoche the only one to start consecutive opening days (2005-2006) in that stretch.

Glaus  hit .270 with 27 homers and 99 RBIs in 2008 for the Cardinals and totaled 29 or more homers six times in eight seasons from 1999 through 2006, including 38 homers and 104 RBIs with Toronto in 2006.

He has 304 career home runs including 47 for Anaheim in 2000, when he led the AL in homers while hitting .284 with 102 RBIs, the first of three consecutive 100-RBI seasons. He hit 41 homers in 2001.

He has a .255 career average and robust .856 OPS, including a .359 on-base percentage. However, Glaus hit .172 with no homers and two RBIs in just 29 at-bats in 2009, and Mark DeRosa was entrenched at third base when Glaus came off the disabled list.

Glaus played shortstop at UCLA, but for 10 seasons with Anaheim and Toronto he played almost exclusively third base, also  serving sporadically as designated hitter and playing 16 games at shortstop (including eight for Toronto in 2006).

He played 146 games at third base and four at first base for St. Louis in 2008, after being traded from Toronto for third baseman Scott Rolen. He agreed to pick up a player option for 2009 when he was traded to the Cardinals and ended up making nearly $57 million over a five-year contract.

In an attempt to relieve concerns that interested teams had about his health, he underwent a physical with Yocum on Dec. 8, then made his records available to all major league teams. Glaus told his agent he'd play either corner-infield position and was willing to move to first base in the right circumstances.

Nicotera, the agent, said Yocum gave a good report about Glaus' shoulder. If a team needs Glaus to play third base, he can do so without difficulty, Nicotera said.

Glaus expressed an interest in the Braves, in large part because of manager Bobby Cox, who had Glaus on the All-Star team that Cox managed on a Japanese postseason tour several years ago. Glaus is close friends with 2009 Braves left fielder Garret Anderson, from seven seasons together in Anaheim through 2004.

The Braves like his power and track record including postseason experience. Glaus has nine home runs and 16 RBIs in 21 postseason games and was voted MVP of the 2002 World Series after hitting .385 with three homers and eight RBIs.

A healthy Glaus could provide a formidable presence hitting cleanup behind Chipper Jones.  The two have a combined total of 730 home runs and 2,324 RBIs in 27 major league seasons, including four 40-homer seasons, 11 30-homer seasons and 13 100-RBI seasons.

But it's not a middle-of-the-order certainty: Glaus barely played in 2009 and Jones, who'll be 38 in April, was so disappointed in his own ‘09 performance  (.264, 18 homers, 71 RBIs) that he said he might retire if he doesn't improve in 2010.

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