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Orioles, slugger Lee reach verbal agreement

Orioles, slugger Lee reach verbal agreement

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BALTIMORE -- In the final hours of 2010 the Orioles pulled off one big acquisition, as the organization reached a verbal agreement on a one-year deal with first baseman Derrek Lee.

The deal -- confirmed to MLB.com by multiple sources -- is still pending a physical, which one source said would "probably" be Wednesday given the holiday weekend. Lee, considered one of the top remaining free agents, was reportedly seeking between $8 million-10 million, although exact details of his deal with Baltimore have not been made public.

The team has not confirmed the move, although a source close to negotiations said the Orioles feel confident Lee is healthy and it's just a matter of "crossing the T's and dotting the I's" in making the deal official.

A two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Lee is a career .282 hitter with 312 home runs and is just one season removed from 35 homers and 111 RBIs with the Cubs in 2009.

The 35-year-old saw his power numbers drop last season -- when he hit .260 with 19 homers and 80 RBIs -- but the Orioles feel he will return to form when healthy in 2011. Lee played all season with a torn ligament in his right thumb, an injury that he sustained on Opening Day and one that the 14-year Major League veteran refused to miss time for.

Lauded as a gritty player and a good clubhouse presence, Lee played in 148 games last season, split between Chicago and Atlanta and is a solid bounceback candidate for an Orioles organization short on first base prospects.

The acquisition of Lee adds another corner infield power bat -- along with newly acquired Mark Reynolds -- and pencils in Luke Scott as the team's regular designated hitter. The Orioles were also heavily pursuing free-agent Adam LaRoche but talks stalled over contract length and despite several rumors to the contrary, the team never made a three-year offer to LaRoche.

Instead, the organization turned its attention toward Lee last week and have now solidified its two biggest needs -- at first and third base -- as well as beefed up a lineup that ranked among baseball's worst in several offensive categories in 2010. In addition to trading for Reynolds, the Orioles dealt a pair of arms to the Twins in exchange for shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility player Brendan Harris and resigned Cesar Izturis to a one-year deal as insurance for second baseman Brian Roberts.

With Lee's agreement, the Orioles will now shift their focus toward their bullpen, with the need for two more arms, a right-hander and a lefty. They have an offer out to righty Kevin Gregg, and would also like to add a veteran starter and more catching depth before Spring Training.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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