NEW YORK – Tom Gordon and the Phillies reached a preliminary agreement Thursday night on an $18 million, three-year contract, The Associated Press learned, giving Philadelphia a replacement for departed closer Billy Wagner.

Gordon also was negotiating with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians before agreeing to the deal with the Phillies, which is pending a physical. He is likely to take that physical Saturday, according to a person close to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized yet.

The 38-year-old right-hander, who spent the past two seasons with the Yankees as Mariano Rivera’s primary setup man, met earlier Thursday with Phillies general manager Pat Gillick. Philadelphia needed a closer after Wagner left this week to accept a $43 million, four-year contract from the New York Mets.

Giles cuts $30M deal with Padres

The comforts of home meant more to Brian Giles than the lure of a bigger paycheck elsewhere.

A week after negotiations seemed all but dead, Giles agreed to a $30 million, three-year contract on Thursday to remain the San Diego Padres’ right fielder.

“I’m happy to be in San Diego,” said Giles, who grew up in suburban El Cajon and was acquired from Pittsburgh late in the 2003 season. “As a little kid growing up, you always think about playing in your hometown. I was fortunate enough to do that for two years, and hopefully, for four more years.”

The two-time All-Star will earn $9 million per season from 2006-08, with a $9 million club option for 2009 that could raise the value of the deal to $36 million over four years. The team has a $3 million buyout for 2009. Giles made $7 million each of the last two seasons.

As one of the top outfielders on the free-agent market, Giles attracted strong interest from the New York Yankees, Toronto, Cleveland – where he broke into the majors in 1995 – and the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are thought to have offered $34.5 million for three seasons.

“Obviously, there were other deals out there,” said Giles.

, the most consistent offensive player for a team that won the NL West with only 82 wins. “But I wanted to make a deal here.”

Giles, who turns 35 on Jan. 21, was going through free agency for the first time and said it reminded him of college recruiting.

“It’s a trying time, especially when you really want to be in a place where you feel like you have a chance to win and you can be at home, and kind of have your cake and eat it, too,” he said.

“This organization, with everything that happened a year ago, for us to persevere and win our division, I think it only looks up from here.”

Giles batted .301 with 15 homers and 83 RBIs last season. He also drew a major league-best 119 walks and had a stellar .423 on-base percentage.

Giles seemed to be gone after the Padres rejected a proposal from his agent, Joe Bick, late last week.

“There were a lot of crazy twists and turns through these negotiations, but over the last 24 hours we made a tremendous amount of progress,” general manager Kevin Towers said.

The key was adding the option year and its significant buyout.

“If we went to the winter meetings without having Giles, I looked at our club offensively, and it was like, Wow, if we do lose this guy, where do we go?”‘ Towers said. “We felt we better move quickly and get the deal done.”

Towers said Giles still displays the same attributes as when the Padres obtained him from the Pirates on Aug. 26, 2003, for left-hander Oliver Perez and outfielder Jason Bay, the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year.

“He’s somebody that plays the game as hard as anybody in the game and you can write him in the lineup every single day,” Towers said. “I think he showed this past year that he’ll even take his brother out, when it comes to breaking up a double play at second base.”

Giles is the older brother of Atlanta second baseman Marcus Giles.

“He’s by far our most valuable player we’ve had on our club the last several years,” Towers said.

The left-handed hitting Giles had four huge seasons with the Pirates from 1999-02, hitting at least 35 homers each year and driving in more than 100 runs three times.

His power dropped off once he joined the Padres, in part because of the deep dimensions in right field at spacious Petco Park, which opened in 2004.

But he remained an effective offensive player and made up for his diminishing home runs with patience at the plate and RBI production.

The Padres have discussed bringing in the fences this offseason to make the ballpark more friendly for left-handed pull hitters.

“I try to get on base and score runs, and drive in runs,” Giles said. “That’s production. My home runs are down a little bit. I’d like to say I changed my swing. I think the first year playing in this ballpark, you hit those long, high flyballs, they’re outs. You try to keep the ball out of the air here.”

Giles was one of three top free agents who helped the Padres win the NL West with an 82-80 record last season before they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals. The others are closer Trevor Hoffman and catcher Ramon Hernandez.

Giles planned to have dinner Thursday night with Hoffman, who is seeking between $25 million and $27 million for three years. The Padres have offered Hoffman $10 million over two years.

San Diego hasn’t expressed interest in keeping Hernandez.

AP-ES-12-01-05 1953EST

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