PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Starting pitcher Adam Eaton and the Philadelphia Phillies reached a preliminary agreement on a $24 million, three-year contract, a baseball official told The Associated Press on Monday.

The deal is contingent on the right-hander passing a physical, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not yet been announced. Eaton was expected to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Eaton’s contract includes a mutual option for a fourth year that could make the deal worth more than $33 million, according to Eaton made $4.65 million this year with the Texas Rangers.

A first-round pick by the Phillies in 1996, Eaton is 54-45 with a 4.40 ERA in seven major league seasons. He has been on the disabled list six times in his career, but the Phillies are banking on him to fill out their rotation.

Eaton, who turned 29 on Thanksgiving, was 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts in his only season with the Rangers. He won 11 games in consecutive seasons with San Diego before he was traded to the Rangers last December.

Eaton solidifies a promising rotation that includes Brett Myers (12-7, 3.91 ERA), Cole Hamels (9-8, 4.08), Jon Lieber (9-11, 4.93) and Jamie Moyer (11-14, 4.30 with the Phillies and Seattle).

The Phillies’ only other free-agent signing so far this offseason was infielder Wes Helms. He got a two-year, $5.45 million deal. General manager Pat Gillick wanted slugger Alfonso Soriano, but the Chicago Cubs outbid everyone for the five-time All-Star.

Eaton’s best season was his final one with the Padres. He went 11-5 with a 4.27 ERA in 22 starts in 2005. Eaton was 11-14 with a 4.61 ERA in 33 starts the previous season.

Eaton had elbow surgery in July 2001 and didn’t return until the following September. He missed several starts in ’05 with a strained middle finger and didn’t make his first start with Texas until late July because of the same finger injury.

The Phillies selected Eaton with the 11th overall pick in the ’96 draft. He was among the highest-rated prospects in the minors when Philadelphia sent him to the Padres in a four-player deal that brought former All-Star Andy Ashby to Philadelphia on Nov. 10, 1999.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-27-06 1938EST

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