Cubs Notes and Quotes

Henry Blanco, a Minnesota Twins free agent, agreed to a two-year, $2.75 million deal to back up Michael Barrett.<p> Todd Walker speaks about departed Cub commentators Chip Caray and Steve Stone.

Cubs officials liked the fact that Blanco threw out 45 percent of baserunners who tried to steal off of him. In 2004, Barrett threw out just 23 percent and Paul Bako was at 29 percent.

RHP Matt Clement was offered arbitration, but the Cubs figure he will accept a multiyear deal with another club and they can pick up a draft pick in 2005 if he leaves.

SS Nomar Garciaparra signed a one-year deal worth $8 million but could reach as high as $11 million if he hits all of his incentives. Garciaparra played just 81 games in 2004 because of an Achilles tendon injury and wants to prove that was a fluke. He hopes after the 2005 season that he can get a long-term deal, and he prefers it would be with the Cubs.

LHP Kent Mercker was not offered arbitration, and it's possible that minor league lefty Will Ohman could take his spot as the second southpaw in the bullpen.

BY THE NUMBERS: .322 -- Career average of Nomar Garciaparra, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Ultimately we have a great group of guys. Steve Stone and Chip Caray might not say that, but the rest of us feel we have a great group of guys who want to win." --Second baseman Todd Walker, talking about the Cubs' former television announcers, who had some run-ins with players in 2004.

ROSTER REPORT

The Cubs, whose postseason expectations fell short thanks to a 3-7 finish to the 2004 season, are still looking for a closer, and they will try to get into the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes if they can unload RF Sammy Sosa.

ARRIVALS: C Henry Blanco (free agent from Minnesota).

DEPARTURES: None.

BIGGEST NEEDS: With the shoulder injury to Joe Borowski and the struggles of LaTroy Hawkins (nine blown saves), the Cubs are keeping an eye open for a reliable closer for 2005.

FREE AGENTS: LF Moises Alou, C Paul Bako, RHP Matt Clement, OF Tom Goodwin, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, OF Ben Grieve, OF Todd Hollandsworth, INF Ramon Martinez, LHP Kent Mercker.

The Cubs offered arbitration to Clement, figuring he will go elsewhere and they can pick up a draft pick. They offered arbitration to Hollandsworth with the hope of bringing him back. But they parted ways with Alou, Goodwin, Grudzielanek, Grieve, Martinez and Mercker.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: C Michael Barrett, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, INF-OF Jose Macias, OF Corey Patterson, 3B Aramis Ramirez, RHP Carlos Zambrano.

The Cubs have never gone to arbitration since Andy MacPhail took over as the team president in 1994. They are considering pinning down Ramirez to a long-term deal. Farnsworth could be trade bait. Barrett, Patterson and Zambrano will be tendered contracts, and the versatile Macias could be tendered one as well.

IN LIMBO: RF Sammy Sosa left the team without permission during the season finale against Atlanta, and the Cubs are looking to unload him. There are reports that RHP pitcher Kyle Farnsworth left that game early as well, and the Cubs also might be dangling him out there. Farnsworth can throw 100 mph, but his consistency has always been a problem. RHP LaTroy Hawkins could also be mentioned in some trade proposals.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Joe Borowski (torn right rotator cuff) hopes offseason surgery is not needed and that a few months off will help strengthen his arm for 2005.


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