Cubs Notebook: Jan. 24

"We didn't want Michael to go into his free agent year (without a multi-year deal) for a lot of reasons," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "That includes looking at the free agent crop for next year. We wanted to do something for at least two years and possibly three. We felt this was a good, fair deal for both sides."

Barrett hit .287 with 16 homers and 65 RBI in 2004.

That doesn't sound very special, but the 28-year-old was rewarded with a three-year, $12 million deal by the Cubs on Jan. 18.

Barrett's season was one of the best by a Cubs catcher since 1993, when Rick Wilkins hit .303 with 30 homers and 73 RBI. Barrett didn't put up All-Star statistics, but they were stellar compared to most Cubs catchers in the last 11 seasons.

"Michael gets some security," added Hendry. "He certainly found a place where he succeeded and is very happy, and we're happy with him."

Barrett earned $1.55 million last year and hit .356 in April, .307 in May, .321 in July and .313 in August but tailed off to .230 in September.

"Michael had an outstanding season until the last couple of weeks," Hendry said. "He played hurt. He was banged up. He got through it. He made a lot of progress. It's a good situation with Michael and (new backup) Henry Blanco. We feel Michael is going to keep getting better and better."

Before coming to the Cubs, Barrett played with Montreal from 1998 to 2003 and was traded to Oakland on Dec. 15, 2003, then was dealt to the Cubs the next day.

Since Wilkins' '93 season, no Opening Day starting Cubs catcher had hit better than .278 or driven in more than 63 runs until Barrett's 2004 season. Barrett and Todd Hundley (16 homers in 2002) are the only two Cubs catchers to hit more than 11 homers since 1993.

NOTES, QUOTES

CF Corey Patterson avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $2.8 million deal for 2005. Patterson had a career-high 24 homers, 72 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 2004. He considers himself as a power hitter, but with his speed the Cubs might ask him to continue to lead off.

RHP Kyle Farnsworth avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $1.975 million deal to return to the Cubs bullpen as a setup man. Farnsworth possesses a fastball that can hit triple figures, but his career has been inconsistent. If Ryan Dempster fails as a closer in spring training or the Cubs don't sign a closer in the offseason, Farnsworth could be given a shot at the job in camp.

RHP Scott Williamson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. Williamson, who pitched with Cincinnati and Boston from 1999-2004, could be ready by the final couple of months of the season. He will make $316,000 if he doesn't pitch for the parent club and $500,000 if he is activated. The Cubs have an option on his contract for $2 million in 2006.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15—Non-roster players invited to Cubs camp, including lefty pitcher Jimmy Anderson, who was a non-roster invitee in 2004 and logged some time with the parent club.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If Sammy plays right field for the Cubs this year, there is no reason to think you will get less than 35 home runs and 90-120 RBI. If that's what happens, we'll be glad to have that production. At the same time, if anybody on the ballclub was to be traded, it would be my intention to make a deal that is better for the Cubs. And if that opportunity arises, it would be my obligation to the organization to do that." —Hendry on the likelihood of Sammy Sosa returning to the team.

ROSTER REPORT

ARRIVALS: C Henry Blanco (free agent from Minnesota), LHP Stephen Randolph (trade with Arizona).

DEPARTURES: RHP Matt Clement (free agent to Boston), Kent Mercker (free agent to Cincinnati), Moises Alou (free agent to San Francisco), Ramon Martinez (free agent to Detroit), Mark Grudzielanek (free agent to St. Louis), Paul Bako (free agent to Los Angeles).

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. Ryan Dempster might get a tryout in spring training.

FREE AGENTS: OF Tom Goodwin, OF Ben Grieve.

IN LIMBO: RF Sammy Sosa left the team without permission during the season finale against Atlanta, and the Cubs tried unsuccessfully to unload him. The same goes for RHP Kyle Farnsworth, who reportedly left that game early as well.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Joe Borowski (partially torn right rotator cuff) hopes that a few months off will help strengthen his arm for 2005. Surgery was not needed for the shoulder, but he did undergo arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left knee.


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