Cubs sign OF Byrd to 3-year contract

Updated: January 1, 2010, 1:07 AM ET
By Bruce Levine | ESPNChicago.com

The Chicago Cubs made their first major addition of the offseason, signing former Texas Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd to a three-year, $15 million deal on Thursday.

The Cubs hope Byrd can fill their center field void.

Byrd is a disciple of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who also will be starting his first season with the Cubs after coming over from the Rangers.

"[Jaramillo] was a big part of [signing in Chicago]," Byrd said. "I really enjoyed my last three years with Rudy. I'm very comfortable with him. He is the best in the business. We are especially close. It's going to be nice working with him the next three years."

The 32-year-old Byrd had a career year in 2009, hitting .283 with 20 home runs and 89 RBIs. It was his first major league season with more than 500 at-bats; putting up career highs in games played (146), home runs, doubles (43) and RBIs.

"I'm very happy to have signed Marlon," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Obviously, he had a lot of success in recent years in Texas.

"Rudy Jaramillo has been very supportive of signing him, since the day we signed Rudy. We explored every avenue of free agency and trade to try to fill this role, and we kept coming back to Marlon being the right guy."

The Cubs had been negotiating with the agents for Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel up until the deal with Byrd was finalized on Wednesday. Byrd is represented by agents Sam and Seth Levinson, who also represent Milton Bradley, who signed with the Cubs in the offseason of 2008.

Bradley was traded to the Seattle Mariners earlier this month after a difficult season with the Cubs filled with controversy. Bradley and Byrd were teammates in Texas.

"We have a relationship off the field," Byrd said. "I love Milton Bradley. I'm a little biased when it comes to him. I'm going to talk to him today about me coming [to Chicago].

"[I hope he] starts in a new place and gets a fresh start, puts things in the past."

Byrd is not a top-of-the-order hitter, posting just a .329 on-base percentage last season with just eight stolen bases. He'll most likely bat fifth, sixth or seventh in Lou Piniella's lineup.

Byrd was in Chicago on Wednesday taking a physical with the Cubs' team doctors. The deal is believed to be backloaded to give the Cubs a little more economic flexibility with their $140 million 2010 budget.

The Cubs still are seeking trades and free-agent signings. Hendry is looking to solidify his bullpen and maybe add one swing starting pitcher/long reliever.

The team has had several conversations with the agent for former White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras, and have had conversations with Colorado about outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who would fill the role of the fourth outfielder behind Byrd, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome.

The Cubs also have talked to the Toronto Blue Jays about bullpen pitchers. Former Oak Forest High School pitcher Jason Frasor is on the Cubs' radar. Frasor was a starter at Southern Illinois for four years.

Bruce Levine covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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