Zambrano agrees to $3.76M deal with Chicago

Updated: February 4, 2005, 5:37 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs wrapped up a busy week Friday, agreeing to an $8.95 million, one-year deal with third baseman Aramis Ramirez and a $3.76 million, one-year contract with right-hander Carlos Zambrano.

The pair were the last two Cubs in arbitration to settle among the five who filed last month.

Carlos Zambrano
Zambrano

Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez

"Both of these guys are cornerstone players for us," general manager Jim Hendry said.

Chicago is counting on Ramirez to help fill the power vacuum left by Sammy Sosa, who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. Sosa and Moises Alou, who became a free agent and signed with San Francisco, combined for 74 homers and 186 RBI last season.

Ramirez had a breakout year offensively in 2004, hitting a team-best .318 with a career-high 36 homers and 103 RBI. He only struck out 62 times -- fewest of Chicago's four 30-homer players -- and had a slugging percentage of .578. His 36 homers was a Cubs record for a third baseman, and he was only the third to reach 100 RBI.

He ranked sixth in the NL with a .336 average with runners in scoring position.

The 26-year-old is a career .273 hitter with 127 homers and 458 RBI in five-plus seasons with Pittsburgh and Chicago. He's batted .299 with 51 homers and 142 RBI since the Cubs acquired him from the Pirates in July 2003.

He's also improved defensively, his weakness when he came to the Cubs. Ramirez made 10 errors last year, fewest in his career and less than a third of the 33 he made in 2003.

"He's turning himself into a solid player defensively. And on the other side, too," Hendry said. "Hopefully, he'll be our third baseman for a very long time."

Beginning the season as the least-heralded pitcher in the Cubs' stellar rotation, Zambrano established himself as one of the best young pitchers in the NL. He went 16-8 in 31 starts, matching Greg Maddux for most wins, and his 2.75 ERA was the best of any starter. He struck out 188 in 209 2/3 innings and was picked for the All-Star team.

"He has a very strong will to succeed. He wants to be somebody special," Hendry said. "He's not just satisfied with being OK. He wants to make his mark, and that's a good thing. He's still a very young man, and we're thrilled to have him."

Zambrano, 23, pitched a two-hit shutout against Colorado on May 7, facing only two batters over the minimum and throwing 97 pitches. He also led the NL in hit batters (20) and tied for ninth with 81 walks.

Zambrano is 34-29 with a 3.25 ERA in three full seasons with the Cubs.

Ramirez, who made $6 million in 2004, had asked for a raise to $10.25 million when he exchanged arbitration figures with the Cubs. The team countered with an offer of $8 million. Zambrano, who made $475,000 last season, asked for $4 million. The Cubs offered $3.3 million.

Also Friday, the Cubs agreed to a minor-league contract with Dave Hansen and invited the infielder to spring training as a non-roster player. Hansen, who split last season between Seattle and San Diego, is a career .264 hitter. Hansen would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he is added to the major-league roster.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press