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Soriano Gets Fifth-Richest Contract Ever

By RONALD BLUM
The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; 12:50 AM

NEW YORK -- Alfonso Soriano is thinking about a World Series title, something the Chicago Cubs have never brought to Wrigley Field.

Soriano's $136 million, eight-year contract was announced Monday by the Cubs after he passed a physical, the fifth-highest contract in baseball history and the first of eight years or more since Scott Rolen's deal with St. Louis in September 2002.

"It's a big contract, but that's not my goal," Soriano said. "My goal is to play hard and give you a championship for the city. That's my goal. It's not about the contract."

Chicago, which gave third baseman Aramis Ramirez a $75 million, five-year deal, hasn't won the World Series since 1908, when it played at the second West Side Park. In hopes of winning a championship, the Cubs are moving to the top level of baseball spenders, joining the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

General manager Jim Hendry isn't worried that Soriano, who turns 31 in January, will tail off drastically by the end of the deal.

"He's lean. He's like a greyhound, this guy. He's some kind of an athlete, and that's a very, very young body for his age," Hendry said. "Who knows if somebody is going to be as productive at 38 as they are at 30 or 31. But, like I said, there's a lot of guys in this game right now swinging the bat at a very high level in their late 30s or even early 40s."

In other moves Monday:

_ Nomar Garciaparra's $18.5 million, two-year contract was finalized by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also were trying to reach a deal with center fielder Juan Pierre that would be worth about $45 million over five years.

_ Moises Alou's $8.5 million, one-year contract was finalized by the New York Mets, who declined left-hander Tom Glavine's $14 million option.

_ Mike Mussina and the New York Yankees reached a preliminary agreement on a $23 million, two-year contract, a deal pending a physical Tuesday.

_ The Cincinnati Reds finalized a $14 million, three-year deal with shortstop Alex Gonzalez and a $5.5 million, two-year deal with left-hander Mike Stanton, then traded catcher Jason LaRue to Kansas City for a player to be named.

Nineteen free-agent signings have been announced, about two weeks ahead of last year's pace.

Soriano's deal trails only those of Alex Rodriguez ($252 million for 10 years), Derek Jeter ($189 million for 10 years), Manny Ramirez ($160 million for eight years) and Todd Helton ($141.5 million for 11 years). Soriano met with Cubs officials last week, and by Saturday he instructed his agents to try to work out a deal.

"This was my first experience as a free agent," Soriano said. "It surprised me a little bit this quick, but I think it works out for me and the team because I think they have now a chance to make another deal and other teams have a chance to make a deal, too."

Garciaparra, the NL comeback player of the year, will get a $2.5 million signing bonus, payable in January 2009 and January 2010, and salaries of $7.5 million next season and $8.5 million in 2008. He would get an additional $250,000 each year for 500 plate appearances.

"I was hoping to be back and wanted to be back. I'm glad I didn't have to go anywhere else," said Garciaparra, who grew up in Whittier, Calif.

As for Pierre, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti praised his ability at the plate and running the bases.

"He's another guy with great qualities as a human being, like Nomar," Colletti said. "We've talked to his agent a few times. We're in a conversation. We don't have a deal."

The 40-year-old Alou gets $7.5 million next season and his deal includes a $7.5 million club option for 2008 with $1 million buyout. He said he turned down two-year offers from other teams.

"The length of my contract doesn't really matter at this point in my career," Alou said. "I wanted to come here because this year _ I wanted to win this year."

Glavine went 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA during the season and 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in three playoff starts. Earlier this month, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner declined his $7.5 million option to stay with the Mets, who still would like to keep him.

Glavine hasn't decided whether to remain in New York or try to return home to the Atlanta Braves.

"I really don't anticipate anything until he gets back this weekend," said Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton. "I think this really is going to be his evaluation period. By early next week, he should finish his analysis and know what he wants to do."

© 2006 The Associated Press