Cubs set deals with Ramirez, Wood

Cubs set deals with Ramirez, Wood

CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood decided it was more important to stay with the Cubs than seek more money somewhere else.

The Cubs reached agreement Sunday on a five-year, $73 million contract for Ramirez, and avoided losing the third baseman to free agency. Wood, also a free agent, signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Cubs.

Dollar-wise, Ramirez's contract is the largest given to a Cubs player since Sammy Sosa signed a four-year, $72 million deal in March 2001. Derrek Lee agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract in April this year.

The new deal will keep Ramirez with the Cubs through 2011, and includes a mutual option for the 2012 season. A year-by-year breakdown of the deal was not available Sunday.

"It was a situation, obviously, where I think at the end of the day, the player did want to be here," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Sunday. "It's not much of a secret, the figures that were being bantered around would've been much higher. As good a deal as this is for any player, I certainly believe there was a six- or seven-year deal guaranteed out there that would've paid him $20 million more than he got.

"He was the lucky beneficiary of being a free agent at a time when his services were needed. The people of Chicago should be glad to know that he did leave a lot out there."

In April 2005, Ramirez signed a four-year, $42 million deal with the Cubs, but that included a clause that allowed him to file for free agency after the 2006 season. Ramirez did that, walking away from a guaranteed two years, $22.5 million. The Cubs had exclusive rights until midnight Saturday to reach a new deal with Ramirez, and finalized the details of the contract on Sunday.

There were several teams interested in the 28-year-old third baseman, who batted .291 and set career highs with 38 home runs and 119 RBIs in 2006. Agent Paul Kinzer told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that Ramirez wanted to stay with the Cubs.

"If he hits the market, we'll be looking at [Carlos] Beltran money," Kinzer told the Los Angeles Times before Saturday's deadline. Beltran signed a seven-year, $119 million deal with the New York Mets in 2004.

Ramirez had made it clear to Hendry that Chicago was home.

"A lot of times, there was an image being portrayed that he wanted out and didn't want to stay," Hendry said. "When he and I spoke at the end of the year, I felt he really wanted to be here. It makes us feel good because it's a trust factor. Not only does he like it here, but he has faith that things will get better."

The Cubs are coming off a 66-96 season, the worst record in the National League. Dusty Baker was not retained as manager, and Ramirez will have a new skipper in Lou Piniella.

Asked if he regretted including the opt-out clause in Ramirez's first contract, Hendry said no.

"'Regret' is a tough word," Hendry said. "At the time, he did take a lesser deal than he could've gotten a year later on the street. Sometimes, you exercise avenues that conclude deals that make sense at that particular time."

Ramirez ranks among the Majors' elite third basemen. His 38 home runs last season tied Toronto's Troy Glaus for the most by a third baseman, and his RBI total ranked third among all third basemen behind the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (121 RBIs) and Colorado's Garrett Atkins (120). In three-plus seasons with the Cubs, Ramirez has batted .298 with 120 home runs and 353 RBIs in 488 games.

Wood hasn't had as much success lately. The Cubs opted not to pick up the right-handed pitcher's $13.5 million option for 2007, and instead gave him a $3 million buyout. The current contract includes several incentives, including appearances, games finished and active time on the 25-man roster that, if he met all the numbers, could boost the total package to $6 million.

"Despite his physical problems, there was a lot of action on Woody, which would've given him a base of twice as much as we did," Hendry said. "As well as Woody has been paid the last couple years, he did show a lot of loyalty by coming back."

Wood, 29, battled right shoulder injuries for the third straight season in 2006, and appeared in just four games, posting a 1-2 record and 4.12 ERA. He began the year on the disabled list, recovering from arthroscopic surgery performed on Aug. 31, 2005. Wood was diagnosed in June with a partial tear in his right rotator cuff and had to go back on the DL for the rest of the season.

Hendry said he watched Wood throw last week in Arizona, and the right-hander is coming along well.

"He's in terrific shape and his arm looks real good," Hendry said. "It's a long way from Spring Training, but I'm very encouraged by how he's throwing the ball now."

Could Wood be a closer candidate?

"It'll sort itself out," Hendry said, adding that Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild feel Ryan Dempster will come back better than in 2006, and that Scott Eyre and Bob Howry are also in the mix.

Hendry now heads to the general manager meetings in Naples, Fla., to get started on filling the other vacancies on the Cubs' roster. The Cubs are still talking to the agents representing Juan Pierre and Henry Blanco, both free agents. The team still has some glaring holes in the rotation with only Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill set. At least Hendry doesn't have to worry about finding a third baseman who can drive in 100-plus runs.

"I'm very pleased [to have it settled]," Hendry said of the Ramirez deal. "We had outstanding organizational meetings, and you can slice and dice it a lot of ways on the wall and talk about our scouting, but to have to go out and find somebody who you know can hit 3-4-5 in Aramis' place is no small task.

"It's not only a relief, but it's a positive thing to see that at the end of the day, the agent did his job and negotiated hard and fair and the player did stand up and say, 'Get me back to where I was,'" Hendry said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.