Cubs close to huge deal with Soriano

Cubs close to huge deal with Soriano

CHICAGO -- The Cubs appear to have landed one of the biggest free-agent names on the market, reportedly signing outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry would not confirm it, but sources said the Cubs likely will have an announcement Monday regarding Soriano, who is coming off his first 40-40 season. Soriano must pass a physical before the deal can be completed.

If the terms are correct, it would be the richest deal in Cubs history, topping the five-year, $73 million deal third baseman Aramis Ramirez inked earlier this month.

It also would be the fifth-largest package given to a Major League player, behind 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 would be the sixth free agent to sign with the Cubs this month. Hendry began his spending spree with the signing of new manager Lou Piniella to a three-year contract on Oct. 17. At that time, Hendry promised Piniella the team would provide the resources to turn things around after a 66-96 season and last-place finish in the National League. He has kept his promise.

So far, the Cubs have re-signed Ramirez, pitcher Kerry Wood (one year, $1.75 million), catcher Henry Blanco (two years, $5.25 million) and pitcher Wade Miller (one year, $1.5 million). The Cubs also have signed free-agent infielder Mark DeRosa to a three-year, $13 million deal and traded for left-handed reliever Neal Cotts.

That's a total of $94.5 million -- and doesn't include Soriano's deal -- and the Cubs have issues remaining to address such as completing the rotation. The spending is a change for Piniella, whose total payroll in his first season with the Devil Rays in 2003 was $19.6 million, and reached $29.7 million in '05.

Soriano, 30, was one of the top outfielders on the market this offseason. The Phillies, Astros and Angels also had been pursuing him after he hit .277 with 46 homers, 41 doubles and 41 stolen bases for the Nationals in 2006.

This past season, he became the fourth player in Major League history to record 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season. Jose Canseco (Oakland, 1988), Barry Bonds (San Francisco, 1996) and Rodriguez (Seattle, 1998) are the others.

Soriano has a career .280 average, 208 home runs and 560 RBIs. He has 210 stolen bases, and he has played for the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals. Last season was his first in the outfield, and he ranked second among NL left fielders with 11 errors. Soriano also was fourth in the league in strikeouts with 160, but he doubled his walk total from the 2005 season and improved his on-base percentage (.351).

The right-handed hitting outfielder could lead off for the Cubs and set up sluggers Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

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