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Cubs ink Bako, could deal Hill

Cubs ink Bako, could deal Hill

The Cubs finalized one long-discussed deal on Friday and reportedly were talking with an old friend about another.

First, the done deal. The Cubs finalized a one-year contract with veteran backup catcher Paul Bako, who previously played for the team in 2003-2004. Bako will get a salary in the neighborhood of $500,000, according to multiple reports over the past few weeks, to serve as the backup to reigning National League Rookie of the year Geovany Soto.

Bako, 36, a defensive-minded catcher, hit .217 in 99 games for the Reds last season and bats left-handed. Soto is a right-handed hitter. Bako has thrown out 28.2 percent of attempted basestealers in his career, including a 26.7-percent success rate last season with the Reds, and he has a .990 career fielding percentage behind the plate.

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Another move was reportedly in the works. The Baltimore Sun reported on Thursday that the Cubs and Orioles were discussing a trade that would send left-hander Rich Hill to Baltimore, likely for a player to be named later based on Hill's 2009 success.

"We are talking to them," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail -- who previously held a similar job title in Chicago -- told the newspaper. "We are talking to a lot of teams about a lot of players."

The newspaper's report said the Cubs were talking to other clubs about Hill, including the Mariners, but speculated that the Orioles were the frontrunners.

Hot Stove
Hill, who turns 29 in March, appeared to solidify himself as a Cubs up-and-comer in 2007, when he went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 32 starts in his first full season in the Majors. But the 2008 season was a disaster for Hill, who started the year 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA in five starts but walked 18 batters in 19 2/3 innings and was demoted to the Minors.

He fell as far as the rookie-level Arizona League. In 13 starts for three Cubs affiliates, Hill posted a 5.85 ERA and issued 44 walks in 47 2/3 innings.

Hill is out of Minor League options, and has fallen down the Cubs' depth chart. Assuming everyone makes it through Spring Training without an injury, the Cubs will feature Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden in the starting rotation, plus one of Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin or recently-acquired Aaron Heilman.

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

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