News and Notes: More on Santo

Ron Santo (AP)

The Cubs lost their biggest fan -- certainly their most audible -- when longtime announcer and player Ron Santo died in an Arizona hospital of complications from bladder cancer. He was 70.

Santo was one of the faces of the franchise in the late 1960s and early '70s. His trademark was clicking his heels after a victory at Wrigley Field as the Cubs walked to their clubhouse entrance, which at that time was located in the left-field corner.

Together with Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins, Santo helped make the Cubs perennial contenders, but they will forever be known more for their late season collapse in 1969 as the Miracle Mets swept past them, won the division and went on to win the World Series. Santo has been one of the most notable players never to make the Hall.

In his later years, diabetes ravaged his body, and both of his legs had to be amputated because of the disease. But Santo still was in the radio booth, calling out his famous "Oh nooooooooo!" when things wouldn't go the Cubs' way.

"Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement.

CUBS NOTES

--There was no drama surrounding Cubs players being tendered contracts by the Dec. 2 deadline, enabling GM Jim Hendry to set his sights on the winter meetings.

Hendry tendered contracts to all players, including arbitration-eligible catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill, infielder Jeff Baker and pitchers Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol.

The Cubs quickly tied up Baker with a one-year deal worth $1.175 million.

That's been the most exciting news about the Cubs since they announced in October that manager Mike Quade was coming back. Now, Hendry will turn his attention to obtaining a left-handed hitting first baseman, a starting pitcher who can eat innings and perhaps a right-handed relief pitcher.

The budget is tighter this winter. The Ricketts family, which has owned the Cubs for just over a year, says player payroll will come down an undisclosed amount from the 2010 figure of about $146 million.

However, this year's accelerated schedule for teams tendering contracts to players may allow Hendry to do some real business in Orlando. He says he'll explore both the trade and free agent markets.

The Cubs have acknowledged interest in three first basemen: Carlos Pena (a free agent late of Tampa Bay) and Lance Berkman (Yankees) and to a lesser degree in Adam LaRoche (Arizona).

Hendry has said he believes the Cubs are only three or four moves away from contention again in the NL Central and not in need of a major overhaul.

The Cubs also figure to name their new pitching coach before the winter meetings are over. All indications are they'll hire from within and that minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins is the best bet to replace Larry Rothschild, who left for the New York Yankees in November.

--Soto figures to get a nice raise from the $575,000 he made in 2010. Soto had season-ending shoulder surgery in September. The Cubs say he has been back to Chicago from Puerto Rico since the season ended and has checked out fine. From all reports, Soto is on or ahead of schedule in his recovery, and he should be ready before spring training.

--Baker was tendered a contract, largely because of his versatility and his effectiveness against left-handed pitching this year. Baker signed a one-year deal worth $1.175 million to avoid salary arbitration. His best position is second base, but he is more than adequate at third and can handle first. Quade also can put him in the outfield on occasion. Baker batted .350, and all four of his homers were against lefties. But against right-handed pitching, he hit just .106.

--Marshall will get a significant raise from the $950,000 he made this year after being one of the top left-handed setup men in the game in 2010. Marshall has said he'd like to start again, but he has played the good-soldier role for the Cubs since first coming up as a starter in 2006. He appeared in a career-high 80 games, leading the team. It's hard to see the Cubs moving Marshall out of the bullpen at this point.

--Hill figures to battle with youngsters Welington Castillo and Robinson Chirinos for the backup spot behind Soto. Hill made $700,000 this season. He doesn't hit much, but the pitchers like throwing to him. Hill appeared in 77 games this year. Castillo was up late in the year, and Chirinos is a converted infielder whom the Cubs added to their 40-man roster this fall.

--OF Brad Snyder, who appeared in 12 games in September, going 5-for-28, has signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and will go to spring training as a non-roster player. Snyder, 28, hit 25 homers for the Cubs' Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa farm club.

BY THE NUMBERS: 80 -- Games in which Marshall pitched this year. He's just the second Cubs lefty to work in at least 80 games in a season, joining Jeff Fassero, who pitched in 82 games in 2001.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's pretty much well established what we're trying to do. We'll have to have a combination of free agency, hopefully, and trades. We plan on getting down there and getting into it." --Hendry on the winter meetings

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