Lee and agent Casey Close had hoped to work out an extension before the end of Spring Training. After the regular season began April 3, the 2005 All-Star threatened to cut off contract talks until the season ended if an agreement was not reached relatively soon.
One of the premiere first basemen in all of baseball, Lee originally set a deadline for last Saturday to hammer out an extension. But he and the Cubs were thought to be closing in on a finalized deal in the days leading up to Tuesday’s formal announcement with initial reports by The Associated Press stating that a deal had been reached late Monday evening.
Lee is expected to be paid an annual salary of $13,000,000 with a no-trade clause included in his contract. Not that the Cubs would want to trade him anyway.
“This guy has emerged as one of the greats in this game,” said manager Dusty Baker following Saturday’s come from behind 3-2 win over the Cardinals. “I’m hoping he goes down in history as one of the greatest trades ever made. We’re just glad we have him.”
The Cubs acquired Lee from the Florida Marlins following the 2003 season in exchange for first baseman Hee Seop Choi and a player to be named later (RHP Mike Nannini).
A season ago, the 30-year-old Lee led the National League with a .335 batting average and hit 46 home runs, five behind Atlanta’s Andruw Jones. He lost out on the National League’s MVP honors to the Cardinals Albert Pujols, but still led the league in RBIs, doubles, slugging percentage and hits en route to his first Silver Slugger award and second Gold Glove.
This spring, Lee participated for Team USA in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. He is presently batting .375 with three home runs and six driven in.
“It’s nice to get it over with, to put it behind me and focus on winning games,” Lee told reporters at Tuesday’s press conference. “I want to say thanks to the Cubs organization, Mr. MacPhail, Mr. Hendry, my teammates and my coaches. I’m proud to be a part of this organization and am happy to be here for the next five years.”
Contact Frank North: firstname.lastname@example.org.