Next they turned their attention to starting pitching, and they landed free agent Ted Lilly.
The veteran left-hander agreed to a four-year, $40 million deal. Lilly, 30, went 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA this year for the Blue Jays. He made headlines Aug. 21 when he argued with manager John Gibbons on the mound while being removed from a game, then scuffled with Gibbons in the dugout tunnel. In an eight-year career that has included stints with the Expos, A's and Yankees, Lilly is 59-58 with a 4.60 ERA.
The acquisition of Lilly should help the Cubs shore up a rotation that used to be strength but lately has been a huge question mark.
Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill appeared to be locks for the rotation -- even though Hill has not yet pitched a full major league season.
Mark Prior is a question mark due to his balky shoulder. Until Prior proves he can start the season on time in 2007, the Cubs are not yet counting him in their plans.
Thanks in part to numerous injuries, the Cubs used plenty of young pitchers last season -- including Sean Marshall, Juan Mateo and Carlos Marmol -- with mixed results. One of those could emerge as an effective starter for the Cubs in 2007, but it appears the team would rather acquire veterans via a trade or free agency rather than roll the dice on its young arms.
The Cubs remain on the lookout for left-handed hitting. Free agent outfielder Cliff Floyd is a potential target.
--On Dec. 6, the day the deal with LHP Ted Lilly was completed, Cubs GM Jim Hendry was hospitalized at the winter meetings in Florida after taking ill. A Cubs spokeswoman said he would be held overnight for observation.
--OF/2B Freddie Bynum, who served as a reserve for the Cubs last season, was dealt to the Orioles for a player to be named. Bynum hit .257 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 2006.
--OF Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million deal on Nov. 20, said he was interested in playing winter ball, but the Cubs would prefer that he doesn't play, fearing a risk of injury.
--RHP Kerry Wood, who was saddled with shoulder woes since an August 2005 surgery, continues to throw off of flat ground but is not throwing off a mound yet. The Cubs had hoped he could do that by November.
--Bench coach Alan Trammell is listed on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. It's the sixth season he's been on the ballot.
--Former popular Cubs player Jody Davis was promoted from Class A Peoria manager to Class A Daytona manager.
--Buddy Bailey was named Triple-A Iowa manager, replacing Mike Quade, who was promoted to the parent club as first base coach.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Premium tickets for each home game at Wrigley Field that OF Alfonso Soriano will receive as a part of his eight-year, $136 million deal.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's arguably the most exciting player in the major leagues with a combination of power, speed, athleticism and defense that he now possesses." -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on OF Alfonso Soriano, whom the Cubs signed in November.