Piniella Pleased

Piniella Pleased

It's definitely a new deal for Lou Piniella in Chicago.

After spending a year working as an analyst for Fox Sports, he is back in the dugout, this time as the Cubs manager, for 2007. He is coming off a rough three seasons from 2003-2005 as Tampa Bay's skipper.

When he took the Tampa Bay job, Piniella had visions of the Devil Rays opening up the checkbook to try to build a winner. Instead, the Rays maintained a small payroll, and 90-loss seasons were the norm for Piniella.

But the Cubs, who finished in last place in the National League Central with 96 losses in 2006, not only promised big spending, they delivered. Including Piniella and player salaries, the Cubs spent more than $300 million this winter, and that pleases the veteran skipper.

"Back when I talked to (general manager Jim Hendry) in the second week of October, he said they're going to get after it, and they sure have," Piniella said. "They're going out and getting the best talent that they can and are putting their resources forward, and that's what it takes."

The Cubs inked the two richest deals in club history when they signed Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million deal and re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $75 million pact.

Another big payday could be looming. Sixteen-game winner Carlos Zambrano is arbitration-eligible, and in this current market, he could be worth more than $12 million for the 2007 campaign. If the Cubs decide to offer the 25-year-old a multiyear deal, they could dole out more money than they ever have for a pitcher.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • LHP Neal Cotts inked a one-year, $825,000 deal on Jan. 3, thus avoiding arbitration. Cotts will bid for the fifth starter's spot but likely will end up in the bullpen.

  • LHP Will Ohman, who made 78 appearances out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 2006, may face a hard fight to make the club in spring training. The Cubs already have one left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, Scott Eyre. And they spent $825,000 on Neal Cotts, who also likely will land in the bullpen.

  • RHP Carlos Zambrano, who made $6.5 million in 2006, is still arbitration-eligible and figures to double his salary in 2007. He is just 25 years old and won 16 games two of the past three seasons.

  • RHP Mark Prior, who made $3.65 million last year, is still arbitration-eligible and is likely in line for a raise. But since he missed most of 2006 with a shoulder injury and has a history of injuries, he doesn't figure to get a huge bump. It's not known if he will start the 2007 season on time.

  • RHP Kerry Wood, who was sidelined with shoulder problems in 2006, has been throwing consistently on flat ground during the offseason, but the Cubs are not giving many more details. Wood plans on spending the 2007 season as a reliever to save some wear and tear on his oft-injured arm.

    BY THE NUMBERS: $150,000 -- Bonus LHP Neal Cotts could make in 2007 if he is named the World Series MVP. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We will address some of that in spring training." -- New Cubs manager Lou Piniella on the team's 99-year championship drought.

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