Garciaparra stays with Cubs

Updated: December 7, 2004, 8:43 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Nomar Garciaparra enjoyed his brief stay with the Chicago Cubs so much he's coming back.

The five-time All-Star shortstop agreed Tuesday to an $8 million, one-year contract that could rise to $11 million with performance bonuses.

"I really loved playing there, I really loved the experience I had in the short time I was there," he said. "I just felt Chicago is the best place for me. I'm looking forward to going out there and, hopefully, turning this into a long-term relationship."

Garciaparra would make $500,000 each for 535 and 550 plate appearances. He also gets $400,000 each for making 130, 135, 140, 145 and 150 starts.

The Cubs also agreed to a $2.5 million, one-year deal with second baseman Todd Walker that includes an option for 2006. The Cubs' option is at $2.5 million, and Walker has vesting options at $2.5 million and $2.75 million based on plate appearances.

"With Nomar and I coming back and the pitching staff we have coming back, we're in good position already," Walker said. "We left some unfinished business out there, and I think this year we're going to take care of it."

The Cubs also planned to offer arbitration to right-hander Matt Clement. They will not offer it to left fielder Moises Alou; second baseman Mark Grudzielanek; outfielders Tom Goodwin and Ben Grieve; shortstop Ramon Martinez; or left-hander Kent Mercker.

Garciaparra is a two-time AL batting champion and a career .322 hitter with 182 home runs and 710 RBIss. But he played only 81 games last year because of Achilles' tendon, left wrist and groin injuries.

"There's not a long history of a lot of missed games. The years he's been healthy, he's played a lot of games and he's played pretty hard," general manager Jim Hendry said. "Both sides agreed that Nomar's value on a multiyear deal would only be enhanced by him coming back and playing, and playing a lot.

"I think a short-term deal worked well for him, too," Hendry added. "He is very happy."

And after the last, tumultuous season, happiness means a lot.

Garciaparra spent the first 8½ years of his career with the Boston Red Sox. He was a fan favorite, with everyone from little kids to old ladies sporting his jersey, and the Boston faithful greeting him with cheers of "Nomah!" whenever he stepped to the plate.

But when the Red Sox tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez from Texas last offseason, they dangled Garciaparra on the trade market. The A-Rod deal didn't come together, but Garciaparra's feelings were still hurt. Though he said he still wanted to finish his career with the Red Sox, he turned down a $60 million, four-year extension last winter and it seemed a matter of when, not if, he would leave Boston.

On July 31, the Red Sox sent Garciaparra to the Cubs as part of a four-team trade.

"He was very happy to be here," Hendry said. "Genuinely happy with how well he was received by the fans and his teammates."

In his first game at Wrigley Field, he was cheered during pregame stretching, batting practice and before every at-bat. Catcher Michael Barrett gave up No. 5 -- though Barrett did make Garciaparra promise to seriously consider returning to the Cubs.

"I really enjoyed my time there," Garciaparra said. "I know we have a great chance of winning and winning the whole thing, and that's what I want to be a part of. That's something that's important to me."

Though Garciaparra had to watch from afar when the Red Sox won the World Series and finally ended 86 years of frustration, he said he was thrilled for his old team.

"I was really pulling for my teammates there," he said. "I'll always have great ties to that city. To see them do that, I was definitely happy for them and really, really excited for them and that city."

Garciaparra hit .308 with nine homers and 41 RBIss with Boston and Chicago. He's hit .300 or better in seven seasons, and had a career-best 30-game hitting streak in 1997.

He's been to the playoffs three times, and set an American League division series record in 1998 with 11 RBIss in four games.

"This is a great, great player," said Hendry, who flew out to California to woo Garciaparra. "Unfortunately, we only saw a good player, we didn't see the Nomar we all know if he's completely healthy, the guy that won the batting title. His track record speaks for itself."

Walker was close to signing with Texas, but said Chicago was where he really wanted to be.

"I was scared (the Rangers) were going to give us what I wanted because in my gut I wanted to come back to Chicago," he said.

Walker was stellar as a backup to Grudzielanek last year, hitting .323 the first month of the season. The left-handed batter hit .294 in 60 games as leadoff hitter, with a .370 on-base percentage.

He also was solid defensively, committing just seven errors in 749 1-3 innings.

"We've got a great bunch of guys that just want to win and we've got the talent to do it," Walker said. "We're going to have just as good a chance winning the World Series as I thought we had last year."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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