Return to Chicago seems likely for Maddux

Greg Maddux hasn't been in a hurry to decide which team he'll pitch for in 2004, but at this rate he might not have a choice to make.

One day after Maddux reportedly rejected a multi-year contract offer from the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs increased their proposal to the free-agent pitcher, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry did not disclose details of his team's latest offer, but it is estimated to be in the $14 million to $15 million range over two years, according to the Sun-Times' report.

The Cubs, who opened the bidding for Maddux on Jan. 12, had been for days expected to increase their original two-year proposal worth a guaranteed $10 million, with the possibility of reaching $12 million through incentives.

Meanwhile, the Giants, apparently taking Maddux's rejection to heart, have pulled out of the running for the 289-game winner, according to a story in the Contra Costa Times on Sunday.

Scott Boras, Maddux's agent, contacted the Giants on Thursday night, and after the team made its offer it was summarily rejected, the Contra Costa Times reported.

The Cubs hope their latest offer will entice Maddux to agree to terms in the next couple of days, since Chicago's pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to camp Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz.

"Hopefully, Greg will make his decision before camp starts," Hendry told the Sun-Times.

Maddux has said recently that's in no rush to sign with a new team.

"I'd like to get something done, make my decision, by the middle of next week, since most camps are opening," Maddux told the (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald on Thursday night. "But even if it's a few days after that, or even a week after that, I don't see it as a big deal. Spring training is two weeks too long as it is. I've done my work all winter. I think after 20 years in pro ball I know how to get myself ready for a season."

Hendry and Boras spoke on Saturday in an apparent attempt to complete the negotiations that have dragged on for more than a month now, leaving Cubs fans anxious.

"Scott and I are talking and probably will through the weekend," Hendry said. "We have reiterated that we'd like Greg to be with us and, hopefully, he will decide to come back to Chicago."

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals also made pushes for Maddux, but are considered by some to be afterthoughts at this point in the process.

Maddux, who turns 38 in April, is second among active pitchers
with 289 wins, 21 behind Roger Clemens. He's 289-163 with a 2.89
ERA in his 18-year career, and has won 15 or more games in a record
16 straight seasons.

He has pitched in nine division series, eight league
championship series and three World Series.
Maddux was 16-11 last season, but his ERA of 3.96 was his highest since 1987, his second year in the majors.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.