Cubs woo reliever Eyre away from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Free-agent reliever Scott Eyre agreed to
terms on a three-year, $11 million contract with the Chicago Cubs
on Thursday, ending the left-hander's tenure with the San Francisco Giants.

Eyre will earn $3 million in 2006, and $4 million in each of the
following two years. The deal includes a $1.5 million signing
bonus, and a no-trade clause and the third year is the player's
option. Other incentives in the deal could add another $2.4 million
over the three years.

The Cubs said Eyre will be introduced at a news conference
Friday at Wrigley Field.

The 33-year-old left-hander had received a two-year offer with a
club option to stay with San Francisco, but was hoping for a
three-year deal and wanted to play closer to his family in Florida.
He was also considering deals with the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

"It had nothing to do with the Giants' contract offer," Eyre
said Thursday night. "They couldn't do anything about it. They
can't move their team any closer."

Eyre led the league with 86 appearances pitching for San
Francisco last season, going 2-2 with a career best 2.63 ERA. He
struck out 65 batters and walked 26 in 68 1-3 innings, holding
opponents to a .200 batting average.

"The last three years I've pitched close to 80 games ever year.
I enjoy pitching, I like to be out there and the more I pitch the
more I feel like an every day player," Eyre said.

Eyre's contract calls for up to $300,000 a year in performance
bonuses. He will receive $100,000 for 70 appearances and an
additional $200,000 if he pitches in 80 games. There is also
wording that would give Eyre additional money should he become the
Cubs' closer.

"Scott was the best guy on the market for us. He had a terrific
year," Cubs general Jim Hendry said. "He has proven he can pitch
almost every day with 80 appearances. He's effective against
righties and lefties. We felt it was important to add a quality
lefty in the pen to go with [Wil] Ohman."

Eyre's agent, Tommy Tanzer, said before the signing that Eyre
wanted to stay in the National League, though he also had serious
interest from the Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

Eyre said his agent was contacted by every team in the majors to
at least judge his interest.

"It was very flattering to me. It was also nerve-racking and
made my decision of where I wanted to go a lot harder," he said.

Tanzer spoke Wednesday with Giants general manager Brian Sabean,
who said he would do everything he could to re-sign Eyre. But
Tanzer told Sabean that Eyre and his family had decided that the
pitcher would prefer to play closer to his home.

"He was very gracious about it," Tanzer said of his
conversation with Sabean.

Eyre played briefly for Cubs manager Dusty Baker in 2002 and is
also close with Chicago bench coach Dick Pole, making Chicago one
of Eyre's top choices.

"I think that had a lot to do with it. In our conversations he
[Eyre] has always spoken highly of him [Baker] and vice versa,"
Hendry said.

Eyre broke in with the White Sox in 1997 and was initially a
starter before being moved to the bullpen. He said at the time he
didn't feel like he belonged in the big leagues but now he does.

"I was a very inconsistent pitcher then. Now I believe I'm a
lot more consistent," he said, adding that he began to excel when
the Giants started using him frequently out of the bullpen.

"I seem to pitch better the more I pitch," he said.

Eyre had been happy in the Bay Area since the Giants claimed him
off waivers from Toronto in August 2002. He pitched during the
team's World Series run that year under Baker. Several of his
Giants teammates -- Noah Lowry, Jack Taschner and Brad Hennessey --
called trying to persuade him to stay.

But his latest decision ultimately came down to family. He and
wife Laura have two sons, 7-year-old Caleb and 5-year-old Jacob.