Backup Blanco returns to Cubs with two-year deal

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs and backup catcher Henry Blanco
agreed to a $5.25 million, two-year contract Wednesday with an
option for 2009.

Blanco batted .266 in 74 games last season. He served as a
backup to Michael Barrett and filled in when Barrett missed most of
the last month after being hit in the groin with a foul tip.

Blanco spent the last two seasons with the Cubs and is known for
his defense. He has thrown out 41.4 percent of runners attempting
to steal during his career, second among active catchers to
Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez.

Blanco has also played with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado
Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins. He
is a .225 career hitter with 49 homers and 225 RBIs in 666 games.

The Cubs, with new manger Lou Piniella, have been busy. They
signed free agent second baseman Mark DeRosa on Tuesday and last
week re-signed free agents Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood and
Wade Miller.

Blanco gets a $750,000 signing bonus, $1.4 million next year and
$2.8 million in 2008. The Cubs have a $3 million option for 2009
with a $300,000 buyout. The option would become guaranteed if he
meets certain performance levels, and the price of the option could
escalate to as high as $4.5 million.