Lilly, Cubs agree to four-year, $40 million contract

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Free agent pitcher Ted Lilly, who earlier in the day ruled out returning to Toronto, reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday night on a $40 million, four-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

"He's a Cub and wants to be part of getting them back to the World Series," agent Larry O'Brien said.

The deal was contingent on Lilly passing a physical, the team said.

"We are looking for starting pitching," new Cubs manager Lou Piniella said earlier in the day before the deal was announced. "He is a competitive guy. He likes to pitch. Left-hander, you know, he's got a good breaking ball, but the good thing about him is that he gives you innings. He gives you a chance to win, and we think that he would be a fine addition to our pitching staff."

The left-hander eliminated a return to the Blue Jays earlier in the day and had narrowed his possible destinations to the Cubs and New York Yankees, O'Brien told ESPN.com. But the Yankees informed the 30-year-old Lilly on Wednesday night they would not bid for him, choosing to concentrate their efforts on Andy Pettitte, who said earlier in the day that he plans to pitch next season.

A call to Lilly was not immediately returned Wednesday night.

Lilly has a career 59-58 record in eight major-league seasons with Montreal, the Yankees, Oakland and Toronto. He went 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA for the Blue Jays last season.

Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi had hoped to retain Lilly. Instead, Ricciardi turned his attention to free agent right-hander Gil Meche, who was negotiating with the club Wednesday. But a deal with the Blue Jays not yet been agreed to, agent Casey Close said. Toronto needs a No. 3 starter behind Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett.

Meche attended a Maple Leafs hockey game last month in Toronto, where he was shown on the video board with "Future Blue Jay" written beside his name.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, hospitalized Wednesday at the
winter meetings after not feeling well, has been one of the most
productive GMs this offseason. He agreed to a $136 million,
eight-year contract with Alfonso Soriano and re-signed third
baseman Aramis Ramirez for $75 million over five years.

Lilly was a 23rd-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1996.

In August, Lilly exchanged words on the mound with Toronto
manager John Gibbons during a pitching change and it turned
physical a few minutes later in a tunnel leading from the dugout. While both men said
no punches were thrown, Gibbons wound up with a bloody nose after
the scuffle during the third inning of a 12-10 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

The Blue Jays had an 8-0 lead, but Lilly was pulled in the third
inning when the Athletics scored seven runs. Gibbons chewed out his pitcher, who refused to give him the ball.

The Blue Jays had an 8-0 lead, but Lilly was pulled in the third
inning when the Athletics scored seven runs. Gibbons chewed out his pitcher, who refused to give him the ball.

In related developments Wednesday:

• Cubs utilityman Freddie Bynum was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named.

The 26-year-old Bynum hit .257 with four homers, 12 RBI and
eight steals last season in 71 games. He was on the disabled list
from June 25 to Aug. 21 because of right shoulder inflammation.

• Toronto was close to signing outfielder Matt Stairs to a one-year contract, according to a baseball official with knowledge of the negotiations. The deal is expected to be announced Thursday.

• Baltimore also finalized a $900,000, one-year contract with backup catcher Paul Bako, who could earn $150,000 more in performance bonuses.

Jerry Crasnick, who covers baseball for ESPN Insider, and ESPN.com senior writer Jayson Stark contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press also is included.