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Soriano agrees to 8-year deal with Cubs

Free agent Alfonso Soriano and the Chicago Cubs have reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract worth about $136 million, a major league official said yesterday.

The deal is contingent on Soriano passing a physical, according to the official, who asked that his name not be used because the deal had not yet been announced.

The deal was first reported by WGN radio, the Cubs' flagship station.

Soriano, who could play center field and give the Cubs a leadoff hitter with a combination of speed and power, had 46 homers and 41 stolen bases last season with the Washington Nationals. He batted .277 and had 95 RBIs and 41 doubles.

Primarily a second baseman during a career that began with the New York Yankees in 1999, the 30-year-old Soriano made the switch to left field last season, his first and only one in Washington.

His signing would be the highlight of a busy early offseason for the Cubs, who are rebuilding under new manager Lou Piniella following a 66-96 finish, worst in the NL.

Chicago already has re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $75 million deal, signed free agent Mark DeRosa to play second base, and re-signed pitchers Kerry Wood and Wade Miller.

The Cubs are looking for a center fielder after Juan Pierre filed for free agency.

Chicago general manager Jim Hendry declined comment yesterday on Soriano.

The addition of Soriano, a .280 career hitter who made $10 million last season, would make the Cubs players in the NL Central. He would join a lineup that includes Ramirez and Derrek Lee in homer-friendly Wrigley Field.

Garciaparra staying put
Nomar Garciaparra is staying with the Los Angeles Dodgers, agreeing to a two-year contract that will be formally announced today, Dodgers spokesman Joe Jareck said. The 33-year-old won the NL comeback player of the year award last season, shifting to first base from shortstop. The two-time AL batting champion and six-time All-Star, hit .303 with 93 RBIs and 20 home runs for the Dodgers, matching J.D. Drew for the team lead in home runs.

Catalanotto, Speier move on
Scratch outfielder Frank Catalanotto and reliever Justin Speier from the list of possible Red Sox acquisitions. Catalanotto agreed to a three-year, $13 million deal to return to the Texas Rangers after playing the last four seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. Speier, also with the Blue Jays last season, agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth about $18 million with the Los Angeles Angels, his seventh major league club . . . Lefthanded reliever Mike Stanton reached a tentative two-year agreement with the Cincinnati Reds, a person familiar with the discussions said. Stanton, 39, played for Washington and San Francisco last season, making 82 appearances.

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