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Thursday, November 17, 2005
Cubs woo reliever Eyre away from Giants

Associated Press

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.

Relief Pitcher
San Francisco Giants

86 2 2 26 65 2.63

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.