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Cubs close in on deal to get Karros

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

The Dodgers reached a tentative agreement with the Cubs on Tuesday to trade first baseman Eric Karros and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to Chicago for catcher Todd Hundley.

The Cubs, retooling their roster under new manager Dusty Baker, and Dodgers were given 72 hours to finalize the deal. To make it happen, Hundley and Grudzielanek must agree to have their contracts restructured.

"We're working on it," said agent Sam Levinson, who represents Hundley and Grudzielanek.

Earlier, the Cubs and free-agent reliever Mike Remlinger finalized a $10.65-million, three-year deal. The left-hander was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA last season for Atlanta and made the All-Star team.

As part of the trade, the Dodgers would send cash to the Cubs.

The Cubs are trying to reverse their recent struggles, which included a 67-95 finish last season. The Dodgers went 92-70 and were in contention for the NL wild-card spot until the final week.

Karros, 35, hit a career-low 13 home runs while batting .271 with 73 RBIs. Hundley, 33, hit .211 with 16 home runs and 35 RBIs.

The Cubs have high hopes for 23-year-old first baseman Hee Seop Choi, who made his major-league debut last season and hit .180 with two home runs in 50 at-bats.

Grudzielanek, 32, hit .271 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs for the Dodgers. With the Cubs, he could back up young Bobby Hill, who showed promise as a rookie last season.

Thome looking to win

PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome, fighting back tears, said the desire to win caused him to leave Cleveland and sign with the Phillies.

"Obviously, everyone knew my ties in Cleveland. And this was a very, very difficult decision," Thome said at a news conference. "It comes down to winning. It really does."

The 32-year-old first baseman, the biggest bat in the free-agent market, agreed to an $85-million, six-year contract, a deal that gives him the 15th-highest average salary in baseball at $14,166,667.

"The Indians are going in a way they want to go and I respect that," Thome said. "I've loved that organization and I still will."

He had to fight back tears when asked about the role that his wife, Andrea, played in their decision to turn down Cleveland's five-year offer worth between $61-million and $63-million.

"My wife is my rock," he said, then leaving the stage to compose himself while general manager Ed Wade and manager Larry Bowa fielded questions. Several minutes later, Thome strode back to the podium and said: "I hate when my allergies kick in."

A'S, CHISOX SWAP CLOSERS: Dealing another big salary, the Athletics sent closer Billy Koch to the White Sox in a six-player trade.

For Koch and two minor-leaguers, the A's get White Sox closer Keith Foulke, catcher Mark Johnson, minor-league right-hander Joe Valentine and cash.

Koch, who turns 28 on opening day, is the first pitcher to start his career with four consecutive 30-save seasons. He won AL reliever of the year honors this season, going 11-4 with 44 saves.

MATSUI PICKS AGENT: Japanese star Hideki Matsui plans to hire Arn Tellem as his agent. Tellem, based in Santa Monica, Calif., is part of SFX's baseball group, headed by Randy Hendricks.

GAMES IN MEXICO: The Mets and Dodgers will play spring training games in Mexico City on March 15 and 16.

EXPOS: Bullpen catcher Carlos Luis Perez was fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to charges of marijuana possession with intent to export.

REDS: Tom Robson, a Mets bench coach last season, was hired as hitting coach. ... Infielder Russell Branyan had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and probably will start the season on the disabled list. ... Cincinnati shouldn't impose an income tax on major-league players unless visiting lawyers and business executives also have to pay it, an owners' lawyer said. City Council members are looking for ways to close a projected $35-million budget deficit.

RED SOX: Former Rangers manager Jerry Narron was named bench coach.

OBITUARY: Former Dodgers scouting director Ben Wade died Monday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer, team president Bob Graziano said. He was 80.

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