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Wuertz, Cubs agree to 2008 contract
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/21/2008 1:51 PM | Updated: 1/21/200 5:18 PM

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There will be no salary-arbitration drama for the Cubs this year.

They signed their remaining arbitration-eligible player Monday, agreeing on a $860,000 deal with dependable reliever Michael Wuertz. Earlier this off-season, the Cubs and lefty reliever Neal Cotts avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract.

Wuertz, 29, was 2-3 with a 3.48 ERA last season for the Cubs. His 73 relief appearances ranked second on the Cubs to Bob Howry's 78. Wuertz ranked second to teammate Carlos Marmol in the National League by stranding 33 of 38 inherited runners (86.8 percent).

"We took him in the '97 draft, and he's been a class guy the entire time," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. "He came up the hard way and was almost released once in spring training. It seemed that whenever we had a new manager, they'd say, 'He's not throwing so well,' but Michael would always find a way to get it done.

"He's an important part of a good bullpen."

Wuertz had sought $975,000 in arbitration while the Cubs initially offered $750,000. Last season, Wuertz made $415,000.

The Cubs have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since Mark Grace in the early 1990s. Last February, Hendry and pitcher Carlos Zambrano were minutes away from a hearing at a Phoenix hotel before the two sides agreed on a one-year deal that was extended late in the season.

Hendry continues to work on possible trades, but informed insiders say no renewed talks are under way for a blockbuster with the Baltimore Orioles that would bring pitcher Erik Bedard and second baseman Brian Roberts to Chicago.

During this past weekend's Cubs convention, manager Lou Piniella said he didn't believe the Cubs would land even Roberts by himself, let alone Roberts and Bedard.

The Cubs like Texas outfielder Marlon Byrd. Hendry is actively shopping outfielder Matt Murton.