CHICAGO (AP) – 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 Sunday.

The deal is contingent on Soriano passing a physical, according to the official.

If completed, it would be the fifth-largest total package given to a major league player, behind Alex Rodriguez ($252 million for 10 years), Derek Jeter ($189 million for 10 years), Manny Ramirez ($160 for eight years) and Todd Helton ($141.5 million for 11 years).

Soriano is expected to play center field and could 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 also had 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, $73 million deal, signed free agent Mark DeRosa to play second base and re-signed pitchers Kerry Wood and Wade Miller.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry declined comment Sunday on Soriano.



AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

AP-ES-11-19-06 1701EST


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